Soul Food: Adventures in Coffee

Adventures in Coffee

jen coffee By Jen Manglos

It’s become an unspoken mission in my life to search for good coffee shops.  Trips are often planned around visits to the best a location has to offer.  I mean, I am also hunting out interesting restaurants and unique cultural experiences as well, but coffee plays a prominent role in my vacation decisions.

One of my favorite local cities to visit is Pasadena.  I love Pasadena!  In the midst of beachy, Southern California, where I feel incredibly out of place, Pasadena feels like a taste of an old city, with classic architecture and one-of-a-kind shops.  Pasadena also has a great coffee scene.  This past week I had a meeting in a neighboring city, so decided to pop in for a coffee.  I actually have visited a good amount of the shops that Pasadena has to boast, but had yet to visit Jameson Brown.  It kept showing up on top coffee lists for the area and I was curious.

I actually had tried to visit Jameson Brown last spring, but it was closed on Sundays (hey, I’m all for giving employees a day of rest).  To be honest, I had expected more pretention, based on the store’s website.  Its logo has a classic font (with serifs) and had the silhouette of a hand coffee mill.  Although I’m a sucker for this ascetic, I also wrestle with how snooty it can come off.  My general sense is that shops that utilize this look and feel make a great product, but also take themselves too seriously.

As I approached the shop, I quickly noticed the row of chairs out front – each one taken.  This is a good sign, especially after the typical morning coffee rush (I arrived around 10:30am).  The inside was similarly full.  The shop was comfy, cozy, and wasn’t overly designed.  This definitely was a place where guests were welcome to grab a table and settle in for a while.

Last year I wrote a blog post about coffee snobbery.  It’s increasingly become a pet peeve of mine.  I even created a spectrum on which to determine a shop’s elitism.  To be honest, these days I expect most third wave coffee shops to land more on the snobby side.  What a refreshing surprise to walk into Jameson Brown and experience none of that.  The person who took my order was very kind and helpful, and knowledgeable.  I asked her about the different coffee beans and she competently spoke to the varying flavors in each of the coffees.  How about that, one can be know their craft without acting pretentious.

coffee spectrum

Jameson Brown roasts its own beans.  Although the labeling wasn’t great, it was fun to see all the air-tight plastic containers full of beans. The beans are not pre-packaged, so you can get any amount you’d like.  Another welcome surprise came when I paid.  It was so reasonably priced.  I got a 1/2 pound of coffee (freshly roasted the day before on-site), 16 oz. latte, and a huge piece of coffee cake for under $15.  This is basically unheard of.  Of course, the real test would come down to taste.

jb coffee

Look at that awesome plaid couch in the background!

The latte was nice.  Sure, it wasn’t the best latte I’d had, but the espresso had a
nice, complex flavor and easily surpassed the coffee found at your local Starbucks.  The latte art was unimpressive, but that seems to have become the stamp of third wave coffee shops. Hey, we’re serious about coffee; we put a design in your foam! I was really surprised by the coffee cake.  It looked good in the pastry case, but having a mom who’s a baker makes me especially spoiled when it comes to baked goods.  Actually, my mom can’t stand coffee cake.  She only likes the topping and feels like most iterations have exceptionally dry cake. However, Jameson Brown’s coffee cake was incredibly moist and the topping only added to its tastiness.  I’ve yet to try their coffee beans, but given my experience in store, I’m eager to try my first cup.

I was pleasantly surprised by Jameson Brown – with both their friendly, casual demeanor, as well as a strong product (in the midst of a growing coffee scene, where I’m sure the competition can be intense).  So, the next time you’re in Pasadena (lucky you), I’d definitely recommend you include Jameson Brown in your plans.

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