There’s a new coffee shop in the suburbs of Atlanta and it is magical, even other-worldly: Alchemist Trading Co. in Johns Creek, GA.
Atlanta Coffee Shops recently paid a visit here after an enthusiastic reader/follower suggestion1. Alchemist Trading Co., while having recently opened, has been eight years in the making (from idea to execution). You may begin to understand why as you read through this post (and when you visit in person).
The TL;DR version:
An incredible interior design that pays homage to classics such as The Little Prince and famous artists (such as Piet Mondrian, Salvador Dali, René Magritte, and Gustav Klimt)
Tinted windows inside the shop for additional privacy/protection from direct sunlight/car headlights
Beautiful hand-painted brick wall that looks like a scene from an other-worldly planet
At least four origins of coffee available, from drip, to pour-over, to Dutch
Healthy food options such as avocado toast
House-made fresh desserts, including macarons and traditional Japanese mochi
Free Wi-Fi (with a clever password: goldrush)
This post profiling Alchemist Trading Co. is organized into three parts (click on the links to go to the respective section):
The Space & Design Elements
If you have read the “Start Here” (aka “About”) page on Atlanta Coffee Shops, then you will have observed that one of the interests that I try to profile or spotlight here are coffee shops that have a strong design or artistic element. Alchemist Trading Co. delivers in a way that I haven’t yet seen in metro Atlanta coffee shops.
Don’t let the modest exterior fool you:
The interior of the shop is magnificent2. The front counter features a massive amethyst gemstone at the edge that’s visually striking and beautiful to behold (a smaller amethyst gemstone appears on the other side of the front counter). Seen hanging above the counter is a panel with the word ALCHEMIST and the logo of the coffee shop; the logo is gorgeous and reminiscent of a vein in a rock (are there any geology enthusiasts out there?). The entire back wall of the coffee shop features a protruded landscape with golden veins/rivers running through what appears to be a mountainous landscape (based on my conversation with Eric, the owner of Alchemist Trading Co., many elements of the shop are meant to strike the observer’s imagination—there is not necessarily a definitive answer to what the various elements represent). Let your imagination dictate your experience.
The interior seating area is gorgeous. The back wall, made of brick, has been hand-painted by the owner and features a golden rock (which is also the coffee shop’s logo) at center. Pay attention to the upper left corner and you will see a little prince and a fox—these are not painted on but are actually shadows from the lamp in the foreground! This spectacular design element is an homage to The Little Prince (read the Q&A at the bottom of this post).
Detail of shadow play at Alchemist Trading Co.—the gradient from the blues of the night sky to illuminated shadows is stunning:
There are various other beautiful design elements inside Alchemist Trading Co., such as hanging terrariums (including microscopic hydroponic gardens) and various plants on the shelves. If you look closely, there is also a fish tank at the bottom shelf—I will allow curious visitors figure out what kind of fish is the sole inhabitant there.
One theme at Alchemist Trading Co. are these cow figurines who appear to lack proprioception—they may be seen walking up and down vertically along the mountainous terrain.
These cows—each of which is beautifully painted or decorated with 3D elements—are meant to bear some resemblance to famous artists or works of art. For instance, there is one cow that has a melting clock on one of its horns, a tribute to Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (an explanation). There is another cow that resembles the works of Gustav Klimt, especially The Kiss or The Lady in Gold.
Orchids, Japanese Bonsai trees, and a golden telescope are seen below at Alchemist Trading Co. Do you spot the Salvador Dali tribute cow below?
Another view of design elements at Alchemist Trading Co. Can you spot the elephant on the shelf, another Salvador Dali icon?
There are so many quirks or odds & ends (as a Jeopardy! category would be called) at Alchemist Trading Co. If you visit, browse around the shelves and see if you can find Waldo!
The menu at Alchemist Trading Co. is divided into seven parts:
Specialty Coffee: Single Origin—including Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, Rwanda, and Nicaragua
Signature Lattes—including matcha latte, lavender latte, earl grey latte, and mixed-grain latte
Signature Coffee—including nitro coffee, the Einspänner, and Dutch coffee
Signature Tea—including oolong tea and black tea
Signature Ade/Juices—including grapefruit ade, lemonade, lime ade, and a “Pace Maker” (freshly blended beet, apple, lemon, orange, pineapple, and kale)
Signature Snacks—including spicy grilled cheese sandwich, avocado toast, and “egg egg sando” (an egg salad with house-prepared egg sauce)
Signature Afforgato & Ice Cream—including house affogato, matcha affogato, and “The Alchemist” (matcha and vanilla ice cream with condensed milk drizzle, dark chocolate syrup with espresso)
There are additional items which one can order (such as mochi and macarons off the main menu). A few photos of some of the items from the menu are presented below.
The desserts at Alchemist Trading Co. deserve a mention. The mochi (Japanese ice cream) here is unlike anything I’ve tasted from grocery stores, as it is prepared daily and not frozen. There are several flavors available, including matcha.
A Q&A With the Owner of Alchemist Trading Co.
During my visit, I had an extensive conversation with Eric, the owner of Alchemist Trading Co., about the coffee shop’s design elements, inspiration, and offerings. Based on this conversation, following is a Q&A that has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q: Can you talk a little bit of the history of how the coffee shop came about? How long have you wanted to start a coffee shop of your own?
Alchemist: I have been running an interior design and marketing company for 12 years. Every time I drink leftover coffee in club/showroom houses, one of the workers always talked about his precious coffee farm in Guatemala. I couldn’t forget his smile when he was talking about his family in Guatemala, coffee, and sweet potatoes. So I visited several coffee farms/plantations and experienced something very different than my daily business life. From that point, I enjoyed the feeling of hand grinding and dripping specialty coffee and found my peace.
Specialty coffee in Georgia/Atlanta is not very popular... So I wanted to bring something fun and different to locals. In addition, I also wanted to create unique interior design to locals as well so they don't always have to drive down to Midtown/Buckhead to find somewhere authentic and different.
Q: We talked a lot during my visit about various design and art inspirations that went into the design of Alchemist Trading Co. Can you talk about about specific examples from art and literature, such as the man and fox shadow on the wall, that have influenced you personally and the design of the shop?
Alchemist: Yes, Le Petite Prince was one of my favorite childhood books. It still has an impact on me: I always strive to think outside of box, just like an elephant in a hat. But I made the symbol blurry so people can freely interpret themselves about what they see on the walls.
Additionally, when I was young, I didn't have anybody to ask about the direction of my life so I used to look at the stars and the moon. It makes me look further than trees or greens in front of me.
So many coffee shops are made of rustic wood or metal for [the interiors] and there are some chic and modern ones as well. Since I have been creating, designing, and constructing so many places like that upon request, I wanted to create a different design by using different materials. Actual stones.
Q: What was the process like for installing the amethyst rock at the corner of the counter in the coffee shop?
Alchemist: I purchased a huge amount of amethysts and pre-set the pattern and design. Then, I drew on the counter walls and concaved the walls based on the shape of gem that I planned to use. I installed the rock piece by piece.
Q: What coffee roasters are you currently partnered with? Is it on a rotational basis?
Alchemist: Yes, the coffee roasters are on a rotational basis. Luckily I know many owners/managers of roasters that they provide and inform me the specialty coffee beans that are unique.
Q: What are some of the coffees preparation techniques available at Alchemist Trading Co.? (drip vs. pour-over vs. Dutch?)
Alchemist: Dutch is always the trouble maker. It is different every day, based on their roasting date, temperature, pressure and etc. This is what makes me interesting because it's different everyday.
I love pour over. It's like a palette. You are able to control the flavor based on the dripper, speed, temperature... no one can master the pour-over and hand dripping, and there is no right or wrong way of dripping. Therefore, it's like painting.
Q: What have been the most popular item(s) on the menu (from food or drink) since you guys opened?
Alchemist: Iced Dutch, lavender latte, matcha latte, avocado toast, and the matcha affogato.
Q: What makes your avocado toast taste so great?
Alchemist: We don't cheat with our portion and ingredients. We put an entire avocado per toast and of course our secret sauce.
[Editor’s note: the avocado toast is highly recommended here!]
Q: Who are your partners for tea / matcha?
Alchemist: We are purchasing tea straight from TWG. And matcha has multiple sources.
Q: "The Alchemist" on the menu is reserved for an ice cream—any particular reason for that choice (vs., say, a sandwich?)
Alchemist: Yes, I always wanted to eat espresso affogato and matcha based affogato at the same time. I love to mix many ingredients.
Q: What's been the biggest challenge so far in running your coffee shop?
Alchemist: Unusual pricing for a local coffee shop due to using high-end/authentic ingredients. Reduced the sitting areas for views and comfort. Tinted windows for additional privacy and protection from direct sunlight/car headlights for customers. It makes us [less] visual until night time.
[Editor’s note: the coffee/drink prices range from $4.50 to $8 at Alchemist Trading Co., with an average price at around ~$6.50]
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself or Alchemist Trading Co. that you want potential customers or a wider audience to know?
Alchemist: I wish people can come here and forget the reality. I hope they can look at the painted stars and think about their cute dreams in their childhood. I want younger generations to look at the stars and dream big. Dream something great with a simple, natural drinks.
Alchemist Trading Co. is one of the most beautiful coffee shops in the metro Atlanta area. It’s clear that the owner—with a background in interior design—spent considerable amount of time and effort personally overseeing and building/designing the space.
From one perspective, Alchemist Trading Co. is a wonderful coffee shop to bring children—there are so many gems (part literally) to discover here.
If you haven’t yet visited: come to Alchemist Trading Co. to marvel at the incredible design elements and stunning interior, stay for the wonderful drinks and delicious food. Alchemist Trading Co. is one of those coffee shops where you can transport yourself to another world and let your imagination run wild.
2 A word I do not use lightly. The interior design of Alchemist Trading Co. is stunning and, while not on the same scale, is akin to Felix Roasting Co. in New York City, which I also dubbed magnificent.