Stormy & Steamy – welcome to Tampa, Florida

6.51am, Monday March 28th, Dunkin Donuts, Busch Ave, Tampa, Florida, USA

Morning folks, can’t sleep – still 5 hours ahead of the local clocks – still on London time. It’s a warm and steamy morning out there already, it’s been raining overnight, and I’m thankful that we’ve missed the worst of the storm front that’s been dumping up to 7 inches of rain on Orlando and points north through central Florida. We’ll be up there tomorrow, so let’s hope the weather gods blow it all out to sea by then. So here I am at the nearest Dunkin Donuts – thanks for the free wi fi, clean bathrooms, and coffee that’s consistently drinkable. And that’s in a country that seems to do coffee pretty weirdly on a daily basis. How can a caramel frappe latte be a coffee!! So on coffee, I found the proper Cuban style cafe con leche in Ybor City – the old cigar rolling Latino part of Tampa – yesterday, and asked for strong and sweet. The stuff was thick, creamy and gave all the chambers of my heart a quick  slap. I could do with one of these each week. If you’re ever in Tampa, find the main E 7th Avenue of Ybor City, then track down the Tabanero Cigar rolling room, or find this sign…..and down the back is the coffee stall….

  

  
And the cigar rolling process is fascinating. I don’t smoke, but the power of the tobacco fragrances just about spin your head on a swivel when you walk in to the rolling room from the street. For Cabernet Sauvignon lovers, it gives you a whole new perspective on the depth, power and variation in ‘tobacco leaf’ characters that we see in those wines. I feel like I’ve added several Cab descriptors to my repertoire, just by breathing in and out at Tabanero yesterday

  
  
So by accident, in search of a serious coffee, I got a bit of an insight into how cigars are made, and the three different sets of leaves from the tobacco plant and how they’re used –  top stuff exposed to the sun for the power or nicotine, mid leaves that give up the aromatics, and the base leaves for the combustion. And yes, I bought one – invested 4 US dollars on a mild, aromatic number with a sweet agave tip……and maybe one day….I’ll smoke it!

I’m heading back into Ybor City now to have breakfast at the quite legendary La Tropicana Cafe, that’s been in the same spot on 7th Avenue since the 1960s. Then we start the USA leg of our Yalumba events tour, with the simply fabulous wine team from Berns – Steakhouse and Elevage. See you when it’s later on

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