The best coffee in Florida is at Zeal Coffee Roasters and The Lab Coffee

I was reading this article recently about the best coffee across the country in Food & Wine. This senior food editor looked at coffee across the entire country and seemed to give Tampa its due by listing several great spots in town, but somehow completely skipped the best place in Tampa Bay.

I drink coffee nearly every day of my life.

My job requires me to work on my laptop so I pretty much spend all day in coffee shops throughout this nation.

There are plenty of “okay” coffee shops and plenty of great shops. If we’re talking about clear quality and passion for coffee, Zeal Coffee Roasters is the best in Tampa and I’ll be bold enough to say it is the best in this state as well.

Why not? This guy seemed to think it was okay for him to make a declaration about this whole state and somehow ignored Panther Coffee in Miami and others doing great work in Orlando. Did he try all the coffee in the state? I’m not sure.

It is really interesting that all his decisions were King State Coffee outposts. This is nothing against King State because I’m sure their coffee is probably good, but they do not have a physical location yet in Tampa and it has been delayed like pretty much every other business in Tampa learns when they try to open a storefront. It is weird to put a place that isn’t even commonly used in Tampa as the best when they do not even have a location yet. I digress.

Zeal Coffee Roasters does the work. Ask baristas in the city and many of them will tell you they love going to The Lab Coffee Shop in North Hyde Park or NoHo for a coffee. I’ve asked myself. The Lab Coffee is the best kept secret in this city. Buddy Brew? Kahwa? Nope.

What about Bandit Coffee Co. in St. Pete you ask? They are a good coffee shop in St. Pete. I can best describe my many experiences there as okay and their coffee pours as good. Nothing exceptional. Also – St. Pete is not Tampa, please don’t confuse our two very different cities if you are not from here.

I happily spend my hard-earned cash regularly at The Lab Coffee and true coffee fanatics always end up bolting into the cafe while I am sitting there doing my work.

I always end up having a nice discussion with the baristas and customers stopping in – in fact doing work there is difficult because of all the great coffee people you will meet there, but I keep going either way.

There are other coffee chains with nicer decor, say Foundation Coffee or Blind Tiger which are beautiful shops. If we are talking just coffee quality though for your buck, the espresso pours, the lattes, the drips, you can drink Zeal Coffee black and taste plenty of excellent notes throughout each pour and they regularly change the selection.

I just enjoyed an excellent Brazil espresso there recently that was truly great.

There is passion and pride in their work. Their baristas care about their jobs and actually love coffee. They aren’t just there because they need a job, but because they want to be and it is noticeable.

I just grabbed myself a bag of Zeal Coffee’s El Salvador beans that I had waiting for me at home when I arrived back in Tampa from the West Coast, and it was a blissful feeling to come back home to good coffee. I love San Francisco, but there are so many terrible coffee shops there, it is unreal. Sometimes more is less.

The Lab Coffee is the best coffee shop and Zeal Coffee Roasters is the best coffee you can get in this beautiful state and that’s the word. Now back to my coffee.

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Vietnamese Coffee Pop-up: Kasama Cà Phê coming to SF

Filipino and Vietnamese culture is colliding with a Vietnamese coffee pop-up from Kasama Cà Phê coming to San Francisco starting on Sunday, February 17th at MAC’D (2127 Polk St.) and The Brew Coop (819 Valencia St.). The pop-up will also appear on Sunday, March 24th and Sunday, April 28th at the same locations.

Kasama is a reference to companionship or togetherness in Filipino culture and cà phê means coffee in Vietnamese.

The menu will consist of strong cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee) and ube affogatos (Philippine purple yam ice cream topped with Vietnamese coffee).

Photos via kasamacaphe.com

Vietnamese coffee background

Vietnamese coffee dates back to the 19th century when French colonialists introduced coffee to the country according to BBC News. Most Vietnamese coffee is actually exported today rather than consumed in Vietnam itself and Vietnam was ranked 2nd in the world in 2017 for coffee exports behind Brazil. Recent reports suggest a rise in both the quality and quantity of Vietnamese coffee.

Vietnam is a major producer of Robusta coffee which has more caffeine and has a much more bitter flavor than the commonly-known and used Arabica beans. Robusta makes up at least 79% of Vietnamese coffee production according to the General Department of Vietnam Customs in 2016.

Robusta can be described as earthy, harsh, or grainy. Most consumers of Vietnamese coffee will add condensed milk to sweeten it from its bitter taste. Vietnamese coffee is something you’ll want to ease into if you’re not used to high caffeine coffee.

About the people behind Kasama Cà Phê

The owners of Kasama Cà Phê are first-generation Asian-Americans and are sourcing their coffee beans from Vietnam with a plan to offer coffee from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand in the future and a plan to focus on brewing techniques from Southeast Asia.

Most people probably consume Vietnamese coffee at Vietnamese restaurants or at home at the moment, it will be interesting to see how Kasama Cà Phê differentiates themselves to make it a worthwhile experience.

Find out more about Kasama Cà Phê at kasamacaphe.com

Guide: 10 Places to Eat and Drink in Seminole Heights

Did you hear that Tampa is now ranked one of the most hipster cities in the United States?

If we’re talking hipsters, Seminole Heights has taken the mantle from Ybor City in the past few years as restaurants, bars, breweries, and cafes have popped up all over this small town that supports local busines.

Here are 10 places to eat and drink in Seminole Heights when you visit:

1. Brew Bus Brewing / Florida Ave. Brewing: Brew Bus has quickly grown to be one of the most successful businesses in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. The owners have Exectuive Chef Max Sherard making gourmet food in the kitchen and plenty of beers rolling out of the brewery all the time. They also recently added craft cocktails to the menu. You can jump on the Brew Bus here and ride all around town to some of Seminole Heights less parking friendly businesses. It’s a good hub to the neighborhood. 4101 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33603 (813) 990-7310  

2. Angry Chair Brewing Co.: One of the most popular local breweries in town. Parking is a conondrum, but you did jump on the Brew Bus like I told you above right? Angry Chair has craft beer fans lining up hours before release parties and most people in town will tell you it has grown to be one of their favorite local breweries. 6401 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 238-1122 

3. Chop Chop Shop: No one can deny that what is cooking in this kitchen is delicious. The cuisine is a mixture of Japanese and Korean inspiration and whatever the chef is cooking up in the kitchen. No complaints from hungry fans who happily call in orders and show up to eat whenever they get a chance. 6605 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 770-7306 

4. The Independent Bar & Cafe: I hope you’re noticing a theme that Seminole Heights is a bit of a watering hole. The Independen has long been a local stronghold in the neighborhood where you’ll see local business owners and residents grabbing a beer and having a blast. 5016 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33603 (813) 341-4883 

5. The Refinery: Always give credit where credit is due. The Refinery was one of the first restaurants to take a risk inside Seminole Heights and helped to form the foundation of the restaurants all over Florida Avenue now. It’s unfortunate that the original location is now closed as I was a fan, but you can find them a few blocks away now in the former Fodder & Shine spot. The burger is my go-to. 5910 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 234-3710 

6. Revolution Ice Cream: After making a name for themselves in Brandon, Revolution Ice Cream brought their delicious desserts to Seminole Heights and saved many people a trip on I-4 or I-75 and that’s truly a miracle. Their ice cream incorporates many local businesses into their flavors and they are constantly changing and evolving. 6701 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 513-5053 

7. Rooster & The Till: If you want a truly gourmet experience, Rooster & The Till is arguably one of the best restaurants in Tampa offering that. Be prepared to spend some money, but you’ll want lick your plate as you taste their creations. 6500 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 374-8940 

8. Lowry Parcade: We nerds needed a spot to join together and Lowry Parade has provided done just that. Where else can you catch a rock band playing Mega Man on a speedrun, sip a local craft beer, and hit an arcade or pinball machine. I hope Lowry Parcade grows and expands so they can increase their selection and add some more fighting games and retro throwbacks, that’s my dream personally. 1213 W Waters Ave, Tampa, FL 33604  (813) 915-9180

9. The Mermaid Tavern: This dive bar is much more of the core, original feeling that Seminole Heights was founded on. This is a great spot to catch up with friends or unwind. DJs spinning regularly. 6719 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 238-5618 

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10. Spaddy’s Coffee Co.: Every neighborhood needs local coffee and Tampa wouldn’t be a hipster town without our coffee scene. Spaddy serves local roasts from Zeal Coffee Roasters and offers a wide menu of choices. His truck is open early and has really grown into the neighborhood. One of the great things about Seminole Heights is the local feel of it and Spaddy embodies that feeling all the way. 5206 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33603 (954) 829-2111 

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Sabor A Cuba – Excellent Cafe con Leche and Cubans

I visited Miami a few weeks ago and have been craving a Cafe con Leche since then. I asked around and tried some recommendations such as La Segunda and Bodega, but neither of them had that bold coffee that I grew to like during my trip in Miami.

During my visit last weekend to Dunedin for ice cream my sister’s husband suggested Sabor A Cuba.

Sabor A Cuba is a little house on the north side of Downtown Dunedin that sells Cuban cigars, coffee, and sandwiches. The owners give you that mom and pop vibe. No pretentiousness. I knew I was going to need to have a coffee the minute we stepped inside.

The Cafe Con Leche? Excellent. Bold coffee flavors going down my throat. I had a nice rush of energy right afterwards and the Cuban Sandwich? I LOVED it. This isn’t a Tampa Cuban Sandwich, but Miami style (no salami folks). I understand that some people in Tampa will not appreciate that, but I am a man that enjoys the variety in life.

What makes a good Cuban Sandwich to me? It’s not a specific thing inside the sandwich, but the combination of everything together. When you take a bite there should be crunch and as the ingredients move around in your mouth, you should feel some happiness and pleasure on your taste buds. This Cuban did that.

The sandwich will run you $8, but it’s a purchase I would make in the future again.

If you haven’t stopped by Sabor A Cuba, I recommend giving them some love. They regularly have live music outside and this is the real deal.

Restaurant: Sabor A Cuba

Cuisine: Coffee, Sandwiches

Neighborhood: Dunedin

Address: 828 Highland Ave., Dunedin, FL 34698

Phone: (727) 238-5368

Cost: $

Website: http://www.saboracubainc.com

National Coffee Day 2017 Tampa Bay: Deals & Freebies

National Coffee Day is this Friday, September 29th, 2017! Plenty of great coffee shops around Tampa Bay will be celebrating with deals and discounts. Forget Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts – grab yourself some REAL coffee during this celebration.

Here is a list of the deals I’ve been able to find:

  • The Lab (North Hyde Park): Public cupping beginning at 11AM on National Coffee Day.
  • Kraftologee (Brandon/Riverview): Coffee flights for $2 – sample several hot and cold coffee drinks
  • Caffeine (Downtown Tampa & South Tampa): 40% OFF single origin coffee beans. Slow Bar Deals: $1 Aeropress, $1.50 V60, $2 Chemex. $1 Cold Brew Drive-Thru Only Special.
  • Felicitous (USF): BOGO hot brewed coffee from 9AM-11AM
  • Buttermilk Provisions (Wesley Chapel): $1 OFF any large cold brew or hot brew
  • Jet City Espresso (Seminole Heights/Hyde Park): FREE extra shot in any size
  • Kahwa Coffee: BOGO coffee all day long
  • Ginger Beard Coffee (Downtown Tampa/Channelside): $1 drip coffee and $1 OFF cold brews
  • Buddy Brew Coffee: BOGO Cold Brew when you bring a friend.

Here are some coffee quotes to live by as well:

“What do you want?” “Just coffee. Black – like my soul.” ― Cassandra Clare, City of Bones

“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?” -Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes

“Coffee first. Schemes later.” ― Leanna Renee Hieber, Darker Still

“Life’s too short to drink crappy coffee and cry over boys who don’t care.”  -Unknown

“I decide to turn to my old faithful solution to all that is wrong in life. Coffee.”  ― Lisa Renee Jones, If I Were You


Any other local shops doing deals or freebies? Shoot me an email at carloseats[at]gmail[dot]com.

Spaddy’s Coffee Co. celebrates 1 year anniversary in Seminole Heights

Spaddy’s Coffee Co. will celebrate its 1 year anniversary on Saturday, September 2nd, 2017 in Seminole Heights. I’ve been fan of Spaddy’s Coffee ever since I met the dude at the Seminole Heights Japan Festival. The staff is always friendly and the coffee and tea are always good.

The event will run all day starting at 10AM with coffee service beginning at 8AM as usual. Live music will play beginning at 11AM featuring ARi CHi, Mia Bury, and Jinx.

BBQ will be served all day courtesy of Ultimate Pavers. Ice cream will be available for purchase from Revolution Ice Cream. Mother Kumbucha will be there serving samples of their kombucha.

Giveaways will be held throughout the day for visitors.

Happy Birthday to Spaddy’s!

Event Name: Spaddy’s Coffee 1 Year Anniversary

Neighborhood: Seminole Heights

Address: 5206 N Florida Avenue Tampa, FL 33603

Date & Time: Saturday, September 2nd, 2017, 10AM-?

Cost: FREE to attend

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/109561206408319/

Ginger Beard Coffee turns one

Local Downtown Tampa cafe, Ginger Beard Coffee, turns one year old on Thursday, July 14th, 2016. They will be raffling off a chance for free coffee in celebration. If you haven’t been yet, Ginger Beard Coffee is located inside Pourhouse Tampa in the Grand Central at Kennedy which is located at 1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112.

Ginger Beard Coffee serves excellent nitro brew coffee – my personal favorite there is the Cubano which will send a jolt of energy through your body. Check out this video I shot there a few months back with an explanation from one of the owners:

Ginger Beard Coffee Flyer

Carlos Eats Seoul: Caffe Bene (카페베네) in Sinchon (신촌)

During my first weekend in Seoul I was really hungry and wandering around looking for something good to eat in Sinchon. My rusty hangul was preventing me from reading many of the signs around me and I somehow ended up wandering into Caffe Bene or 카페베네 (It wasn’t hard for this to happen as Caffe Bene is seen almost as frequently as Paris Baguette). You’ll find cafes practically everywhere around South Korea. Coffee is actually really expensive in South Korea, it can cost more than 7,000 won for a drink…and I thought Starbucks in America was expensive. I normally pay around $3/$4 (~4,000 won) maximum for a coffee. Coffee is so easy to make at home it really should not be an expensive luxury item unless the taste is phenomenal.

I did see something that looked very appetizing on the menu: Caramel Cinnamon Bread. This large piece of bread was a sweet and satisfying (though certainly an extremely indulgent and unhealthy) choice and it has to be one of the best desserts I have had before. You’ll find many dessert shops throughout Seoul and you have to really wonder how Koreans manage to stay so skinny with waffles and ice cream literally everywhere.

There was a bit of language barrier problem here when, despite me pointing and saying the name of the item, the cashier had no clue what I was trying to say. Luckily, she grabbed someone who spoke some English and helped me out some. She got me my honey bread item, but gave me the wrong beverage: a sparkling organic blood orange drink, which actually ended up tasting quite good but probably cost me more than I really wanted to spend.

Cafes are also a nice place to lounge and usually have Wi-Fi. It sure isn’t no Cafe Kili, but I’ll take the desserts here anyday.

Restaurant Name: Caffe Bene (카페베네)

Cuisine: Cafe, Desserts

Neighborhood: Sinchon

Website: http://www.caffebene.co.kr/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/caffebene

Twitter: http://twitter.com/caffebenehq