Artisanal Coffee And Tea: Some Caffeinated Thoughts
As a caffeine aficionado, I read with deep interest about the Nestle acquisition of Blue Bottle, a Bay Area retreat for coffee addicts where each cup is a labor of love. A few years ago, when I visited Blue Bottle in Oakland, CA, I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that the likes of Nestle could be attracted to this offbeat, unassuming coffee business run by a former classical musician who vows to sell his coffee 48 hours out of the bean roaster to achieve the absolutely perfect “peak” flavor. What is interesting is that not only are their cafes around the world that cater to this level of detail but, they are actually riding the wave of an extremely lucrative and desirable business. As the New York Times described it: “…third wave specialty coffee-the kind that inspires almost monastic devotion to pour-over brews and perfectly steeped drinks-has become a hot business”.
When did it become the norm to desire the perfect copy of coffee and to find cafes that exude character, desirability and become an important part of your identity and routine? For many, finding a cafe that delivers the perfect cup of coffee or tea and with an environment that is welcoming to meet friends over a busy weekend or catch up with work is just part of normal life. In fact, for me finding an artisanal cafe has been a big part of discovering a neighborhood, city, or even country. As a caffeine enthusiast, I would like to make some recommendations of cafes that are destinations which live up to their cup of joe or rare tea list. Please note these are my recommendations of a few places sprinkled across the US, the owners of these cafes will be pleasantly surprised of this mention as this is an impromptu list, Blue Bottle is of course one of this family!
Here it goes:
- Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Co.- Minneapolis, MN: I used to live a walking distance from this Minneapolis institution which has a mid-century, eclectic aesthetic with not your average espresso menu. Spyhouse is the cool, happening place to be in Uptown, so go early if you want a seat. It’s where I discovered an amazing 1900’s Victorian apartment to rent a few blocks away. Try the Spyhouse Carmella if you have a sweet tooth!
- Rowster’s – Grand Rapids, MI: When I moved to Western MI in 2014, I was unilaterally directed to this mecca of coffee. Located in the hipster Heritage Hill neighborhood of Grand Rapids, this is a coffee house that delivers a perfect cappuccino, latte and pour over coffee every time. Vegan pastries and other interesting eats compliment their espresso menu.
- Madcap Coffee Company– Grand Rapids, MI: A lovely downtown cafe destination, Madcap Coffee is nestled in the thick of the artistic center town of Grand Rapids, literally around the corner from the GRAM (Grand Rapids Arts Museum) and Grand Rapids Public Museum. Chic interiors, comfortable community style seating is augmented by the impressive list of teas and coffees. Madcap is again dedicated to buying and roasting all of their coffee brewed. Try their amazing vegan cookie sandwiches which compliment their vibrant espresso menu.
- Peet’s Coffee & Tea– Berkeley, CA: This is where I feel the whole artisanal coffee and tea movement began. This Vine Street establishment in Berkeley spurred the coffee industry to reconsider the coffee “connoisseurship” of the average joe, no pun intended. Despite the fact that Peet’s has expanded across the country since its humble inception in 1966, it still commands the devotion and adoration of its fans in CA and beyond. It’s tea selection is international and quintessential to the brand. Baristas at Peet’s speak about teas with the same finesse and expertise as connoisseurs of Napa wines. Try a cup of their Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte (yum!) or if you want a smooth but bold black tea to give you a caffeine high, try one of their house favorites, Ti Kuan Yin.