One Bean To Rule Them All: Syracuse edition

With three coffee roasters in Syracuse, it can be hard to decide where to get a caffeine fix. Here's a break down of what to expect at each.

Syracuse has three coffee roasters vying for the attention of caffeine addicts across the region, but who serves the best cup?

Freedom of Espresso has four locations sprinkled throughout Syracuse, Liverpool and Fayetteville. The Fayetteville shop, 128 W. Genesee St., is their home base and roasting facility. The pumpkin latte from Freedom was well balanced—I could taste the espresso while still having that hint of sweet. However, the milk was not steamed properly.

There is a fine line when steaming milk. The ideal temperature for a latte is around 140 degrees, which is as hot as you can go before the milk burns. This one was a little on the cold side.

Freedom’s coffee is more impressive. The “Organic Roast” is on the lighter side, and the blend rotates depending on the season. The barista couldn’t recall which beans were used this time around, but the coffee had flavor notes that suggested Central America – green apple and citrus as well as a smooth syrup quality. I did detect a slight wood note, indicating the beans were a little old.

Recess Coffee, located in the heart of the Westcott neighborhood at 110 Harvard Place, also struggled with aged beans. That same woody note plagued their Kenyan coffee and came through more strongly than at Freedom. Some nice blackberry and strawberry notes did cut through the agedness slightly, but could not salvage the taste completely.

Recess’s take on the pumpkin latte was far too sweet. It tasted fruity, like strawberries mixed with a dash of vanilla. The milk was well steamed to that magical 140 degrees. The barista even poured a little leaf, called a rosette in barista land, but again, it was not enough to save the drink.

The search for the elusive pumpkin latte ended at Café Kubal. Here, they make their own syrups and do it well. With a base of honey and sugar, the nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and pumpkin meld to create a velvety warmth. The milk was steamed correctly, and the balance between the syrup and espresso was perfect. I’ve been to all three of their storefronts and have received the same caliber latte at each.

Kubal’s coffee falls short in comparison. I tried the lighter of the two roasts at a recent visit to their Eastwood location, 3501 James St. That aged note was stronger in this cup than it was at either Recess or Freedom of Espresso. On the first sip, I tasted a rich chocolate caramel, but that was quickly washed away by a wood and smoke note that burned the pleasant tastes from the tongue. As it cooled, the sweeter notes did start to shine through. I picked up a little green apple and citrus, but it wasn’t enough to battle the bitter.

Overall, each of these roasters does a decent job. Their baristas were all friendly and helpful, which counts for a lot in the food service industry, but they could all use a little more education on the coffee side of the business.

Bottom line: go to Café Kubal for the pumpkin lattes and Freedom of Espresso for the coffee.



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