Tacoma Urbanist

Mar. 13, 2008 at 12:35am

Coffee at Aroma Cafe on Pacific Suprisingly Outperforms

I usually avoid completely ordering espresso drinks at restaurants. 

The result is almost always substandard. Many of my worst coffees have been at restaurants.

Ordering a cappuccino the way I like them is likely to bring a look of frustration on a restaurant server's face.  I understand.  The are they mainly there to serve food.  An espresso machine at most restaurants is an after thought and the employees are rarely trained for it.

Aroma Cafe is a great restaurant and I have been stopping there for years.  They are incredibly tasty and fast and reasonably priced.

I knew they served coffee but never ordered it for the reasons above.

A couple weeks ago I ordered a cappuccino from Aroma on a whim and was blown away.

Take a look:




(Two different coffees.)

It was not just the final product that was so impressive.  It was the ease and speed in which these drinks were made. 

At least a third of the time I order coffee, the barista tries to make a cappuccino by excruciatingly scraping foam out of the milk picture trying to accumulate enough for the drink.  Often that's not enough and they have to take two or three attempts at boiling the milk to get something.  Painful to watch and often not worth drinking in the end.  Yet, I feel guilty for troubling them.

Not at Aroma.  Within seconds, the barista had a ton of foam.  She then poured the milk and shot to make it rise up over the glass in a blur of movement.  One of the best techniques in the city.  No anguish or struggle.  The machine certainly was not fancy.

Rating:

In the top 5 coffee shops in the city.  That's saying alot from if you have read my earlier post about coffee shops in the city.

Barista's in training should come down here to learn.

Final Comments:


It's nice to be surprised by a place so close to my work which I pass most everyday.

Aroma Cafe is also a haunt for the much speculated and blogged about Russell folks who eat lunch here.  Come down and see them and try out the food.  They are just like you and me enjoying their time in downtown Tacoma. 

Aroma is a nice place but no table cloths.  No need to feel intimidated.

No, I did not get a free coffee from them.






Aroma Cafe
1001 Pacific Ave
Tacoma, WA 98402
(253) 203-0016


For more information see the TNT Review

comments [8]  |  posted under tacoma, washington

Comments

by morgan on 3/13/2008 @ 10:25am
Nice review Erik. I think Bernardo does a wonderful job down there. I heard he used to do his own roasting but got some complaints. Who doesn't like the smell of coffee roasting? The last I heard, Commencement Bay does his roasting now.

Re: spoons and cappuccino -
It must be Starbucks who has put it in people's minds that you need to use a spoon in order to create a cappuccino. This is quite unfortunate as the real skill in creating a cappuccino comes from NOT using a spoon. Starbucks calls it a "free pour." Knowing how to steaming milk to create a cappuccino takes much practice- it really is an art. Using a spoon is not is not art.

by intacoma on 3/13/2008 @ 11:07am
How much did you tip for that amazing cappuccino?

I've heard from a few baristas that your not much of a tipper. How does your cappuccino tip scale work?

by intacoma on 3/13/2008 @ 11:30am

by Erik on 3/13/2008 @ 12:04pm
Knowing how to steaming milk to create a cappuccino takes much practice- it really is an art. Using a spoon is not is not art.

It would be great to have a barista have a local blog.

I agree, if there is much picking and spooning out, its becoming a struggle.

How much did you tip for that amazing cappuccino?

$1.00.

I've heard from a few baristas that your not much of a tipper. How does your cappuccino tip scale work?

Good question.

It depends. I would say 50 cent to a dollar 90 percent of the time. I would rank depending on the place. My favorite places are probably tipped an average of 75 cents. For all places combined, I would guess 60 cents.

There is certainly the variability of the place I am at as well as how much change comes back from the transaction.

My worst tip moments have been in the rare times paying by credit card when I don't have any change. But that exceedingly rare.

On a quick search on google, there are a number of articles on tipping at a coffee shop.

Questions:

Should one feel obligated to always tip? If so, how much?

How can one determine how much to tip if they have not even tried their coffee yet?

Should the fact whether the place is a local or not affect the amount you tip?

How much should the tip depend on the result. Is there an amount of tip that should be a baseline entitlement?

If you give a substantial tip and the coffee is bad, and you don't suspect a better cup can be made, is there any redress?

(BTW, I see intacoma's chart he drew on my photo indicates that I should only have tipped 23 cents.)

by izenmania on 3/13/2008 @ 12:21pm
How can one determine how much to tip if they have not even tried their coffee yet?

This is a point that I stand by, though it probably annoys some servers at the outset: I typically do not tip at all on my first visit to a place where I'm not going to consume the product until after I leave. If I find it worthwhile, then I'll often tip well in the future. I find it a practical alternative to just tipping a mediocre amount everywhere, all the time.

Tips should not be expected by default. The argument between "you shouldn't get a tip because you already have wages" and "our wages are low because our manager expects us to get tips" is a tricky one to wrangle. To me... you do not deserve a tip simply for working in the service industry. The tip is a bonus. Wages are low because it is a relatively un-skilled field. You will make more money (tips) if you actually make a point to do well at your job.

Of course, my perspective may also be skewed by having never worked in the service industry myself.

by Erik on 3/13/2008 @ 12:32pm
The argument between "you shouldn't get a tip because you already have wages" and "our wages are low because our manager expects us to get tips" is a tricky one to wrangle.

I remember that there was a Donahue show years ago where the guest had a nationwide group that was trying to get away from tips. Thus, instead of leaving a tip, they would leave a pre-printed note.

An interesting approach but I think there has to be some relation to the product and service.

A review of web site shows alot of passions on "tipping" are pretty high as well as the disparate various theories and approaches. Ed's Diner has had a few lively threads on it.

Here's what an article from the TNT says from some consultant type which seems to line up with your position:

But tipping at a coffee shop isn’t a must, said Jeanne Herrick, a lecturer at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and the owner of Herrick International, a company that consults with organizations and business professionals on communication and cultural issues. Her advice: Contribute to the tip jar only if the service was exceptional.

dwb.thenewstribune.com/business/story/64...

by intacoma on 3/13/2008 @ 1:30pm
btw Erik I was totally just pulling your leg ;)~

by Erik on 3/13/2008 @ 2:39pm
btw Erik I was totally just pulling your leg ;)~

Thanks for clarifying. I don't want to get blacklisted.

With now a few booster posts on coffee shops, I think it might be time for something else.

To give a more "fair and balanced" view, I think my next installment might be "Coffee Horror Stories."