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Caribou Coffee
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Caribou Coffee,
Our coffee maker was on the fritz a couple of weeks ago, so my wife and I did what we always do when looking for a new appliance – we went to the Consumer Reports website and started looking for coffee makers. The coffee makers were listed in a section on coffee in general, and I am always looking for good coffee, so I read the article. Much to my surprise one coffee and one coffee shop stood out above all the rest – and it wasn’t Starbucks – it was Caribou Coffee.

About Coffee
Discovered in Ethiopia before the birth of Christ, coffee spread to the Arabian Peninsula. As the Arabs gained control of much of the civilized world during the High Middle Ages they took the bitter energizing drink with them. By the 1500’s Italian traders began selling it throughout western Europe, but the source of the drink was a closely guarded secret until the Dutch smuggled a tree out of the Arabic port of Mocha and began growing it on the island of Java (believe it or not, this is documented history).

Coffee shops arose in major cities including London, where Edward Lloyd’s was frequented by merchant sailors and insurance brokers. Today’s Lloyd’s of London is a direct descendant of that coffeehouse. One famous U. S. coffee house was Maxwell House, an inn in Nashville, Tennessee. Teddy Roosevelt, then President of the United States, stayed at the inn in 1907 and according to tradition, anointed the coffee "Good to the Last Drop."

Caribou history

Begun in 1993 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the chain has successfully competed against the omnipresent Starbucks brand with shops in Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. Additionally, the chain has been expanding to meet the demand for its unique blends of coffee. We visited one near Chastain Park to taste the only coffee that Consumer Reports rated "Exceptional."

Visiting Caribou Coffee
Located on Roswell Road just opposite the start of Windsor Parkway, the store was a pleasing mixture of modern rustic design, if there is such a thing. Predominantly wood the store has well-placed leather furniture and a children’s area that had toys. The tables were widely spaced – we were comfortable between a lady reading the newspaper in a large-armed chair and a young family playing with their child in the children’s area.

Apparently word of Caribou Coffee’s great taste had already reached a number of people. The store had a steady stream of customers on a cold Saturday morning in February. Being our first time at a Caribou Coffee shop, we bypassed the myriad of flavor additions that run the gamut from chocolate to triple espresso. The traditional blend offered a rich aroma and flavorful coffee that we could prepare ourselves. After adding half and half and Equal, we found an empty table to enjoy both the coffee and a muffin we purchased to share (it was rather large). As we sipped the coffee both Pam and I noted the distinctive taste and pleasing flavor of Caribou’s blend. In my mind Starbucks coffee always has a bitter and burnt taste that I could not detect in a similar Caribou offering. We asked store manager Rick Kearney about the coffee.

"One of the keys to eliminating the burnt flavor," Kearney said, "is the way we roast our beans. Coffee that has been sitting for a while can also develop a bitter taste. That's why we brew fresh pots every hour" And in fact, the Consumer Reports article backs Kearney’s statements. They state in the article,
The only excellent coffee in the Ratings, this [Caribou Columbian] is complex and well-balanced. It’s available at Caribou stores, by mail order, or over the Internet.

Of the 25 caffeinated coffees rated by CR, Starbucks, Caribou’s biggest competitor, actually came in 11th (for the bean coffee) and last (for the ground coffee). Maxwell House came in 12th.

Kearney provided us with additional information on the coffee and the store. Their Columbian Coffee is made only with high-end Arabica beans. Other companies use low-end Arabica or the less expensive robusto beans. This, plus years of roaster know-how, account for the flavorful difference in the Caribou Coffee.

Specialty Blends

Don't be afraid of the "coffee bar," the area where the specialty drinks are made. The simplest drink is a latte, which combines espresso with steamed milk. For a little more bite, tell Rick and the crew to "Moose it up" and they will add an extra shot of espresso. For something a little more daring try the cappuccino, which adds froth on top (really, it makes a difference). Mocha combines two of our favorite flavors, coffee and cocoa, with steamed milk, whipped cream and chocolate shavings for taste sensation. As your taste matures try the Caramel High Rise, Turtle Mocha, Mint Condition, or one of a selection of cooler, coffee on ice.

Our cups dry, our pallets sated, we bid Mr. Kearney good-bye, satisfied with the knowledge that we would return again.

Additional information:
4520 Roswell Road
Atlanta, GA 30342
(404) 303-8244

Website: www.cariboucoffee.com
Caribou Coffee locations in Georgia

Caribou Coffee, near Chastain Park


Take I-285 to exit 25, US 19/Roswell Road and turn south towards Sandy Springs. Take Roswell Road for 2.4 miles and the Caribou Coffee is on the right. Unfortunately, Rick Kearney has left the company to pursue other interests.

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