The first entry into my quest to find good coffee here in Tacoma, WA, and generally anywhere else I go. I’ll keep a running page of all the shops I go to here with links back to these stories.
First up is The Mandolin Cafe, located on 12th Ave. just up the street from Union here in Tacoma.
It’s a good atmospheric place, lot’s of tables, plenty of room to spread out if you are studying or working. A nice fireplace with a few comfy couches around it. Even a conference room type setting that can be reserved for meetings and the like. Art for sale surrounds you on the walls, available for purchase. All in all a good place for atmosphere. In fact that’s what initially drew me in.
The coffee is roasted in-house by the owner, AJ Anderson, under the label Vahalla Coffee. Seems a good guy, always in the store when I’ve dropped by, working on roasting and picking up small things around the store like owners tend to do.
Let’s get down to the coffee though. The store’s baristas make up the coffee on a 3 group La San Marco machine. I’ve never been a fan of the machine, working on one at The Kickstand Cafe, but it does have the ability to make decent coffee. Does it here? Short answer: no.
The americanos I’ve recieved have tended to be either overextracted, or way under. Shot times are kept short it seems usually, and they seem to miss out on pulling just the right shot. I’d like to play around and really taste what their espresso roast is like. With their light colored and thin crema, it just leaves me wanting in their preperation. The barista’s have been trained, but seemingly only a bit.
As for their milk based drinks, my wife gives their foam two thumbs down. We’ve given it a few go’s, as we plan to do for others, just to see if it was a particular barista. Nope. Foam tends to be bubbly and thin, and not much up there when a drink is poured. I will say though from the few sips I have had though, the espresso is strong, and is not overpowered by the milk.
It all comes down to this: I continue to go there because of the large table seating area in which I can spread out whatever I am working on at the moment, certianly not for their coffee. I’ve even started to not get coffee and get tea (of which they have a very nice selection, and with the ability to get pot’s of it as well, so more bonus points). In the end, it’s a place to study, work, and bring a larger group of friends or family to because of the room. Stay for the space, and enjoy your coffee, but I know there has to be something better out here in Tacoma. I just have to find it!