Saturday Series: The Rialta Coffee Tour, Part 3

The Ultimate Coffee Road Trip Across the United States.

This week:  Minneapolis, Minnesota

Editor’s note:  We began publishing reports from Don Niemyer about the cafes he visited on his cross-country coffee tour back in the summer of 2013, and we’ve loved following his journey, learning about amazing coffeehouses out there in the United States, ever since. We’ll be publishing reports from Don about his recent journey around the Central and Northern states every Saturday this fall. To catch up on Don’s earlier posts about his explorations of coffee culture throughout the Western United States, click  HERE. To read the first installment from this new Saturday Series, click  HERE. To check out the second story, go HERE. We hope you continue to enjoy Don’s reports as much as we do!

By Don Niemyer

Did you hear the explosion? If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve not only heard it, but you’ve seen its implications. I’m talking about the explosion of quality coffee that’s happened over the past 10 years, with particular shock waves in the past five years. And while I’m sure there a lot of factors influencing this tidal wave of excellence and envelope-pushing, a big portion of the credit must be given to barista competitions for driving the final-step-in-the-chain folks (that’s you, fellow baristas!) deeper and deeper into the ocean of innovation. Obviously, the competitors themselves are benefitting, but that’s just the beginning. My personal journey has been served tremendously by serving the community as a United States Barista Championship judge, but everyone else associated with competitions ”from the farmers to the coaches to everyone working with these people ”are all pushed towards higher quality as a direct result of the competition circuit.

Our trip so far...
Our trip so far…

That’s why we’re excited today to be bringing you a report from Minneapolis, Minnesota, home of the upcoming Big Central Barista Competition, November 7-9. The Rialta Coffee Tour just hit the city and used our fail-proof detective strategy (asking the baristas in town where THEY like to go for coffee) to find the must-see shops if you’re going to be in town for the competition. Here’s what we found:

Andrew Kopplin has been bringing great coffee to St. Paul for years, spawning off great baristas in the process, including La Marzocco's Ryan Willbur and Milstead and Co's Andrew Milstead. Pretty much a must-visit shop.
Andrew Kopplin has been bringing great coffee to St. Paul for years with Kopplin’s, spawning off great baristas in the process, including La Marzocco’s Ryan Willbur and Milstead and Co’s Andrew Milstead. Pretty much a must-visit shop.
Cappuccino for me, Italiano for the lady, at Kopplins.
Cappuccino for me, Italiano for the lady, at Kopplins.
Great espresso created on a Modbar setup, competition style specialty drinks, 4 toilet paper options on the bathroom wall, and more fun than you can shake a stir-spoon at. Don't miss Five Watt.  Period.
Great espresso created on a Modbar setup, competition style specialty drinks, 4 toilet paper options on the bathroom wall, and more fun than you can shake a stir-spoon at. Don’t miss Five Watt. Period.
This is the coffee and bitters menu at Five Watt.  Tough choice to make there ¦
This is the coffee and bitters menu at Five Watt. Tough choice to make there ¦
 ¦but we went with the Bittercube. And once we got over the idea that it was garnished with a bloody eyeball on a stick, it was actually pretty good!
¦but we went with the Bittercube. And once we got over the idea that it was garnished with a bloody eyeball on a stick, it was actually pretty good!
What, you thought I was kidding about the toilet paper thing?  Well you don't know ¦.FIVE WATT!
What, you thought I was kidding about the toilet paper thing? Well, you don’t know ¦.FIVE WATT!
Hospitable chaps with great coffee and some tasty food options as well at Bullrun.
Hospitable chaps with great coffee and some tasty food options as well at Bullrun.
If spacious, gorgeous, classic, and delicious are on your hot list, you probably will want to spend some time with Spyhouse.
If spacious, gorgeous, classic, and delicious are on your hot list, you probably will want to spend some time with Spyhouse.
Three locations, with some of the most elegant décor in the city. Just go ahead and hit  ˜em all.
Spyhouse has three locations, with some of the most elegant décor in the city. Just go ahead and hit ˜em all.
Dogwood is one of those roasters that you'll see in cafés around the city. But to taste Dogwood by Dogwood, you'll need to go to this urban shopping center.
Dogwood is one of those roasters that you’ll see in cafés around the city. But to taste Dogwood by Dogwood, you’ll need to go to this urban shopping center.
Dogwood has set up shop in this entry area, using a kind of modular, modern looking layout. You can get a bird's eye view by just going upstairs! But don't be fooled by the unconventional digs.  Dogwood does a great job, and is not to be missed while you're in town.
Dogwood has set up shop in this entry area, using a kind of modular, modern looking layout. You can get a bird’s eye view by just going upstairs! But don’t be fooled by the unconventional digs. Dogwood does a great job, and is not to be missed while you’re in town.
Noah Namowicz of Café Imports suggested we hit this place. Solid coffee program, to be sure. But why you may want to drive a little further to see these guys is their food.
Noah Namowicz of Café Imports suggested we hit Victory. Solid coffee program, to be sure. But why you may want to drive a little further to see these guys is their food.
This burger has been voted best in Minneapolis recently, and although we didn't taste every burger in town, the conclusion seems about right to us. We declare Victory!
This burger has been voted best in Minneapolis recently, and although we didn’t taste every burger in town, the conclusion seems about right to us. We declare Victory!
Though not actually an open-to-the-public café, we stopped in to see the new addition at the Café Imports offices.
Though not actually an open-to-the-public café, we stopped in to see the new addition at the Café Imports offices.
This sleek setup is mostly for the Café Imports staffers to taste their coffees prepared with different methods, but we did convince Noah to pull us some sweet shots of a Kenyan they had in the ol' hopper while our kids buzzed about on a couple of blade scooters they found lying around.
This sleek setup is mostly for the Café Imports staffers to taste their coffees prepared with different methods, but we did convince Noah to pull us some sweet shots of a Kenyan they had in the ol’ hopper while our kids buzzed about on a couple of blade scooters they found lying around.

So there’s the Minneapolis run-down! Next week we’ll give you the report as we head further east to Madison, Milwaukee, and beyond, so be sure to check back here often! Until then, follow us at our social media sites (Instagram,  Facebook,  Twitter), or at www.DonNiemyer.com. See you soon!

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

donandcarissa

Don Niemyer  used to own three coffee shops in Portland, Ore., where he and his wife Carissa spent 8 years immersed in the excellent coffee culture there, milking it like a dairy cow for every drop of expertise it would give them, making lots of friends, doing some USBC judging, and learning all they could. One day, they decided to move their kids closer to family, so they bought a tiny RV, moved into it, and have been œmoving to Colorado  ever since, visiting coffee shops, practicing minimalism, and having lots of fun. That was over two years ago. One of these days, they might even end up living in Colorado.

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