Hi Volt Coffee New Orleans – Then and Now
In my early days in New Orleans, I used to frequent the Half Moon Bar quite a bit. They had a respectable jukebox that included Operation Ivy in the cue. They had decent food, and the little triangle neighborhood was unusual. Located only a few blocks away from Coliseum Square, for a New Orleans photographer, this was interesting stuff.
Across the street from the Half Moon Bar is another triangle. (There seem to be quite a few in this area. Maybe they should call it Triangle Town). In my eyes, the building had promise. Triangles draw you in. You cannot get past looking at it if you are headed downtown from Magazine Street. It sits right at the corner of Saint Mary Street and Sophie Wright Place. With its large oval windows and its door that practically demanded you enter, it was hard not to see the potential.
And there it sat….
Driving down Magazine Street, you cannot deny that it is booming, more now, than ever. From Henry Clay Street, all the way to the CBD, it is a poppin’.
The businesses on Magazine Street are great because so many of them are locally owned. Enter their doors and you find local goods by local makers. When people visit New Orleans, they are impressed by this commitment to local economy and it is a good model for other cities.
Despite this fact, I was amazed that this little building was staying empty. A primo location in bumpin’ part of town was still empty.
And here comes Hi Volt Coffee.
I’ve had few favorite coffee shops in the city over the years. I used to love Rue de la Course, not because its coffee was good (it wasn’t), but because of the location. It was primed for people watching.
Velvet on upper Magazine Street has great coffee, but it is so tiny and not the kind of place where you can kick back for long.
Hey Cafe close to the Magazine police station is decent, but it has always been a little hit or miss for me with the consistency.
Mojo is good too, but I am never going that direction so I hardly ever stop.
Well, I have a new favorite. Hi Volt Coffee, located in the primo building I have always lusted after.
On my way to meet my wife after work for some drinks, I saw the old building looking beautiful, with a fresh coat of paint, a well designed sign, and tables and chairs on the side walk. It made me so happy to see that this building was finally being cared for. It was like the puppy at the pound that had finally found an owner.
My Litmus Tests
I have been spoiled by good coffee. I am totally stuck up and feel no remorse. I should not and do not settle for second rate. The third wave coffee awakening, is one of the greatest developments of our era if you are like me and want the best. I can usually tell if I am going to like a place as soon as I walk in by noticing only a few details.
- The menu
- The machines
- The barista
- The Smell
Hi Volt passed with flying colors. There were no pumpkin spiced latte clones, no small medium and large, and no bullshit about dark roast, blond roast, etc. I like this because it keeps it simple and it means that the shop has confidence in their ability to wow you without a bunch of syrup.
Hi Volt passes again in this category. I forgot to note the make of their espresso machine, but it is most certainly one that requires an experienced barista to operate it. It was a beautiful build and was not one of these set it and forget abominations that Starbucks and the like use to crank out their poison.
They also have a sophisticated, glass, slow brew contraption sitting in a display case. It is a quality piece of craftsmanship on its own. It was slowly brewing coffee as I observed it, and I like that.
Once again – They passed. The barista in the shop was really nice. He answered all my questions about the place in a friendly way and passed my own personal barista challenge. My challenge is not difficult and it is not an out of this world request. My challenge is “Can you make me a cortado?” I ask for a cortado because it is usally not on the menu, but is not difficult to make. It is simply a shot of espresso with a little bit of steamed milk. If the barista is worth his or her salt, gives a hoot, and knows their trade, they will make you one. Well they made it for me and it was great. The microfoam was warm and mixed well with the earthy espresso.
Finally The Smell
I am not a fan of dark roast. In my opinion, it is a trick to take cheap beans and make them taste like crap and then tell you it is Euro. I like good beans. I like light roast and I want to know “whats up with the beans”. Not that I am a bean expert, and its not like I have a discerning palette to tell the difference between South American and African beans, but if the barista can tell me what the beans are and where they are from, I like that because it means, once again, they have confidence in their quality.
Hi Volt passes on this test once again. They use Counter Culture beans and it smells good when you walk in. It smells like coffee, dammit.
They passed all my tests the first time I walked in, but I always like to check for consistency. So I passed by again, asked for another cortado, and BAM, another passing grade.
They seem to have fresh baked goods and when I was in today they had more coming in.
Hi Volt is my new favorite and you should definitely check them out.