The origin of this challenge comes from a Facebook post I did about not being able to find a barista able to make a great latte in Atlanta. Admittedly I am a coffee addict and drink it non-stop, this has been the case for year and will most likely be the case in the future, I love coffee, LOVE it! Typically I go to Starbucks for my daily fix and I love their consistency and efficiency, but when it comes to a good specialty drink I have found that the same techniques and machines that allow for consistency and efficiency don’t really allow an awesome latte (or whatever your drink may be). I do think there is an art to being a good barista, the drinks taste better and if you find a good one you also get a little bit of foam art to go along with you tasty beverage. Finding a great latte though is a challenge, one I have decided to accept.
Two coffee houses were suggested as responses to my question on FB, Octane Coffee (Westside) and Dancing Goats Coffee Bar (Ponce City Market). I was already familiar with both brands and would probably say that both were already at the top of my list as well. They both offer excellent coffee, great spaces, and are branded really well, chic but welcoming. To pick a “best” latte from these two was going to hard as I already knew that they both have great coffee, but I enjoy challenges like this so this past Saturday I grabbed a good friend and headed out to find the best latte in the ATL.
The rules of engagement were simple:
1. Order a small latte (plain, just how they make it)
2. Fix it the same at both places (for me that means one packet of Sugar In The Raw)
3. Judge latte on presentation and taste
4. Judge location on vibe and ambiance
Because of the path we chose, dictated by Saturday traffic, Dancing Goats was first on the list. When we got there the place was packed with people working, chatting, and hanging out inside, outside on their enclosed porch, and out in the courtyard. The space is very cute and well done, chic and welcoming just like I like. Although there isn’t much inside/conditioned space there is a large porch/outdoor area that is screened in and looks like it can be enclosed. The area was full on Saturday as was the courtyard, Saturday was the perfect day to be outside and it was a perfect day to enjoy the outdoor spaces of Dancing Goats. Had it been cold or raining the minimum indoor space may have been an issue, but no complaints on Saturday and we both gave the space top points for vibe and ambiance. I also really liked my barista, Jonathan – cute, friendly, and can make one heck of a latte!
Regarding the latte. The latte was excellent. Dancing Goats uses Batdorf & Bronson coffee and I really enjoy it. Great flavor, well presented, and enjoyable. I also like that they use an old espresso machine that requires skill and not just the pressing of a button – the retro look is a great addition to the feel of the space as well. The latte was served in a to go cup which was fine, not sure if they had mug options, I didn’t ask.
Next we drove over to West Midtown (Westside) to order a latte from Octane Coffee, a place I have enjoyed frequenting since it opened around 10 years ago. I have always enjoyed the coffee and, before it became so popular, I loved going in and chatting with the owners and just hanging out. Now, with the hustle and bustle of the ever expanding West Midtown and the popularity of Octane, the place is packed and there isn’t much time to chat when placing your order or hanging out, which is just the nature of having a successful business, it is what it is.
Our lattes came in a glass “mug” which is a nice touch and the barista put hearts in our foam which made me very happy. The latte was good, but not great, not as good as the one at Dancing Goats, my friend and I both agreed. For me a latte is great because I love the taste of espresso but it can be a little acidic/strong to drink plain so the milk cuts that and, if done properly, the flavor of the espresso is preserved while the steamed milk allows for smoothness and cuts the bitterness/acidic taste (or at least this is why I like lattes). The Dancing Goats latte did this perfectly while the Octane latte tasted mostly like milk.
I will say that the presentation and art of the Octane latte was spectacular though, and if it had been anything other than perfect outside I would have preferred being inside at Octane versus being squeezed in at Dancing Goats. So, there is that to consider, but this challenge is about lattes and Dancing Goats wins, hands down! That said, I recommend checking out both coffee houses as both Octane and Dancing Goats serve excellent coffee, have a friendly staff, and offer great ambiance. I also like the way they each have branded themselves and blend in well with the areas they are in, I also have to applaud Octane for being a pioneer on the Westside, there really wasn’t anything around them when they first opened and from day one they have been exceptional!
So, congrats to Jonathan and Dancing Goats for winning this latte challenge!
That was fun, now to think of other challenges to do!