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Aug 3, 2013 06:23 PM

49th Parallel Coffee on Main!

Perhaps my coffee palate has been ruined by Starbucks but why is 49th parallel coffee so sour? Is that a characteristic coffee aficionados/wankers favour?

Also, Lucky Donuts are majorly middling, no?

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  1. Yikes, are you seriously saying you prefer Starbucks over 49th!?

    9 Replies
    1. re: waylman

      I like mild blends. When I am at Starbucks (~ 25% of the time), I like saying "I'd like a short Blonde in a tall cup." ;-)

      I do find 49th's light blends have a "tangy" tinge, but not sour.

      1. re: LotusRapper

        Yup, the so-called third wave coffees tend to have a more acidic flavour which can read as sourness on one's palate. I haven't noticed it being that strong at 49th P but Four Barrel in SF has a noticeably sour taste to it IMO.

        I like some of the Lucky's Doughnut offerings. Their filled mango is quite nice if fresh, and all the old fashioned variations I've tried are tasty, particularly the pistachio/orange and the lemon/poppyseed. Not cheap though.

        They recently started doing affogatos ($4.50) and coffee milkshakes ($6) but I haven't tried them yet. Also haven't had a chance to sample their made-to-order beignets...

        Starbucks tastes burnt to me. Perhaps that is a characteristic of "second wave" coffee? ;-)

        1. re: grayelf

          hi GE - what do you mean by 2nd and 3rd wave - i don't know those terms - thx!

          1. re: Georgia Strait

            Kinda joking about second wave. From the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia: "The Third Wave of Coffee refers to a current movement to produce high-quality coffee, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than a commodity"

            1. re: grayelf

              "Third Wave Coffee" reminds me of a Chinese proverb, "the first generation earns the money, the second builds on it, and the third squanders it, grows shitty beards and turns the whole thing into a pompous self-congratulatory piece of shit."

              49th Parallel probably makes terrific coffee, but apparently, as someone unable to discern between acidity and sourness, am unable to appreciate it. I've been balls-deep in artisanal coffee in the UK for years, but I'm thinking they're still riding that 2nd wave.

              1. re: brokentelephone

                The criticism flung at so-called "Second Wave" coffee like what Starbucks sells is that it is over-roasted (burnt tasting), one-dimensional, and generic tasting.

                The "third wave coffee," like what one finds at Blue Bottle in SF, Stumptown in Portland, or 49th Parallel in Vancouver, tends to focus on site-specific beans (think single-vineyard wines), medium roasts rather than dark roasts, and have lighter, more diverse flavour profiles. But many coffee lovers loathe the citrusy, even lemony tastes that they find in the third wave.

                Like all consumer products, coffee is getting more specialized and fetishized over time. I'm noticing some higher-end specialty roasters including detailed information on their packaging about the region, harvest date, processing method and bean varietal. Some might view this as pretentious and elitist, while others will revel in the details.

                Personally, I did not like the "third wave" coffees when I first tasted them in Portland about 6 or 7 years ago. I found them to be weak and more like tea than coffee. But over time, I have grown to enjoy the unpredictability and variety one encounters when tasting coffee made from site-specific beans.

                The analogy I would use is this: Starbucks = Alexander Keith's (i.e. not bad, but mass produced and sort of generic) while places like 49th Parallel = Driftwood (i.e. similar to microbreweries that make a variety of unique and opinionated products).

                1. re: anewton

                  Grandma would roll over in her grave seeing how some people 'fetishize' coffee these days !


                  1. re: LotusRapper

                    I remember some guy telling me that hand grinders are entirely unsuitable for a great cup of coffee because by the time the beans are ground they've already gone stale.

                    What a bummer!!!

      2. I don't know ... I had a little bit of the wife's latte and it was really nice. I realize that espresso does not equal coffee ... but just sayin'.

        Had the salted caramel donut and it was good if pretty expensive.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bill_n_opus

          That dang thing (salted caramel donut) is addictive !! Ask me how I know.

        2. Thank you for this! I really want to like this place, but I have the exact same opinion of their coffee; actually, common to most 3rd Wave Places, the current trend is towards roasting much more lightly than Starbucks. I blame Stumptown! Add to that the fact that Canadians tend to prefer lighter roasts, and I find it sometimes hard to find coffee and indie coffee houses here that I like. I'll be honest, though, I'm from Seattle, so I am used to very darkly roasted coffee, Starbucks or otherwise!

          I do like the donuts, though -- not liking their coffee has probably saved me untold calories.

          Coffee-wise, in the same 'hood as 49th on Main, I've had good luck at Gene, Our Town, and Last Crumb.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pusherman

            I tend to hit Kafka's or Matchstick in that general area. But I'm typically looking for a pourover... I've also been using Kafka's espresso blend to make a home version of Oakland roaster Blue Bottle Coffee's New Orleans cold brewed coffee. Really goes down a treat in this hot weather!

          2. A 49th Parallel latte and a salted caramel doughnut are a perfect in-the-car breakfast for a road trip.

            Depending on my mood and the time of day, I like all kinds of coffee from Starbucks espresso and some of their darker blends to JJ Bean's to 49th Parallel and some of the smaller coffee houses. I like Stumptown in Portland and found Bluebottle in SF to be the most refined coffee I've had.

            I won't touch Tim Horton's, Artigiano, or any coffee served in a chain restaurant. That stuff just is not coffee as I know and love it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: bonlee

              To be fair, Artigiano is quite a few notches above Tim Horton's or other "chains."

              1. re: anewton

                I agree, but I just don't like their coffee anymore. Do you drink it over on the Island?

                1. re: bonlee

                  Once in a while. I still think it's pretty good.

            2. One thing to note is that they've been playing with their Epic lately. I guess they've reduced the roast a bit and this has brought out more acidity and fruit. Apparently if you pull it short, it can be described as a "lemon bomb." I've pulled a bit of it on my own and while I found that it definitely had a noticeable acidic kick, I really enjoyed it a lot.

              Then again, I find a lot of more old school chocolate-y espresso to have a distinct dirt/mud flavor that I can't help but focus on. Maybe it's because I ate too much dirt as a child, but I really enjoy the more acidic stuff that is coming out of roasters like 49th Parallel.

              Different coffee for different palettes and moods. That's what's fun about it.

              4 Replies
              1. re: thatwhileifound

                I too prefer citrusy to stoney, though I guess I'd have to say that I'm not really a third waver if truth be told. To illustrate, my favourite capuccino and brewed coffee in Portland so far has been at Spielman, where the boss man has been roasting his own for well over 25 years. Not dissing the newer style, just not my preference. Dunno who's really doing it "old school" well here... though I do like the beverages I've had at the Milano on 8th by the park. Very smooth.

                1. re: grayelf

                  I don't know where I fit in as as as third wave and such. Just like my preferences with beer where I love a cold PBR as much as a cellar aged barley wine depending on my mood, I'll go between nitpicking over fun varieties that guys like 49th have brought in to drinking and thoroughly enjoying the rather bad drip at my work.

                  Milano is what Woodland Smokehouse uses, right? If so, I've definitely enjoyed it when they've pulled it correctly.

                  1. re: thatwhileifound

                    They do list Milano as a partner/supplier on their website so likely. Agree about how important the barista is. Someone way smarter than me said a good barista can make a solid espresso out of a mediocre bean, whereas a lousy barista can wreck a great coffee...

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Quick note about the affordability of 'nuts from Lucky: they are offering a $4 deal for a 12 oz brewed coffee of the day and a feature doughnut. Today the coffee was a citrusy but smokey (I know, sounds weird but worked) Rwandan and the lemon-poppyseed old fashioned. Worthy. Still not a fan of their raised doughnuts though my niece gobbled hers up.