Lockheed has its skunkworks that has designed some of the most innovaive military aircraft like the U-2, the supersonic SR-71 Blackbird, F-117 Nighthawk and F-2 Raptor.
Stabucks has experimental 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea in Seattle where it is testing and honing a new neighborhood cafe concept.
Specialty coffee luminary George Howell has his own skunkworks, Taste Coffee House in Newtonville MA.
Three of us from ROASTe sampled some of Taste Coffee's best on April 25, 2011. (We love field days)
Their single-origin espresso Ethiopian Yirgacheffe from the Addis Ketema cooperative was out of sight incredible. To me it tasted like a hazelnut cookie. Like nutella frapped into an espresso. Wonderful with a little citrusy acidity.
Single origin espressos are all the rage now, including offerings we carry from Ecco Caffe and Klatch Coffee. They're sort of a reaction to the ubiquitious Starbucks coffee which even to a novice tastes like burnt railroad tracks smothereed in diesel fuel. Single origin espressos are the polar opposite. It's apparently hard to get a single origin espresso that tastes full and interesting enough because it's after all not a blend.
Of course we carry lots of wonderful espresso blends from Espresso Vivace, Klatch, Ecco, Caffe Pronto, Caffe D'Arte and many others. But single origins are an exciting departure.
In a macchiato we loved the Alchemy Espresso blend from George Howell's coffee. It was great in milk to balance what we tasted as bittersweet chocolate and some walnut / hazelnut. Loved it.
The other innovation we saw at Taste Coffee House was a bottomless portafilter basket. As store manager Matt explained, one benefit is to be able to see exactly what is emerging from the grouphead, how quickly, and in what quantity -- ideal for troubleshooting an espresso shot and getting it right.
We then went to Crema Cafe in Cambridge which carries the George Howell Coffee Alchemy Blend. Their baristas seemed trained by George Howell Coffee too. We've spoken with three different baristas on different ocassions at Crema Cafe about the espresso from George Howell coffee. They consistently like the espresso.
It's great to see this innovation in Boston. It's not Seattle, Portland or Brooklyn. It's George's world. It's third wave coffee home brewed in Boston. Between George Howell's Terroir Coffee, Barismo in Arlington and Flat Black Coffee in Dorchester and the Financial District, Boston is onto something.