Coffee Emporium–El Paso, TX

Coffee Emporium
5827 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 584-2255
Coffee Emporium

Coffee Emporium


Although Coffee Emporium is quite popular and gets good reviews, it was not really on my radar until the time I visited. I do not drink coffee, and even having the chance to drink the best coffee (as in New Orleans) is not enough for me to acquire a taste for it. Nevertheless, the coffee here is reputed to be some of the best people have had.

What I know about this shop is that it had a long time owner who retired about 2017, and since that time it has done some minor things to reinvent itself. I think it downsized a little bit, but still maintains the theme of coffee plus treats (candy, etc.). I saw quite a large selection of sweets, which interest me even if I am not going to order any coffee.

The sweets are not made on site (I think some of them were before). What they have, though, is gourmet and comes from sources that seem to have been sought out so that customers would have the best items available.

Chocolate Candy

Coffee flavored chocolates

Coffee flavored chocolateses

I thought that since I was not drinking coffee that I would at least see if they had some good coffee flavored candy. The answer was yes to the coffee flavored part and yes to the good part. I certainly do not include every store I visit on the blog (mainly because of time constraints), but when I get very good leads that I want to share these will be included.

Sweet Shop box

Sweet Shop box

The coffee flavored chocolate came from a company in east Texas called Sweet Shop USA. I had never heard of them, but they make some very good chocolates.

The chocolates are sold individually, and I chose three that were made with different coffee flavors so that I could pick a favorite (at least in terms of coffee flavored candy).

It turned out that my favorite was the Latte (shown in the photo with a swirl on top). I thought I would like it less because it had more of a milk chocolate, but it had a strong coffee flavor (which is a good thing for candy) and had a good flavor overall.

The Cappuccino flavored chocolate had white stripes on top, and although I did not think the coffee flavor was as good as the latte, it had a very good chocolate flavor and overall was a very good candy.

The plain looking dark chocolate with a bean on top was Espresso. This completes the continuum on the scale that the chocolate was probably the best of all of them, but the coffee flavor was the least evident that I could tell.

All of the candies were very good and made an impression on me to the point that I wanted to include them in the blog.

Sweet Shop address

Sweet Shop address

There are many choices in El Paso for good candy, but the chocolates here were some of the best and most decadent I have had. I really enjoyed the coffee flavors, although they have many varieties of chocolate with other flavors.

I did not try their drinks but many people like them, and I can tell that much attention is paid to the details in the way they are made.


RATING: *

Cuisine: Coffee
Cost: *

Most Recent Visit: *

Number of Visits: *

Best Items: Sweet Shop Chocolates

Special Ratings

star 5 Sweet Shop Chocolates

Bella Cora–El Paso, TX

Bella Cora Bakery
7500 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 219-8365
Bella Cora

Bella Cora


I first learned about Bella Cora when they were selling bread at Whole Foods, and as long as this happened I think theirs was what I always bought. In Spring 2018, though, Whole Foods began baking their own versions of these breads and no longer sold the Bella Cora brand. Although many times Whole Foods produced an acceptable version of the same breads, I still wanted to get the original breads from time to time.

I had a hard time, though, figuring out when the bread was available, and several times went on the wrong day or went too late when they had already sold out (although in my mind it was still relatively early in the day).

I have since learned that I can look on their web site for the schedule of when the bread is sold. The ones I enjoyed the most from Whole Foods were the Cranberry Walnut and the Raisin Challah, and these are the ones I have tried to buy at the store.

Pastries at Bella Cora

Pastries at Bella Cora

Pastries seem to be Bella Cora’s best sellers, and there is good reason for this. The ones I tried ranked with Le Rendez-vous in Las Cruces as being the best I have tried in the area. They do not sell the exact same items, but I think the quality is very similar.

The display case on one hand presents a difficult challenge in deciding what to order. On the other hand, though, it seems that everything is good and I think I would be happy with anything they bake.

Bella Cora’s web site also points out that they have holiday pies for Thanksgiving.

Bread

Cranberry walnut bread

Cranberry walnut bread

The Cranberry Walnut Bread is my number one reason for coming to Bella Cora. It is only available one day per week (and only at the west side store), although their web site says they will try to have it for sale more often beginning in Fall 2019. The thing that makes it available so seldom is also what makes it so good–it is freshly made without preservatives. What Bella Cora’s web site does not specifically say is that the ingredients are top quality that put this in a special category of bakeries.

The Raisin Challah was the other bread sold in Whole Foods that I especially enjoyed (and like the Cranberry Walnut is now available only at the Bella Cora Bakery). While I think Whole Foods many times produces a reasonable approximation of Bella Cora’s Cranberry Raisin, I have not found this to be as true for the Challah bread.

Pastries

Chocolate hazelnut cake

Chocolate hazelnut cake

The Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is a pastry I chose at random to try, mainly because I could not remember having one anywhere else. I think most people can probably guess my verdict–it was exceptionally good like everything else I have tried from this bakery. I like to point out that Chinese pastries are good because they have the flavor without being overly sweet, and in a way this was the same. The cake was not as sweet as many, but it did have a strong butter flavor which made it over-the-top in a good way. There was a good balance between the chocolate and hazelnut flavors.

There is another location in east El Paso at 1830 Joe Battle Blvd. Bella Cora is a relatively new bakery, and is in the process of expanding their production as well as their locations. I would not have known about it if they had not had a presence in Whole Foods, but I think at this point the word is getting out and they have plenty of business. Just the pastries alone seem to give them a constant stream of customers (from what I have observed).


RATING: *

Cuisine: Bakery
Cost: *

Most Recent Visit: *

Number of Visits: *

Best Items: Cranberry Walnut Bread, Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Special Ratings

star 5 Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
star 5 Cranberry Nut Bread
star 5 Raisin Challah Bread

Little Swan Bakery–Alhambra, CA

Little Swan Bakery Cafe
1024 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA
Cuisine: Bakery
 

Sometimes I not only get tips from my friends about very good places to eat but I also get samples, and this was the case with Little Swan Bakery. In this case the samples were sent by Priority Mail in a larger package of other items, and were sent this way because the bakery items do have a limited shelf life. Fortunately they last several days before they have a noticeable deterioration of quality.

Little Swan Bakery Cafe has two locations–one in Alhambra, California (in the Los Angeles area) and one in the San Francisco area. They do not serve meals in the store, but apparently have water or coffee to go with your pastries if you want to eat on site. The bakery is Chinese style, and I assume that it is Cantonese. They serve a wide variety of pastries including crepes, buns, bread, croissants, etc. Egg tarts are a popular item.

I know from my samples and from other experiences that Chinese pastries are not as sweet as American ones, and I am told by some this is done on purpose “so you can eat more” (they like to have desserts more often rather than having less frequent treats that are over the top in sweetness). From the flavor of the samples I tried I would say you are not missing out on anything by having the less sweet Chinese pastries. In fact, I think they have a great flavor and are special treats when I have had them.

I should mention that there is a plethora of Chinese bakeries in the Los Angeles area, and my friends mentioned that this was one of their favorites (worthy of sending a “care package” to those who do not have regular access to the authentic Chinese baked goods).

Wife Cakes

Wife cake package

Wife cakes are sold by the box

The Wife Cake is one of the best sellers at the bakery, and I think Little Swan is known as one of the best places to buy them. These have a flaky crust, a sweet filling, and are topped with white sesame seeds. The filling is winter melon, and it has a slightly crunchy texture as well as a moderately sweet flavor.

Wife cakes

A few wife cakes left in the box

A dozen come in a box, and I would say the size of each “cake” is similar to many of the Mexican style pan dulce items. The terms “bread” and “cake” do not mean the same at Chinese bakeries as they mean in English–the bread is usually more sweet than is normal for Americans while the cake varies from a barely perceptible sweetness to one that I would consider as about medium (I would say the wife cake is the latter).

A serving of wife cake

A serving of wife cake

A single wife cake makes a satisfying dessert, but you could eat more and not go over the safe sugar intake level.

Happy Everyday

Happy Everyday jar

Happy Everyday jar

The second item I tried is considered a snack rather than a dessert. It was just barely sweet, but enough so that it would be equivalent to the American “sweet” snacks rather than the “salty” ones.

Happy Everyday

Happy Everyday

I was told that the actual Chinese name for this is “Chicken And,” which I would probably say should be something like “Chicken Plus.” In other words, it has chicken plus whatever makes it sweet. Like the wife cake, it also had sesame seeds on top.

My friend thinks it may actually be pork rather than chicken, but I could not tell. All I know is that it makes a good snack, and is apparently devoid of the products that American manufacturers love to include that you cannot pronounce and which have little to no nutritional value.

If you go to the bakery there are many more items that are fairly perishable, but these are two that are able to be shipped and maintain their freshness for a while.


RATING: *

Cuisine: Bakery
Cost: *

Most Recent Visit: *

Number of Visits: *

Best Items: Wife Cake, Happy Everyday

Special Ratings

star 5 Wife Cake
star 5 Happy Everyday