I love coffee. I’m also a big Tazza Mia fan. Heck: I’m a Bob Bonder fan – so you can understand why I almost dropped my cocktail when I saw Bonder in his signature suspenders, serving up freshly pressed coffee and liquor drinks behind the bar at Japp’s.
Before I go into detail about the craft coffee bar at Japp’s, there are some things you should know about Tazza Mia’s owner. Bonder was born in Denver, grew up in New York and moved to Cincinnati (after only one visit) to open his café concept of fresher coffee meeting better food. In a bold move, he opened his first café location (Carew Tower) just steps from behemoth coffee chain, Starbucks, on Vine Street.
Since the beginning, coffee drinkers have welcomed Bonder and his locally-owned, locally-brewed offerings. Now, the same great Tazza Mia flavors that start your day can be enjoyed with or without alcohol at Japp’s on Main.
The beginning of a partnership
Michael Redmond and John Back, the owners of Neon’s, in partnership with Molly Wellmann, approached the coffee king with a pretty straightforward offer, Bonder says.
"’Hey, we’re re-opening the old Japp’s,’" Bonder says they told him. "’We want a coffee bar, and you guys make great coffee; do you want to get involved?’"
He toured the space with Back, who is also an architect. "At the time it was completely empty and really run-down, but John shared the vision, which included revitalizing the historical elements of the 1800s wig shop, and I agreed to get involved on the spot," says Bonder.
Coffee theater meets mad science
Bonder leverages his passion for coffee using a very scientific approach (and some very unique gadgets) to produce what can easily be described as coffee theater, he says.
His first method utilizes a rare and very expensive espresso machine – the Victoria Arduino – first manufactured in Italy in 1905. In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the company released a series of limited-edition replicas of the 1905 original, and Bonder found one of them at the Espresso Guild, a local store in Norwood where it was "on display like a shrine," he says. Only 100 of these machines were produced. The first machine was presented to the pope for his personal use, and Bonder owns machine #055.
The second method utilizes a contraption called the siphon or vacuum pot. The lab-experiment-turned-coffee-maker brews coffee through two chambers. The first chamber creates vapor pressure, while the other serves as a vacuum. Bonder says this process produces a more clean, crisp, rich and smooth coffee compared to other brewing methods.
The third process is specifically for cold drinks, utilizing a cold brew tower, which stands four feet off the ground and takes eight hours to brew just three liters of cold coffee. Only 40 to 50 drops of water per minute are released, thus creating a very intensely sweet concentrate and overall better flavor for iced coffee drinks.
"When hot coffee is refrigerated, it creates a bitter, acidic flavor that’s really unpleasant, so if you like iced coffees, the slow-drip method is definitely the best," says Bonder.
These three methods of coffee madness create the base for the liquor drinks, which Bonder and Molly Wellmann spent significant time developing. Overall, the response has been awesome, he says.
"Coffee at night isn’t for everybody, but we’re finding that people who aren’t even into coffee are really excited about the methodology. Even people drinking cocktails are amused, so it’s good exposure for people who appreciate coffee and for the coffee movement in Cincinnati, in general," says Bonder.
Here are some popular coffee liquor creations you can order at Japp’s:
- The Van Gogh: This drink combines absinthe, orgeat (a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar and rose water) and iced coffee concentrate from the tower shaken over ice and poured into a cocktail glass. A sugar cube and absinthe are lit on fire, which caramelizes the sugar. When mixed with the coffee, Bonder says, it "creates chocolate undertones, which cut down on the liquor taste and turn the absinthe into a refreshing coffee drink." (Price: $9).
- The French Quarter: This is made with iced coffee and chicory (a root often used as an inexpensive substitute for coffee). This tradition followed the French to New Orleans. Iced coffee is cold brewed with chicory, combined with bourbon and homemade cyan simple syrup and topped off with cream. The French Quarter is Bonder’s personal favorite (Price: $8).
Regardless of which drink customers choose, they are getting something unique, Bonder says. "I’m not sure who else is doing this at a bar; no one is getting this creative with coffee cocktails. No one is paying as close of attention with the brewing method," says Bonder.
Visit Tazza Mia online at www.tazzamia.com or any their café locations across Cincinnati and Louisville. Customers can also purchase Tazza Mia beans at select grocers, including Remke Biggs, Whole Foods and Jungle Jims.