Name: Michael Thomas Coffee
Locations: 1111 Carlisle Blvd., SE, Albuquerque, NM
Roaster: Michael Thomas Coffee
As I pulled up to Michael Thomas Coffee, I couldn’t shake the twisted rendition of The Talking Heads’ “Stay Up Late,” forming inside my head. Dr. Oliver Sacks would probably ascribe my musicaphilia to this cute, cute, brown adobe, but I couldn’t discount the fact that the 4 PM coffee that I was about to imbibe might wanna make stay up all night. A more apt tune might have been Vince Guaraldi’s Peanut’s theme. Like Snoopy’s doghouse, this little café seems to have more room on the inside than it does without. It holds several tables, a bar, an impressive array of coffee paraphernalia lining every available empty surface and a seemingly large, Diedrich roaster lodged in behind the counter.
Just to be clear, Michael Thomas Coffee (MTC for short) isn’t the love child of Paul Thomas Anderson and Anthony Michael Hall. It’s actually the creation of Thomas Selby and Michael Sweeny who decided to get into the coffee roasting business a few years back. I discovered MTC on CoffeeGeek when researching for this work trip to Albuquerque. I simply hate finding myself with free time and no café information at the ready.
As it so happened, my meetings ended early and an early flight home wasn’t an option. I needed a place to sit and check my email. I had originally intended to go to Satellite Coffee since it was going to be easier for me to get to. This time, however, I had a car at my disposal and MTC was conveniently close to the airport…Satellite Coffee would have to wait until next time.
I started off with a macchiato, which the barista served in a paper cup. My fault. I hadn’t clarified that it was to stay and not to go. The macchiato was good. The flavor was reminiscent of Mr. Espresso out of Oakland: very oakey with hints of smoke, like the flavor that a charred oak barrels impart to bourbon during the aging process.
I needed to get some sleep that night so I decided to get beans to go rather than opting for a cup of drip. Besides, the end of the day rarely spells success with airpotted coffee no matter the quality of the bean. It turns out that MTC roasts its coffee every Monday. Score one for me; it was Tuesday.
I examined the chalkboards to the left of the counter that list MTC’s current beans – around 20-30 – all quite reasonably priced in the $8-12/pound range. I told the barista that I was looking for coffees roasted on the medium to light end of the spectrum, certainly not anything exuding oil. Somewhat surprisingly (I expected mostly dark roasts), there were quite a few medium roasted beans to chose from.
The barista, not wanting to steer me wrong, explained her personal tastes to me. She prefers Indonesian coffees and is not particularly fond of many African coffees because of their acidity. In the end, I went with her favorite, a Bolivia which she described as particularly fruity and sweet. She also recommended their Costa Rica so I got some of that. But I felt the need to venture out there on my own just a little. Several Ethiopian Yergacheffes have crossed my lips recently so I thought I’d give MTC’s a chance which would also give me a better point of comparison for the overall quality of their roasting.
Overall, MTC is a great little shop. It’s always hard to beat freshly roasted coffee and MTC seems to know enough to not over-roast their beans. Their espresso is distinct, if not entirely unique, and their baristas are skilled and knowledgeable. Their other beans – which I’ll say more about in a later post – are solid performers especially given the price. I was very impressed with MTC’s oddly-located, little adobe coffee house. It’s certainly worth checking out if you live in or happen to be passing through Albuquerque.
I recently headed back to Albuquerque for work. Compared to the several mediocre shots of espresso I had on this trip, MTC’s really shined. They asked me if I wanted a true single espresso when I ordered one – thank you MTC for picking up on this subtle but important difference. My espresso was similar to the macchiato I ordered previously, but I think better. It still had much the same general smoky character, but with some, subtle, tangy fruit notes – like rainier cherries. I also picked up a couple of coffees to bring home as well. My overall experience with MTC has made me reconsider my earlier score. I’m adding a “plus” to their rating mostly because of their clear skill and attention they bring to making a cup of coffee, especially espresso, but also because their espresso truly is good.