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Mar 15, 2012 05:33 AM

Handsome Coffee Roasters, WTH?

All of the praise has driven me to try Handsome Coffee Roasters twice. A nice looking space with little parking and a very professional and polite staff.

The first time I had espresso with milk, which was very good but IMO not a fair judge of coffee. The second I tried both their blend and single origin espresso. The coffees came out looking pretty good, although the crema was thin. In fact, way too thin for a better espresso bar nowadays. But then, when I asked where the sugar was, they told me (politely) that they do not have sugar because they want people "to taste the natural sweetness of the coffee." To me, that's like saying "we don't add salt to out food so you can taste the natural flavors of the ingredients." Come on, it's espresso, it's not naturally sweet. Coffee is bitter and espresso needs sugar. Don't believe me, ask an Italian.

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  1. Now that's a good definition of chutzpah...It makes me think of the time when Bandera stopped serving french fries for a while because "our chef wants to have people eat more interesting and tasty food." We stopped going that night until they brought them back eventually because enough of their "taste challenged" customers demanded that they serve them again...

    1. if the espresso needs sugar, they're not doing it right.

      1 Reply
      1. re: raizans

        First, no. Espresso IMO and to my taste needs sugar no matter how 'right' it is.
        Second, for my two espressos they weren't doing it right - weak light crema.

      2. Kudos to them.

        Their lattes are rather sweet after the milk (Straus? or Clover -- have you tasted Straus milk recently? Sugar bombs) anyway.

        The local baristas all wish they had enough cajones (and capital) to take the sugar & half/half away.

        1. After training myself to drink my coffee black, as well as trying a bunch of the current generation of coffee places, I disagree that coffee is bitter and espresso needs sugar. Done in the right way, coffee can be bursting with flavors.

          I took some friends to a cafe I liked and facepalmed after they poured tons of milk and sugar into their coffee and then proceeded to say it wasn't anything special.

          1. > Coffee is bitter and espresso needs sugar. Don't believe me, ask an Italian.

            Actually, that might depend on where in Italy you ask the question.

            If you visit one of the Kéan Coffee locations in OC (and you really should, if in the area), you can read a short explanation by Martin Diedrich of Northern vs. Southern Italian espresso styles. As I recall (don't hold me to this exactly), Southern Italy, being historically much poorer and with fewer trading ports, had a greatly inferior selection of coffee beans available, and roasted them longer and darker to hide the inherent flaws. This resulted in a much harsher taste, and hence prompted the use of more sugar.

            Meanwhile, the much wealthier Northern Italians had access to considerably better beans, and tended to do milder roasts which didn't require additional sweetening. (Diedrich himself was heavily influenced by the Illy style from Trieste.) Nevertheless, for various reasons the Southern dark-roast style became more influential in North America post-WW2, and is still common in the big chains. So I can't blame someone for pouring sugar into a Starbucks espresso, because it tastes like drinking out of a dirty ashtray.

            But at a better coffee house, with good beans, a milder roast, and a barista who doesn't over-extract the grind or scorch the milk, there's really no reason why you should have to add sugar.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Bradbury

              "But at a better coffee house, with good beans, a milder roast, and a barista who doesn't over-extract the grind or scorch the milk, there's really no reason why you should have to add sugar."

              Unless, or course, you happen to like it that way...

              1. re: Servorg

                Well, I'm not saying Handsome shouldn't offer sugar, just that if they're doing things right it shouldn't be as necessary as it is at the big chains.

                I haven't yet tried Handsome, but it seems that refusing to stock a traditional accessory is the gimmick of choice these days (Just think: Father's Office is a burger specialist that famously doesn't offer ketchup, Underbelly [S.D.] is a ramen house that famously doesn't offer soup spoons; meanwhile Umami Burger only offers ketchup in soup spoons ... I'm beginning to suspect the three are in cahoots ;-)

                1. re: Bradbury

                  It seems like the sugar and coffee thing is pretty well established in terms of a trend...but maybe it's just a passing fad after all? ;-D>

                  1. re: Bradbury

                    I actually like what these kinds of places are doing. Even if they anger a few potential customers, I think it's worth it for them as the "artists" or baristas or chefs to say, "I have this point of view. I know you're used to x, but try it this way."

                    Someone could say that they should still have the option, but honestly, how often are people going to do something a little different. In my experience, barely ever.

                    Personally, I don't add sugar to any of my coffee drinks, and coffee (especially good coffee) isn't inherently bitter that it always requires sugar. This thread and the Pizzeria Mozza thread complaining about the prosciutto on the pizza being cold have puzzled me a bit.

                2. re: Bradbury

                  Show me that coffee shop in Italy that doesn't offer sugar. It's not the one that the angry mob burned down is it?