Craving coffee

In case you missed it, here’s my roundup of some obscure coffee options at some of our best local coffee shops that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald.

Something about the cold weather gets me craving coffee. There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee to warm you up. But I’ve been getting a little tired of my usual drink of choice — a good, old-fashioned vanilla latte.

As much as I love a good latte, I've been shopping around for something new.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been making the rounds at our local coffee shops auditioning my new “usual” in what became a worldwide tour of coffee.

Acme Coffee (Seaside) feature two exotic twists on the classic mocha. The Aztec mocha is a great savory cup of coffee, combining coffee, chocolate and chilies. It’s an acquired taste — and one I have certainly acquired!

I only recently worked up the courage to skip the Aztec mocha and try Acme’s Mexican mocha instead. It’s great — cinnamon gives the chocolate a little more depth while retaining the mocha’s signature sweetness.

A couple weeks ago, I tried the Spanish bombón at Mundaka (Carmel). Made with beans from San Francisco’s Ritual coffee, it’s a shot of espresso paired with condensed milk. The sweet milk cuts the bold and bitter espresso, making for a sweeter, smoother drink.

The bombon might be small, but it's packed with a lot of flavor.

Little sips like the bombón reminded me that sometimes less is more when it comes to coffee. With smaller drinks, it’s harder to mask imperfections both in the ingredients and the barista. Smaller drinks give the barista the opportunity to shine and show off their craft.

If you’re looking for a quick caffeine boost, but don’t want to chug through a big cup or shoot a straight shot of espresso, try a macchiato.

The shot of espresso is “marked” with a bit of steamed milk and foam. (And the best macchiato in town? Cafe Lumiere in Monterey, hands down.)

After all my searching, I think my new favorite might be the flat white — an Australian espresso drink that’s the size of a cappuccino, but made in the style of a latte and topped with a thin layer of “wet” foam. Think of it like a miniature latte.

The elusive flat white. This one courtesy of Miriam over at Happy Girl Kitchen.

Alas, it’s hard to find a flat white in these parts — in fact most baristas gave me a puzzled look when I asked for one.

So where can you try one out? I’ve found availability varies not just shop to shop, but barista to barista.

I was able to get a flat white from Brandi at Cafe Lumiere (Monterey), but not all of their baristas know how to make one.

And Miriam at Happy Girl Kitchen (Pacific Grove) has been a sweetheart indulging my newfound penchant for the flat white. She’s been eagerly trying her hand at preparing this obscure drink.

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