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Kevin K

Oct 3, 2010, 2:53 PM

Post #1 of 16 (21287 views)

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Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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Not sure if this really fits here, but I just posted a comparison of Mexican Nescafé with Starbucks Via instant and good local coffee from here at Lake Chapala on my blog. Below that there's another post on buying wine in this area. May be of interest to some.

http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.com/...ant-coffee-wars.html

Edited to create live link.
http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.com/

(This post was edited by esperanza on Oct 3, 2010, 3:56 PM)



tashby


Oct 3, 2010, 4:48 PM

Post #2 of 16 (21270 views)

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Re: [Kevin K] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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Interesting read. Thanks.

It's funny. I always assumed the prevalence of Nescafé in Mexico was just a "made do" solution.

That said, since moving here, we've always kept a jar of Nescafé in the house for when Mexican friends who prefer it want a cup. (Far be it from me to dick with personal taste.....it's personal.)

It never even occurred to me to actually try it.

Thanks again.


Peter


Oct 3, 2010, 6:27 PM

Post #3 of 16 (21254 views)

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Re: [Kevin K] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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Nescafé is quite ubiquitous here in Mexico, but to be fair there are a few other instant coffees that are popular. To start with something less popular, perhaps, Sam's Club in their Member's Mark brand has a good knock-off of Taster's Choice for a much better price, though it still is a bit pricier than Nescafé and others.

Oro is fairly tasty and as its name suggests it is lighter in color and taste than many. I like it but after a week or so it seems excessively mild and I will mix it with a darker coffee to give it more "bite." Legal is a darker instant but sometimes lacks consistent flavor, in my experience, but mixes well with Oro. I have tried various brands just to get familiar with them but don't use them consistently. I now buy that Member's Mark coffee I mentioned and fall back on Nescafé if I can't make it to Sam's.

I only know of two types of coffee beans, Altura and Arabica. As far as I know it is only Altura that is grown in Mexico and the Arabica is more associated with the Colombian coffees. Please correct me if I am wrong about these, and please add more to this information. What I have seems a little sparse. Beyond the variety between these two beans isn't the difference just a matter of quality of the particular bean and the roasting style?


(This post was edited by Peter on Oct 3, 2010, 8:25 PM)


Kevin K

Oct 3, 2010, 7:36 PM

Post #4 of 16 (21246 views)

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Re: [Peter] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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Hello tashby and Peter,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Worldwide there are two main species of coffee: arabica and robusta. Arabica thrives at higher altitudes (over 1000 meters) and all the world's great coffees are grown using it; robusta as the name indicates is a hardy, high-yielding species that does well closer to sea level, but it has a harsh, burnt rubber flavor and 2x the caffeine of arabicas.

"Altura" refers to coffee grown at high altitude, and it is true that all fine Mexican coffees are either "altura" or "estrictamente altura." Altitude for coffee is much like age for wine vines: it results in a smaller crop of beans (or grapes) with more concentrated flavor.

Mexico is not and has never been a high quality coffee producer. As the Paul Simon song goes, "one man's ceiling is another man's floor," and so it is with Mexico, which rightly takes pride in having the best food in Latin America but has nothing world class to drink with it or after it!

There is some great coffee grown in Chiapas, but it all goes to Germany as it always has. For those of us that live here, we have to be content with decent coffee at a very good price, looking for greatness in other food and drink experiences (the seven moles of Oaxaca and El Tesoro Tequila come to mind, along with mangos in season and local vegetables all the time).
http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.com/


tashby


Oct 3, 2010, 8:30 PM

Post #5 of 16 (21227 views)

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Re: [Kevin K] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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For those of us that live here, we have to be content with decent coffee at a very good price...


Indeed.

Here in the Lake Chapala area, I am thrilled and stunned (and more than content) with the quality of coffee available at Cafe Grano in Ajijic. Organic and Fair Trade and well-roasted at that price?

Yep. Count me in.


Peter


Oct 3, 2010, 8:33 PM

Post #6 of 16 (21226 views)

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Re: [Kevin K] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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Hi Kevin, thanks for that clarification and enhancement. I knew I didn't quite have it straight. I knew Mexico didn't have the world's best coffee but there are some that seem quite passable. Uruapan in Michoacán takes pride in their coffees and I find them enjoyable. For the most part I drink instant coffee, gallons per day. A heavy consumer I am but a gourmet I'm not.


Papirex


Oct 3, 2010, 9:13 PM

Post #7 of 16 (21220 views)

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Re: [tashby] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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My Mexicana wife does not like Nescafe instant coffee, but she does usually prefer Los Portales brand of instant coffee. She loves it when I prepare her a cup of coffee using ground coffee with my Melita filter, but she always makes her own using Los Portales.


Many Americans don't know how to make a tasty cup of instant coffee, it can be done. The secret is to experiment with the amount of instant coffee used per cup. If a heaping teaspoon of instant coffee results in coffee that is too bitter, try a mildly rounded, or a level teaspoonful. Eventually you will find the right amount to use to make a cup to your liking. It can be done. I used to need to use instant coffee sometimes when we lived in Mexico City many years ago. I got pretty good at it.


I much prefer making my coffee by the cup, using my Melita funnel and filter using ground coffee so my coffee is always fresh. When we have many guests, we brew a pot of coffee using our Hamilton Beech drip coffeemaker. Our Mexican family and guests rave over it. We used to use Folgers brand of ground coffee, but it has become unavailable here in Cuernavaca for the past few months, a few years ago the only place we could find Folgers anywhere in Mexico was at Superlake in Jalisco. I have found that the house brands at Costco and at Sam's Club here now produce the same robust flavor.


I have always wondered why if most of the Mexicans we know like coffee brewed from grounds so much, why they keep using the instant stuff at home. It must be a cultural thing. They keep doing it the way they always have done it They do think I'm a little weird because I miss the Italian sauce on pizzas here. Tit for tat I guess.

I have always found Starbucks coffee to be too weak and watery, even in the Seattle area. We can get just as good, weak coffee at any coffee bar in any supermarket here. I won't waste my money trying a Starbucks in México, there are at least two of them here.


Rex
"The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved" - Victor Hugo


Peter


Oct 3, 2010, 9:56 PM

Post #8 of 16 (21216 views)

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Re: [Papirex] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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Thanks, Los Portales is another instant I have tried here that I really like. I haven't had it in a while since I started using Sam's Club coffee. I have to buy Los Portales at supermarkets and only Nescafé is sold in all the corner tiendas.

I used to brew coffee but the fuss of waiting and messing with the used grounds is all side-stepped with instant and I have a hot tap on my water dispensor so it is just too easy. And like you describe, instant can taste just as good once you get used to using the right amount.


Papirex


Oct 3, 2010, 11:10 PM

Post #9 of 16 (21207 views)

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Re: [Peter] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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I use a Sunbeam brand Hot Shot counter top water heater here. It will bring a cup of water to a boil in about one minute or less. We actually have two of them. We take the oldest one on trips with us within Mexico. My wife uses it on trips, and once in a while the one here at home, but most of the time she heats the water for her coffee in a teakettle on the stove. Old habits die hard I guess.


I thought she bought the Los Portales Coffee at Costco here, but maybe she buys it at the Mega supermarket. It is right next to the Costco here. Mega is 50% owner of the Costco’s in Mexico. And they carry many of the same products that Costco does, at slightly higher prices, and in smaller quantities.


We also have another Mega, 3 Superamas, a Soriana, and several other good supermarkets here and of course all the little aborotes and a couple of municipal markets. There is good, convenient and reasonably priced shopping in Cuernavaca. We also have the most intelligent dogs in the known world here.


I too, drink coffee almost constantly. I am the principal user of ground coffee in our family. A three pound can of ground coffee lasts me not quite one month.


Rex
"The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved" - Victor Hugo

(This post was edited by Papirex on Oct 3, 2010, 11:13 PM)


Kevin K

Oct 4, 2010, 6:13 AM

Post #10 of 16 (21198 views)

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Re: [Papirex] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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Thanks everyone for your excellent comments. I'll look forward to trying the Los Portales brand.

Mexico is actually typical of coffee-growing countries in serving instant coffee. As a professional coffee buyer for many years I can't tell you the number of times I've visited 100+ year old farms in places like Antigua, Guatemala or the highlands of El Salvador owned by superb farmers who could trace their roots to the Conquistadors, and whose estate-grown coffee fetched very high prices in the specialty market. Almost invariably, the coffee they served me was.....Nescafé! And none of them had so much as tasted their own coffee.

A pour-over drip maker is a great way to brew. If you get back to the U.S. or have friends willing to bring stuff back, it may be worth ordering one of the "Clever" brand drip cones from www.sweetmarias.com or other vendors. It's simply a drip cone with a slide gate that allows you to pour on all the boiling water at once and let the coffee steep for a couple of minutes, but being able to control the contact time between grounds and water makes a big difference in flavor, especially if you normally only brew one cup at a time. Ideal contact time, from first pour to last drip, is 4 minutes for drip coffee.

Something else to consider with instant coffee: it makes great Cafe de Olla. I just bring the piloncillo and stick cinnamon to a boil in water (using the Diana Kennedy formula of a 1 inch stick of cinnamon for every 2 cup portion, plus piloncillo to taste), then add a generous dose of Nescafé and some milk. You still have to strain it but since there are no grounds to deal with it's very easy. Cafe de Olla is "Mexican Chai" and sure stands up well to huevos a la Mexicana and other picante fare.
http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.com/


Papirex


Oct 4, 2010, 8:00 AM

Post #11 of 16 (21177 views)

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Re: [Kevin K] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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You mentioned something I really like, Café De Olla. My suegra makes wonderful Café De Olla. Shortly after my wife and I were married in Alaska, the Mexico City earthquake destroyed my suegras house there. As soon as it was permitted, we went to Mexico to visit and see if everyone in the family was OK.


They were living in a rented apartment while the house was being rebuilt. My wife told her mother that I really like Café De Olla, and every morning she would prepare a cup for me. I haven't had a cup of it in about 20 years now. My suegra now lives with us, I am going to hint that I enjoy Café De Olla again.


I met most of my wife's huge family on that visit in 1986 or 87. Many of them traveled from all over The Republic to meet me. Most of them all addressed me as Don Rex at that time. For the first time in about 25 years a visitor recently called me “Don Rex” again. It is very flattering to be addressed by that honorary title. It is not something a person should use or assume for themselves. It is very crude to do so. I have been called a “caballero” a couple of times too. Good for my ego.


You also mentioned a “Clever” drip coffee cone. I have never heard of them before, but I will need to look for them on my next infrequent trip to The USA. I brought one Melita drip cone with us when we moved to Mexico. The base of it became cracked over the years, but it still worked OK. I took it with me on a trip to visit our family in The US a few years ago.


They are a little hard to find, but I found two grocery stores in Napa, California that had them. I bought three more Melita cones, and two mesh filters up there., no more messing with the paper filters anymore, although they are handy. I left the still working, but cracked cone at our non-coffee drinking daughters house at Lake Berryessa there. I bought some ground coffee and paper filters and used it again on my last trip there a year and a half ago.


AS my dear old Dad once told me when I was a little boy, “There is no such thing as strong coffee, just weak people”.


Rex
"The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved" - Victor Hugo


Azuledos


Oct 4, 2010, 11:26 AM

Post #12 of 16 (21157 views)

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Re: [Kevin K] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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I always heard that the best coffee in Mexico came from Coatepec, near Xalapa in Veracruz. We bought some on our trip there last June, with the intention of giving it away as gifts. Once home, we brewed some up in our little Gevalia pour-thru coffeemaker, and immediately changed our minds about giving it away. It's in the freezer to be parceled out sparingly when we really need a cup of arabica ambrosia -- no comparison to anything I've had in the US, including anything "charbucks" offers. Here's a nice article I ran across with more info on Coatepec coffees...

http://www.spicelines.com/...oatepec_a_coffee.htm

================================
Veracruz has to be the best kept secret in Mexico.
http://etepetzin.blogspot.com -&- http://azuledos.blogspot.com


Kevin K

Oct 4, 2010, 1:04 PM

Post #13 of 16 (21143 views)

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Re: [Azuledos] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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Thanks for the link to the nice article.

Coatepec and environs and of course the city of Xalapa have a rich coffee culture and are wonderful places to visit. With respect to the general quality of coffee, Chiapas has the highest concentration of excellent farms, many originally started by German immigrants (and more than a few not just organic but biodynamic).

Oaxacan coffee is milder in style and mostly grown by very small-scale farms. Veracruz, qualitatively, ranks third among the major growing regions but does produce some very good coffees.

Locally Café Grano Café, my favorite local roaster at Lakeside, is currently out of the medium roast Chiapas I most often buy but is offering a Veracruz reserve from the high mountains above Coatepec that I like even better.

Here's a link to an article I posted some time ago that gives a fairly comprehensive overview of Mexican coffee:

http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.com/...-coffee-at-lake.html
http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.com/

(This post was edited by Rolly on Oct 4, 2010, 1:30 PM)


tashby


Oct 4, 2010, 4:17 PM

Post #14 of 16 (21120 views)

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Re: [Kevin K] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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Locally Café Grano Café, my favorite local roaster at Lakeside, is currently out of the medium roast Chiapas


Odd. I just bought some maybe ten days ago. Are you sure they're out? Since they remodeled/reconfigured their space, not all their available coffees are in the bins right in front. They keep some others, including Chiapas, against the back wall. Regardless, sounds like you found something you like better.


arbon

Oct 4, 2010, 5:07 PM

Post #15 of 16 (21112 views)

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Re: [tashby] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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¿Does anyone boil water to make coffee?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Kevin K

Oct 4, 2010, 6:24 PM

Post #16 of 16 (21101 views)

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Re: [arbon] Nescafé, Starbucks, etc.

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Boiling water is the only way to make really good coffee at this altitude. The boiling temperature of water decreases by about 2 degrees F. for every 1000 feet of altitude gain, so here at Lake Chapala a full boil is about 202. Water for brewing coffee should be 195-205 F. The average home electric drip brewer gets to around 180-190 degrees max - at sea level.

Regarding brands of instant coffee, I just tasted Nescafé Diplomat (made in Mexico, 100% Mexican altura), Taster's Choice (imported from the U.S.), and Los Portales from Veracruz, with regular Nescafé as a baseline. The Taster's Choice was very clean and light with bright acidity. The Diplomat was outstanding, with better body that the Taster's Choice - the best instant coffee I have ever tasted. Regular Nescafé in comparison is murky and clearly lower grown in flavor, but still palatable. The Los Portales is simply awful, tasting like Folger's run through an electric percolator for several hours. I don't think it's made from bad coffee, but it's processed by old instant coffee technology.

The superiority of Nestlé's proprietary instant coffee process (they did invent the stuff, after all) and coffee sourcing creates a huge gulf between their products and anyone else's. I found all these coffees at Wal Mart.
http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.com/
 
 
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