Enjoy Low Carb and Gluten-Free Desserts (and Coffee) at Zambawango in Sandy Springs

Located off Abernathy Road in Sandy Springs, Zambawango Desserts and Coffee is an easy place to miss if you’re not looking for it. Atlanta Coffee Shops discovered this location via a loyal follower of the site/Instagram and visited this shop earlier this fall.

The dessert and coffee shop uses almond and coconut flours (i.e., non-wheat flours), 99% pure chocolate, and Swerve (a non-GMO, all natural plant based sweetener), among other natural ingredients.

Zambawango is partnered with Batdorf & Bronson for the coffee, and there is an extensive selection of coffee options to pair with the desserts.

This post is organized into three parts, based on the ACS visit:

  1. Exterior and Interior Views of Zambawango

  2. The Menu at Zambawango

  3. Q&A with the Owner of Zambawango, George Coundouriotis

The Q&A includes the details behind how the name Zambawango was chosen, George’s career trajectory, and the future plans of expansion of this specialty desserts and coffee shop.

Enjoy!

Exterior and Interior Views

Zambawango is one of several retail locations adjacent to a condominium complex. There is free parking for shoppers in the parking deck off Abernathy Road. The address of Zambawango is 901 Abernathy Road CU 400, Sandy Springs, GA 30328.

The entrance to Zambawango.

Once you park (free parking!) and walk a short distance, you will be at the front of Zambawango. The front of Zambawango features a cozy outdoor patio, as seen below.

Outdoor patio at Zambawango.

The sign for Zambawango.

Interior of Zambawango.

Wide-angle view of the interior of Zambawango.

The coffee bar is seen on the far end of the interior.

Espresso machine at Zambawango

The Menu at Zambawango

The menu at Zambawango focuses on low carb and gluten-free items. If you are following a Keto diet1, then the menu at Zambawango will be appealing. The majority of the desserts at Zambawango contain less than 4 grams of net carbs and seamlessly embrace healthy, all natural, non GMO alternatives to wheat flour and refined sugar.

Zambawango primarily uses Swerve2, a natural sweetener made from ingredients found in certain fruits and starchy root vegetables, as a substitute for sugar. Swerve is zero-calorie, non-glycemic, and is safe for those living with diabetes, since it has no effect on blood glucose or insulin levels. (As of late 2019, Zambawango is also using another low-calorie sweetener, allulose).

The executive pastry chef at Zambawango (the one who makes the magic happen) is Kathleen McDaniel, who brings almost twenty years of experience as a pastry chef. From Zambawango:

Atlanta native Kathleen McDaniel has been a pastry chef for over 18 years and brings an extensive wealth of culinary knowledge to Zambawango. In 1996, she traveled to Providence, Rhode Island to attend Johnson & Wales University to study culinary arts and pastry and has since been an avid lover of pastries. In 2001, she made her way back to Atlanta to study under Roy Yamaguchi, allowing her to fuel her imagination and expand her creativity in the pastry world. She has received national recognition for her work, including The New York Times naming her “a rising star, her French desserts so venerable they belong in the Louvre”. Kathleen has had the honor of baking for such organizations as Share Our Strength, Atlanta Les Dames Chapter (of which she is a member) and The James Beard House.

You can read more about Kathleen McDaniel in this feature in Simply Buckhead magazine.

Zambawango features a hand-written menu board as seen below:

A selected menu of low carb & gluten-free items as well as the coffee/drinks are presented below. The coffee roasting partner at Zambawango is Batdorf & Bronson (Olympia, WA and Atlanta, GA).

The hand-written coffee/drinks menu at Zambawango:

A fairly large selection of coffee options at Zambawango.

Red velvet cake on display at Zambawango.

During this visit to the shop, ACS tried out three items: the lemon blueberry cheesecake, the cheesecake brownie, and a coffee cake. The desserts paired well with a cappuccino.

As for the desserts: they all tasted incredible and it was impossible to tell you’re eating low-carb desserts. I was thinking of a tagline for Zambawango, and perhaps this works: “At Zambawango, you can have your cake and eat it too!”

The lemon blueberry cheesecake at Zambawango.

On the left: cheesecake brownie. On the right: coffee cake.

Q&A with the Owner of Zambawango

Atlanta Coffee Shops conducted a Q&A with the owner of Zambawango, George Coundouriotis for this feature post.

Q: How did the idea for a low carb bakery and specialty coffee shop come about? What is Zambawango all about?
A: 
I am a life-long foodie with a very serious sweet tooth, and I have struggled with weight issues throughout my life. I tried to eat low carb but invariably would eat a dessert  and would continue gaining weight. Finally, I realized there was a big need for a bakery which offered delicious low carb desserts and amazing low carb coffee drinks! Key criteria was NOT to compromise on quality, appearance, taste...while our ingredients remained natural and healthy! Hiring an executive pastry chef who believed in the concept and also was dedicated to execute at the level that can best be described as the level of "excellence" was essential.  Kathleen McDaniel came along at just the right time and has also built a very strong and deep team in the kitchen!

The idea may have come about from a personal need.  However, the real drive to make it a success came from the company mission: to improve people's lives by offering desserts and coffees to people who could not otherwise indulge. Our offerings contain 4 grams of net carbs or less per generous serving, are all natural, gluten free and are suitable for any version of the healthy low carb lifestyle. 

Q: Can you tell ACS more about your personal weight loss journey that you alluded to in an earlier Q&A? Was the majority of the effort achieved through low carb food, or did you also take up an exercise regimen?
A:
I started my low carb journey in January 2017 and added exercise after I initially lost 40 lbs. I lost 40 lbs in about 6 months. I reached my target weight in January 2018, a total of 60 lbs lost, and have stayed there since then.

Q: Do you have background in the restaurant business? How were you able to go from concept to execution so quickly?
A:
My background is in business—category management, to be exact. I approached the bakery as another category.  That positive thinking and trust in my abilities, enabled me to identify and lead the various team members to go from concept to reality in only 7 months... In mid-March 2018 we bought the location, did the engineering drawings, got the necessary permits, found and hired an amazing General Contractor, hired a consultant to help us specify the equipment, sourced the equipment, evaluated and hired the full staff and many other things. We opened on October 10, 2018. It's been a team effort and the key ingredient is integrity and expecting very high standards from everyone on the team. From the business side of things, we are implementing best practices from the different companies I've been fortunate to work at or observed and applying these practices to not only be better, but to be the best in the space.  We plan to make a positive difference nationwide, and grow strategically and carefully.

Q: With respect to the name—what does Zambawango mean?
A:
We want Zambawango to mean "Low Carb Bakery and Specialty Coffee Shop"... At least that is what it means to everyone who has experienced us... Before it came to mean that, one of my business partners came up with the name out of necessity... practically all the names we came up with on our own were already registered somewhere. And as we intend to grow the business nationally, and perhaps even internationally one day, we wanted a name that we could register and protect.  Jim, my business partner, suddenly and out of desperation said "Zambawango"... I said "what??"  He then explained that growing up in Maine, while still only 7 years old, his Uncle Hollis from Hawaii, visited the family and lived with them for three years.  He would regale the kids with stories of this amazing place in the South Pacific called Zambawango, where everyone lived in peace, was happy and strived for excellence.  When Jim or his sister did something well, Uncle Hollis would slam his hand down and say "That's how they do it in Zambawango!"  Well, that story convinced me it was a great name, because that is the culture we strive to build at the bakery and company wide!  And yes, we were able to register it!

Q: Can you talk more about how Zambawango caters to those afflicted with diabetes?
A:
Our desserts and coffees are very low carb, contain no grain flour or added sugars, and have a very low to no glycemic impact. [Editor’s note: see this video about the sugar substitute Swerve that Zambawango uses]

A: Can you comment more about your non-GMO plant and root based sweetener alternatives to sugar (Swerve, or if there any others)?
A:
We primarily use Swerve which is made from ingredients found in select fruits and root vegetables, contains no artificial ingredients, preservatives or flavors. It's zero-calorie, non glycemic and safe for those living with diabetes, since it has no effect on blood glucose or insulin levels. We are also starting to use Allulose, another all natural, no-glycemic impact sweetener. Both of these sweeteners are significantly lower in calories: Swerve is only 5% of the calories of sugar and Allulose is only 10% of the calories of sugar.

Q: How/why did you decide to partner with Batdorf & Bronson for your coffee?
A:
We benchmarked several local roasters, and Batdorf came out ahead in the large variety of specialty coffees they offer, their excellent customer service and willingness to help us get our coffee program off the ground and make it outstanding.

Q: What are your favorite items on the menu from the desserts and coffee options?
A:
Some of the new seasonal items are my current favorites: caramel pecan cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, and our double chocolate hazelnut cookie. I do love everything in our cases, as one of the roles I share with our Executive Pastry chef is "Chief Tasting Officer". On the drink side, I really enjoy coffee and my current favorites are our freshly brewed coffee, and in the afternoon decaf iced cappuccino usually hits the spot!

Q: What's your progress so far on building out a larger kitchen and expanding in the Atlanta metro area?
A:
We should be ready to slowly introduce the new kitchen capacity in late Fall and more fully by January 2020.

Q: Is part of your mission to grow nationally... can you discuss the different channels for growth that you are pursuing?
A: 
Yes, we are now deeply involved in building a new kitchen, and with that additional capacity we will begin a shipping program as well as pursue local corporations/businesses who want to move away from refined sugar and grain flours.... and  are looking for delicious treats like ours without the carbs... without the guilt! 

Q: What's your clientele like at the shop? Is it a lot of regulars in the Sandy Springs area?
A:
We do have a lot of regulars from Sandy Springs but also from further out... Downtown, midtown, Alpharetta and Roswell.

Q: For anyone visiting the shop for the first time, what are your personal recommendations for the must-try items?
A:
Crème Brûlée, the caramel pecan cheesecake, and our cupcakes! At the end of the day though it's really what the consumer really prefers. We stand behind everything in our cases.


Q: Is there anything else about Zambawango that you haven't shared before or that has been reported about the shop that you'd like a wider audience to know?
A:
With a 48 hour notice, we can make your next low carb birthday, anniversary or any other special occasion cakes. Even wedding cakes, and those, depending on the complexity, we may need a few more days of advance notice. Recently we have been getting a lot of wedding cake orders!

Final Say

If you are looking for a gluten-free, low-carb dessert shop in the Atlanta area, look no further than Zambawango in Sandy Springs. The dessert shop has built a mini cult following between local regulars and beyond with its delectable desserts and traditional menu items. And if you’re on a keto diet (or lifestyle) and you crave something sweet, then Zambawango should be on your to-visit destination in Atlanta.

Editor’s Note: Zambawango celebrated its 1-year anniversary on October 10, 2019. Congratulations to the entire team! Thank you to George and staff for the ACS invite and for providing the responses to the Q&A.


Zambawango Desserts & Coffee
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Location:
Sandy Springs, GA ☕ OTP

Address:
901 Abernathy Road NE, Suite #400
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
Google Maps link
ph: 404-879-9731

Hours of operation:
Monday-Saturday: 8AM to 6:30PM
Saturday: 9AM to 5PM
Sunday: closed


Notes and References

1 Admittedly, this is a new area of exploration for Atlanta Coffee Shops. In a prior Sunday Survey conducted on Instagram, there was a sizable response from the audience in terms of following certain dies/lifestyles choices (including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, keto, etc.). With this in mind, ACS will spotlight those coffee shops that especially cater to people with these diets/lifestyle choices. Zambawango is near the top of the list so far. If you have any suggestions in terms of additional research/content, feel free to get in touch.

2 The active ingredient in Swerve is erythritol. It is made by fermenting glucose with a natural microorganism Moniliella pollinis, which breaks down the glucose and yields eruthritol. Erythritol also naturally occurs in many fruits and vegetables like melons, grapes, and asparagus, as well as in fermented foods. An addition of oligosacchardies and natural flavor from citrus are added to make the final product (Swerve).

Atlanta Coffee Shops Awards: Brainstorming

As Atlanta Coffee Shops turned one year old a few months ago, people reached out with some ideas for how to celebrate. Two out of the three great ideas actually materialized: ACS held a coffee shops crawl and ACS held a fun giveaway in partnership with Docent Coffee. The remaining idea that was floated was to do an Atlanta Coffee Shops awards…

In a recent Sunday Survey conducted on Instagram stories, ACS polled for some ideas. The Sunday Survey was purposefully phrased in a generic way as to solicit broad ideas in various categories.

The Sunday Survey was phrased as follows:

“I’d give an award to _____ for/because _____”

Where the first blank is an Atlanta coffee shop, and the second blank is a reason.

If you aren’t following Atlanta Coffee Shops on Instagram, you’re missing out on fun survey likes this…

There were about twenty responses to the Sunday Survey. Naturally, some responses gravitated to listing something as “the best,” which is subjective on tastes/preferences. Since ACS is sometimes asked an opinion about the subjective tastes/preferences, it actually makes sense to try to get a crowdsourced opinion from a wider audience.

Together with the feedback received, ACS is brainstorming the following categories for the forthcoming (and inaugural) Atlanta Coffee Shops awards:

  1. An Atlanta coffee shop with the tastiest food

  2. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best espresso

  3. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL)

  4. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best fall/autumn seasonal drink

  5. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best pastries

  6. An Atlanta coffee shop that offers the most creative or innovative drinks

  7. An Atlanta coffee shop with the “chillest vibe”

  8. An Atlanta coffee shop that’s the most conducive to studying / getting work done

  9. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best overall customer service

  10. An Atlanta coffee shop with the friendliest baristas

  11. An Atlanta coffee shop with the most knowledgeable coffee staff / baristas

  12. An Atlanta coffee shop with the most inviting outdoor space or patio

  13. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best latte

  14. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best cappuccino

  15. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best matcha drinks

  16. An Atlanta coffee shop that offers the most consistent coffee across multiple locations (for those local coffee shops with more than one metro area location)

  17. An Atlanta coffee shop that hosts the most fun / interesting events

  18. An Atlanta coffee shop (or roaster) that holds the best educational events (coffee cuppings, for example)

  19. An Atlanta coffee shop that is also the best local roaster(y)

  20. An Atlanta coffee shop that has the best cold brew

  21. An Atlanta coffee shop that has the best nitro

  22. An Atlanta coffee shop that best embodies or facilitates a meaningful community

  23. An Atlanta coffee shop that is dog/pet-friendliest

  24. An Atlanta coffee shop that has the best non-coffee drinks

  25. An Atlanta coffee shop that has the best tea

  26. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best views

  27. An Atlanta coffee shop that doesn’t feel like a coffee shop

  28. An Atlanta coffee shop that is rarely crowded

  29. An Atlanta coffee shop with the the most eclectic music playing in the background

  30. An Atlanta coffee shop that can be characterized as the most hipster

  31. An Atlanta coffee shop with the most interesting/creative Instagram account

  32. An Atlanta coffee shop that is still relatively undiscovered

  33. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best selection of gluten-free or vegan items

  34. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best selection of alternative (non-dairy) milk

  35. An Atlanta coffee shop with the best (largest) selection of coffee on drip / pour-over / espresso

  36. An Atlanta coffee shop that has the coolest merchandise for sale

  37. An Atlanta coffee shop that’s BEST all-around

  38. An Atlanta coffee shop that deserves an award for _____ (write-in)


ACS will continue thinking about adding some additional categories to this list. Feel free to leave a comment on this post or send a message on Instagram if you have additional ideas.

The actual voting on these categories will likely be via a custom Google form in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails Now Open in the Renovated Crowne Plaza Ravinia Hotel in Dunwoody

The Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia Hotel in Dunwoody recently underwent a $50 million renovation. As part of the renovations, the hotel created a beautiful indoor public space, in which you will find a spacious lobby area, Parkwoods (a full-service new American restaurant), the Backyard at Parkwoods (an outdoor beer garden), and Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails (coffee/tea/cocktails).

Participating in the interior design of the public space of the Crowne Plaza Ravinia Hotel was Johnson Studio (also see: Instagram). Overall, the interior design is gorgeous and worth seeing in person (if you’re into interior design at hotels). The space is modern and open.

Atlanta Coffee Shops was invited to preview this new space by a marketing member of IHG staff. Initial impressions and photos from this visit to the hotel with a focus on Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails are below.

Interior Views

Lightwell Coffee & Cocktails is located on the first floor of the lobby of the hotel (or the second floor if you enter from the back side of the hotel, which is also open to the public; this is how ACS entered during this visit).

Inside Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails at Crowne Perimeter Plaza at Ravinia.

A wide-angle view of Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails and the surrounding lobby area at the Crowne Plaza Perimeter Hotel at Ravinia.

The bar area of Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails. The bar opens at 4PM daily.

The coffee roasting partner for Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails is Batdorf & Bronson (Olympia, WA). The tea partnership is with Numi organic teas.

A coffee from Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails. The roasting partner at Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails is Batdorf & Bronson.

A tea at Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails.

The Menu at Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails

The full drink menu at Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails may be found here (PDF). The food menu may be found here (PDF). The coffee, tea, and cold drinks menu at Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails is presented below:

The coffee, tea, and non-alcoholic drink menu at Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails.

The coffee, tea, and non-alcoholic drink menu at Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails.

The menu board at Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails.

A cappuccino at Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails.

The Public Space at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia Hotel

A few more scenes from the general lobby / public space area of the Crowne Plaza Perimeter Hotel at Ravinia are presented below.

The lobby area of the Crowne Plaza Perimeter at Ravinia Hotel.

The two telephone-shaped chairs seen in the photo below are embedded with technology to let you experience simulated ambient lighting (from morning light to evening light). It’s an interesting concept…

The lobby area of the Crowne Plaza Perimeter at Ravinia Hotel.

The lobby area of the Crowne Plaza Perimeter at Ravinia Hotel.

The lobby area of the Crowne Plaza Perimeter at Ravinia Hotel.

The downstairs lobby area of the Crowne Plaza Perimeter at Ravinia Hotel.

A view of the lobby area.

If You Go

If you decide to visit Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails for a coffee drink, the location is inside the public/lobby area of the Crowne Plaza Perimiter Hotel at Ravinia.

There is free parking at the front of the hotel, but keep in mind that if you navigate to Ravinia 1, Ravinia 2, or Ravinia 3 parking areas, you have gone too far. The hotel will not be able to provide a reimbursement if you park in the parking lots of the adjoining buildings (they are separate businesses). So don’t make the same mistake as ACS made by having to pay $15 for parking on a weekend! Make an effort to find the free parking in front of the hotel and/or valet parking in front of the hotel.

A personal recommendation would be to visit during the evening so you can check out the outdoor area at the back of the hotel which feels like a small oasis with the waterfalls. Perhaps an ACS return visit to capture this part of the hotel will be forthcoming…

See the entire gallery from this ACS visit on this page.

Note: there is no dedicated social media presence for Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails. You can navigate to the hotel’s dining page to see more information. Or check out the hotel’s Instagram page for more.


Lightwell Cafe & Cocktails
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Location:
Dunwoody ☕Atlanta ☕OTP

Address:
4355 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Atlanta, GA 30346
(Inside the Crowne Plaza Perimeter Hotel at Ravinia)
Google Maps link
ph: 770-395-7700

Hours of operation:
Breakfast. Monday-Sunday: 6AM to 1PM
Lunch/Dinner. Monday-Sunday: 1PM to 9PM
Bar. Monday-Sunday: 4PM to 10PM

Coffee Roaster / Roasting Partner:
Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters (Olympia, WA)

Strumming Along to Multiple Beats: Banjo Coffee in Avondale Estates

Founded by husband and wife team, Billy and Chasidy Atchison, along with their friend, Sebastian Kegel, Banjo Coffee originated at a small farmer’s market on the east side of Atlanta. You may already be familiar with Banjo Cold Brew (the brand), and perhaps have seen various bottled cold brew cans for sale at your local Kroger, one of many of the local Atlanta farmers markets, or Whole Foods.

The focus of this blog is on local and independent Atlanta coffee shops, so the majority of the content below is from the physical storefront of Banjo Coffee (i.e., Banjo Coffee Shop) in Avondale Estates. However, in doing research for this post, it was very interesting to learn how the coffee shop came to be from the Banjo Cold Brew brand (the details are in part 4 of this post). In a word: community.

This post is organized into five parts (click on the parts below to be taken to the respective section)

  1. Photos of the interior and exterior of Banjo Coffee

  2. Menu and drink options

  3. Local Partnerships

  4. Brief Story of how Banjo Coffee was founded (and a brief explainer of Banjo Coffee—the coffee shop—vs. Banjo Cold Brew—the brand)

  5. An interview with the co-owners of Banjo Coffee

Enjoy!

1. Interior and Exterior Views

Banjo Coffee is located in a brick building at 38B North Avondale Road, Avondale Estates, GA 30002; the neighboring business is The Beer Growler, with whom Banjo Coffee shares the parking lot. The exterior of the shop features a cozy outdoor patio; furry friends are welcome here.

Banjo Coffee Shop exterior view. (Note: this photo was captured approximately one year ago prior to Labor Day).

The interior of Banjo Coffee has about six high-top tables (comfortable for one to two people), as well as larger communal tables where you can spread out with your books/computers. The coffee shop features plenty of window light and is bright and cheery inside.

Interior of Banjo Coffee Shop.

Interior views at Banjo Coffee Shop in Avondale Estates.

The Nuova Simonelli espresso machine is one of the “tools of the trade” at Banjo Coffee.

The centerpiece of the coffee shop is this framed banjo—owned by Chasidy’s mom and is a testament to the playful nature of the coffee shop.

Board games, anyone?

Details of the interior of Banjo Coffee.

Coffee beans and other merchandise for sale at Banjo Coffee.

Details at Banjo Coffee.

Hanging plants and hanging shirts at Banjo Coffee in Avondale Estates, GA.

2. The Menu at Banjo Coffee

The menu at Banjo Coffee is fairly extensive, and at the time of this visit, was eight pages long. The options include drinks on tap, espresso bar, featured drinks, beer and wine options, food, and catering. Banjo Coffee is partnered with Café Campesino out of Americus, GA for its supply of coffee beans, which go into the espresso drinks at the shop as well as into the cold brew beverages available throughout the Southeast.

Some highlights of the menu at Banjo Coffee Shop are provided below.

On Tap

There are six options on the tap menu at Banjo Coffee:

  • Nitro Coffee (original) and Coco Loco brewed nitro (with cacao nibs & vanilla)

  • Cold Brew (original) and Bourbon Barrel-Aged cold brew

  • “Hot Fuzz Soda” (with peach, jalapeño, and agave) cold brewed tea and Hibiscus sour cold brewed tea

Espresso Bar

The traditional coffee drinks at the Banjo Coffee Shop (drip coffee, cortado, cappuccino, americano, latte, etc.) are complemented by lavender honey latte and the bourbon vanilla latte. Prices range from $2.75 for a double espresso shot to $5.50 for the large size of the latter two latte options. Rounding out the espresso bar options are chai latte, matcha latte, and hot chocolate. Banjo Coffee has an assortment of housemade syrups which may be added to the drinks for $1, including chocolate, caramel, lavender honey, bourbon vanilla, and strawberry. For the non-dairy drinkers, Banjo Coffee also offers almond milk or oat milk (Banjo Coffee offers the Oatly brand) substitutions for $1.

Oat milk cappuccino at Banjo Coffee. See this image on Instagram.

Featured Drinks

The featured drinks at Banjo Coffee are seasonal, and at the time of the visit, were focused on refreshing summer options. These included:

  • Wide-Eyed Mule (espresso, ginger beer, lime juice)

  • Strawberry Matchito (matcha green tea, strawberry, mint, and sparking water)—see photos below.

  • Tonic Youth (espresso, tonic, vanilla syrup, ginger lemon bitters)

  • CBD Hibiscus Tea (hibiscus, lime, organic cane sugar, and 15mg CBD)

  • Third Eye (matcha green tea powder, almond milk, espresso)

The seasonal featured drinks were $5.75 each, with the exception of CBD Hibiscus Tea, priced at $5.95. Check the Banjo Coffee’s website for updates to the seasonal drinks menu.

Beer and Wine

The following beer and wine options were on the menu at Banjo Coffee:

Food Options

The majority of food options at Banjo Coffee are focused on small/fast items, such as the avocado bagel, B.E.C. (bacon, egg, and cheddar) bagel, avocado toast, strawberry market toast, black forest ham sandwich, turkey sandwich, and chicken salad. The coffee shop serves breakfast until 11AM, while lunch is served from 11AM to 2PM.

Seen below is the B.E.C. from Banjo Coffee, served with bacon from Pine Street Market with a bagel from Emerald City Bagels (see Banjo Coffee’s local partnerships).

Catering

Banjo Coffee offers several items as part of its catering menu. Hot boxes of coffee (96oz) are available for $19.95, 32oz growlers (cold brew coffee, hibiscus tea, or anything else on tap) are priced at $10, and 4-pack of nitro cans are available for purchase at $10.95. You can also rent Banjo Coffee’s nitro coffee cart (inquire with Banjo Coffee for details).

###

One of the highlights of this ACS visit to Banjo Coffee was sampling some of the seasonal drinks. I opted for the strawberry matchito—made with matcha green tea, strawberry, ming, and sparkling water (from another Atlanta local partner, Montane). All of the featured summer drinks at Banjo Coffee are thoughtfully prepared and are very refreshing—especially in this summer heat that we have been experiencing lately!

Banjo Coffee’s strawberry matchito in the wild.

Another view of the strawberry matchito, set next to Montane Sparkling Water (used in the drink).

Left to right: matcha lemonade, a plant growing in a repurposed Banjo Cold Brew nitro can, hibiscus sour tea, and original nitro coffee.

Oat milk cappuccino at Banjo Coffee.

A trio of drinks from Banjo Coffee glistening in the sun.

A trio of drinks from Banjo Coffee glistening in the sun.

Local Partnerships

One of the core values espoused in this blog is highlighting local and independent coffee shops, and this effort is further demonstrated when learning about how a local coffee shop partners with local and independent businesses or brands. For Banjo Coffee, local partnerships are at the root of their DNA, and they partner with about a dozen local businesses. As of this writing, these partnerships include:

The Banjo Coffee Story

For the back-story of how the brick and mortar Banjo Coffee came to be, it helps to understand the trajectory of the coffee shop co-founders, husband and wife team, Billy and Chasidy Atchison. For this part of the post, I highly recommend hearing Billy and Chasidy’s story on The Atlanta Foodcast (it’s a fifty minute podcast interview). It’s well worth the listen—especially if you love podcasts, food, and the entrepreneurial spirit. My brief summary is provided below…

Billy and Chasidy grew up in the South (Alabama) and met in college at the University of Montevallo in Alabama, about thirty minutes south of Birmingham (Billy’s joke is: “We didn’t even hear of Montevallo until our junior year of college.”). After college, they ended up in Chicago, where they lamented the brutal Chicago winters. On the plus side, they lived near the founding location of Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee, which is perhaps where they became discerning coffee drinkers/enthusiasts.

Deciding to part with the harsh Chicago winters, Billy and Chasidy soon moved to Los Angeles, CA (specifically: Silver Lake), where they once again lived near an Intelligentsia Coffee location. Sensing a trend here?

With yet another move to Atlanta from Los Angeles, Billy and Chasidy still were trying to figure out their roots. It was during a visit to Portland, OR in 2012 where they had a chance to sample some of the cold brews from Stumptown Coffee where a revelation occurred (Billy says on the podcast: “I didn’t know coffee could taste this way.”)

Billy and Chasidy had cold brew on their mind when they returned to Atlanta. Operating out of a shared kitchen space, the experimentation for creating cold brew began. During this experimentation phase, Billy was also training for an ultra-marathon and sipping on cold brew every morning was a way to get an extra energy boost.

The entrepreneurial couple decided that cold brew was their way forward in Atlanta. They knew that they wanted to make a ready-to-drink product—with no need to add water, etc. After much experimentation, Banjo Cold Brew (the brand) began in 2015 at one farmer’s market in Atlanta, where the couple recount making $70 in sales on the first day. With the launch of 32oz bottles of cold brew several months later, Banjo soon found themselves in partnership with The Oakhurst Market and The Mercantile (now closed).

The hustling didn’t stop for two years—in the first year, Billy and Chasidy rotated through seven local Atlanta farmers markets; in the second year, with a little bit of help, they made it through 12 Atlanta farmers markets.

It was in January 2017, by somewhat serendipitous circumstances, that the physical storefront (Banjo Coffee—the subject of this post) was born. Billy and Chasidy were in the Avondale Estates neighborhood when they learned that the owner of Urban Grounds, a staple in the community for some 13 years, was thinking of selling the place. Billy and Chasidy didn’t take long to decide to make an offer. And hence, the physical coffee shop—Banjo Coffee—came to be. It’s been a wonderful part of the Avondale Estates community since then. So the path to opening a local coffee shop wasn’t straightforward for Billy and Chasidy, but in a way, it was destined to be. As Atlanta Coffee Shops profiles more and more of these local stories, it’s becoming apparent that there isn’t a standard or traditional way coffee shops begin their operations. For example, Billy and Chasidy’s story of opening up Banjo Coffee is reminiscent (albeit in a different way) of Brother Moto, which was an evolution of a coffee shop from something else.

If you want more details about Billy and Chasidy’s story, listen to The Atlanta Foodcast episode.

Q&A With the Banjo Coffee Founders

Following is a Q&A conducted by Atlanta Coffee Shops with the Banjo Coffee co-founders, husband and wife team, Billy and Chasidy Atchison. The back-story above frames the origin of Banjo Cold Brew and Banjo Coffee (the coffee shop), which is also reiterated in the Q&A.

Q: How did the name Banjo Coffee come about? Is there someone in the family that's a banjo player? 
A:
Long ago, Billy got a joke tattoo of a banjo (instrument) on his knee because you know…we’re from Alabama. So, when we started thinking about the cold brew business around the kitchen table, we really wanted it to create a specialty coffee brand that was warm and enjoyable – like talking to family around a kitchen table or playing music around a fire. We came up with lots of brand names, but Banjo was the one that felt like home base for us and the tattoo was a constant reminder to not take it all too seriously.

 

Q: Can you comment on the banjo make/model and significance of the banjo that's hanging on the wall inside the shop?

A: [Chasidy]: It was my mother’s, and she and Billy used to strum it, and pick a little… It’s a Fender, newer model but there’s little pieces of our family history throughout the shop that remind us of our roots.

 

Q: Banjo is one of the very few independent coffee shops in Atlanta that's partnered with Café Campesino in Americus, GA. How/when did this partnership begin, and what has it been like through the years? [Per this article, the partnership began in 2015, just want to confirm the details, and if there's anything else you'd like to add]

A: Yes, the partnership started in 2015 when we met Bill Harris at Coffee Fest Atlanta. Ethical sourcing and direct, real relationships to farmers was a key goal of our foundation and working with Café Campesino allows us to be a part of those relationships. They have been authentically and directly working with 10 specific farmer coops throughout the past 20 years. They have become friends with the farmers, watched kids grow up, helped build schools, helped build bridges... more than just purchasing and supplying. Café Campesino was also the first organic, fair trade roaster in Georgia, and they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Billy just got back from visiting our Guatemalan farms with Café Campesino and was able to finally connect us directly, which is going to be an even more vital role in the next several years.

 

Q: What's been your process for developing / featuring some specialty drinks inside the coffee shop? For example, the bourbon vanilla latte, strawberry matchito, tonic youth, etc.?

A: We like to be inspired by the seasons and using other local products. Mocktails are fun to play with, and sometimes it’s just something simple and familiar with a new twist. For instance, muscadines are now in season, and while it’s a process, we love to use those for our Muscadine Soda with ginger and agave, and it tastes like one of the best, non-processed grape sodas. It takes a good bit of time and effort to make, but they’re only in season for a month or so, so we jump on it! For the hibiscus tea, which has become a regular on the menu, we were inspired by taco stands in LA with their super sweet Jamaica drinks. We wanted to make a version of that using local hibiscus and run it on nitro. It’s all a lot of trial and error but it’s one of the more fun and creative outlets of our business. Also, we get bored drinking the same stuff, so experimenting is just part of the DNA of the company.

 

Q: In addition to Café Campesino, you have almost a dozen partnerships with food and drink vendors at the moment (1821 Bitters, Arden's Gardens, Emerald City Bagels, Ratio Bakery, Xocolatl Chocolate, Montane Sparkling Water). Can you pick one or two of these partners and explain how you decided to partner with them?

A: The coffee shop is an extension of our farmers market and local food roots. We work with companies that we have bought from personally, vended next too, and loved over the years. There are so many talented companies/farmers/makers right here in Georgia and we want to showcase them whenever we can! Pine Street was always our go to for local meats… Xocolatl is just the best chocolate producers around, and they source their cacao directly. The hard part is narrowing it down.

 

Q: Banjo Cold Brew recently announced they have launched their nitro cold brew cans into Whole Foods for the entire South region. How important was this initiative for your brand? 

A: This is pretty big for us. Our bottles have been available at the Georgia Whole Foods for a few years, but the change to cans played a key component. Switching allowed us to have a longer shelf life and more approachability, while significantly reducing costs and pricing. Moving to regional was one of our primary goals in the beginning, and now that we are here, we began the journey of maintaining it! We have a lot of supporters, friends and family around the south, so it’s great they don’t have to wait on us to visit before they can get their coffee now.

 

Q: For those people just learning about Banjo Coffee and Banjo Cold Brew, can you provide a brief explainer on how you are differentiating Banjo Coffee Shop and Banjo Cold Brew (the brand)?

A: Banjo Coffee shop is the place you can engage with the company every day of the week in Avondale Estates. We offer a variety of cold brew options on tap, as you could imagine, as well as, hot coffee, espresso drinks, and breakfast/lunch. Banjo Cold Brew is based in our cold brew brewery a couple blocks down from the coffee shop. We serve the rest of the coffee sphere out of there, including: packaged wholesale, farmers markets, events, catering, and local office delivery. 

 

Q: Is the Banjo Cold Brew a much more significant portion of the business now and the coffee shop is sort of secondary for people who are looking for a space to study/read and consume some coffee?

A: Both sides of the company are important to us. One connects us to a local community and one certainly has a broader reach, but really one flows into the other on a daily basis. Right now the cold brew side is more significant primarily because it’s 98º outside, and truth be told, while BCB was our initial approach, at a certain point in the year, when it does get cold and there are no events or markets, and cold brew coffee is the last thing on people’s mind, we have our “winter survival plan” aka the café. While that’s part in jest, it is how we survived the last 2 winters while we were building our brand. As we grow regionally, we now have to figure out ways to support the accounts out of state, so we will see how that develops over the next year(s)—whether through a similar approach, or something local that people can physically touch.

 

Q: Does Banjo Coffee Shop have any recurring events hosted in its location at Avondale Estates? If so, what are they?

A: Not yet, but we will be focusing on events starting this quarter. Follow our Instagram or Facebook to keep in touch.

 

Q: What's been the most interesting and/or exciting part of your journey so far in operating a local coffee shop? 

A: Being part of a community is awesome! The support is unreal, and for the first time, we feel as though we have planted roots both professionally and personally.

 

Q: What are some of the challenges you are currently undergoing with the coffee shop and/or Banjo Cold Brew (the brand)? 

A: Where to start! One of the main challenges is that Billy and I have a lot of ideas that we want to realize, but we run out of time and money too often to do them all. We are growing organically, so that comes with the reality that we just can’t do everything. Plus, we have to value our family time and juggling time, kids, school/activities and home life balance is tough.

 

Q: Is there anything else that hasn't been asked in this Q&A or widely reported in the past about Banjo Coffee that you would like the general public and/or coffee enthusiasts to know? 

A: We just want to say a genuine “thank you” to our loyal fans and to those who support us. We don’t have a big marketing budget, so our growth is largely due to one person telling another person to try it! It has helped tremendously, and Atlanta has proven to be one of the best places for local love.

Decorative plating at Banjo Coffee.

Final Say

Banjo Coffee in Avondale Estates is a cool coffee shop with Southern charm in the Avondale Estates part of Atlanta. The founding couple—Billy and Chasidy Atchison—have done a superior job of cultivating great relationships with local vendors, as well as sourcing sustainable, fair-trade coffee in partnership with Café Campesino. The coffee shop offers a diverse selection of traditional coffee options, and of course, has nitro and cold brew on tap.

The coffee shop’s history is very interesting in its founding—build a brand first, and then use the physical store to bring further awareness to the offerings as well as to engage with the local community. Banjo Coffee is a wonderful testament to the local and independent coffee scene in the Atlanta area. Like the banjo located inside the coffee shop, Banjo Coffee Company is a multi-string operation: nitro and cold brew cans, the coffee shop, mobile carts at events, keg delivery, and more.

Stop by Banjo Coffee at Avondale Estates to try out some of their coffee, cold brew, or any of the seasonal beverages; or, support the company by buying its cold brew products at your local Kroger, Whole Foods, or at select Atlanta farmers markets (Grant Park Farmers Market, Piedmont Park Green Market, and Brookhaven Farmers Market).

Editor’s note: special thanks to Olivia, the barista at Banjo Coffee for coordinating the ACS visit and preparing some of the drinks seen in the photos above. Thank you to Billy and Chasidy for the responses in the Q&A.


Banjo Coffee
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Location:
Avondale Estates ☕ Atlanta ☕ ITP

Address:
38 North Avondale Rd
Avondale Estates, GA 30002
Google Maps link
ph: 404-748-1837

Hodgepodge Coffeehouse Is Now Open in Reynoldstown

Hodgepodge Coffeehouse opened its second location in Reynoldstown in April 2019. Unlike the original location (also on Moreland Avenue) in East Atlanta, the Reynoldstown shop is compact at around 900 square feet. However, the space feels large with tall ceilings and plenty of window light. And in the spirit of the original Hodgepodge location, this Reynoldstown shop currently features local artwork and will expand to feature more local artists and merchandise for purchase in the fall.

The coffee shop is partnered with Batdorf & Bronson for its coffee supply, and there are plenty of coffee and seasonal drinks on the menu. There are also fresh baked options on the menu.

This post is organized into three parts:

  1. Photos of the interior of Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Reynoldtown

  2. The Menu

  3. A brief Q&A with Krystle Rodriguez, owner of Hodgepodge Coffeehouse

Interior Views

Interior view of Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Reynoldstown.

Details inside Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Reynoldstown.

Wide-angle views inside Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Reynoldstown.

Tools of the trade: Nuova Simonelli espresso machine.

Back wall at Hodgepodge Coffeehouse. T-shirts and coffee beans are for sale.

Interior views.

A coffee bar at Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Reynoldstown.

Details inside Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Reynoldstown.

The Menu

The Reynoldstown location of Hodgepodge offers various coffee options. Hodgepodge Coffeehouse is partnered with Batdorf & Bronson (Olympia, WA) for its coffee. On the menu in terms of coffee offerings are:

  • Drip coffee (12oz/16oz/20oz)

  • Cold brew (16oz/20oz)

  • Cafe au lait (12oz/16oz/20oz)

  • Pour over

  • Espresso options (Americano, macchiato, cortado) in an 8oz size and cappuccino/latte in 08z/12oz/16oz/20oz size options

Also on offer are hot drinks including chai latte, hot chocolate, matcha latte, golden latte, and tea. Cold drink options include lemonade, green tea, black tea, Italian soda, Thai tea, and ginger beer.

There also Signature Drinks (prices are $5/$5.50/$6 for 12oz/16oz/20oz sizes, respectively):

  • “Bless Your Heart”—caramel and vanilla latte

  • “Oh Honey”—honey and vanilla latte

  • “Mocha Caliente”—chocolate and cinammon spiced latte

  • “Slap Yo Pappy”—Ghirardelli chocolate and half&half cold brew concentrate (the most caffeinated drink option at Hodgepodge)

In terms of food options, Hodgepodge Coffeehouse offers biscuits, scones, banana bread (without nuts), chocolate chip cookies, paleo brownies, and bagels. The baked goods are prepared at the kitchen in the original Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in East Atlanta and delivered to the Reynoldstown location several times per week. Note for those with allergies: Hodgepodge Coffeehouse does not offer any food products with nuts.

There are also seasonal specials on the menu, as seen below:

The food menu at Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Reynoldstown.

Interior vibes at Hodgepodge Coffeehouse in Reynoldstown.

A Q&A with Krystle Rodriguez, Owner of Hodgepodge Coffeehouse

Following is a brief Q&A conducted by Atlanta Coffee Shops with Krystle Rodriguez, the owner of Hodgepodge Coffeehouse.

Q: How long was the idea to open up the second location of Hodgepodge in the works? Did you have a location in mind immediately or did you scout numerous places before settling on Reynoldstown?

KR: It actually came along pretty quickly. Ren from Batdorf and Bronson, the roaster we serve, reached out to me and let me know about the location. He said they had contacted Batdorf but B&B doesn't like opening up locations near current accounts so they were going to pass. But he really urged me to reach out because he thought it would be a great location to us. So I reached out to Stan, the building owner, saw the space, and realized pretty quickly that it would be a great fit for us.

Q: Are there any similar design elements/characteristics in this second shop compared to the first one?

KR: I think there are definitely some similarities. The space is about a third the size of our original location, but we're located inside of a building that was probably built in the same time period as 720 Moreland. So we have the exposed brick on the walls, concrete floors, and we kept this space bright and white as well. And, of course, we have the same awesome team that people know from our original space.

Q: Are you partnered with Batdorf & Bronson exclusively for coffee, or are there any rotatingcoffee roasters at this location?

KR: We are still partnered with B&B and plan to stay with them until we decide to roast our own coffee, if we ever get to that point.

Q: With respect to the baked goods, are they made in-house or do you have a partnership with a local bakery?

KR: We bake all of our baked goods in-house at 720 Moreland. So we deliver right down the street to our Reynoldstown location multiple times a week.

Q: Are you now, or will you in the future, look for submission from local artists that can exhibit their work inside the coffee shop? This is something Atlanta Coffee Shops is trying to profile in the near future.

KR: We definitely plan on having local merch and art in our Reynoldstown location. I hope to have it all set up at some point this fall.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like the general audience to know about this latest opening of Hodgepodge that hasn't been covered?

KR: We're just really excited to be able to open a new space in Reynoldstown! Everyone has been so welcoming and we hope we can be a part of this community the way we are on the southside of 20!

If you want to learn more about Krystal and the founding of the original Hodgepodge Coffeehouse, I highly recommended reading this interview with Krystal conducted with the Atlanta non-profit, Dream Warriors Foundation.

Final Word

For those of you looking to check out a new coffee shop in the metro Atlanta area (and in the vibrant Reynoldstown community), check out Hodgepodge Coffeehouse at 1 Moreland Avenue SE. Tip: Don’t forget to capture an Instagram-worthy photo in front of this sign.

A third Hodgepodge is slated to open in the Summerhill neighborhood of Atlanta in 2021.


Hodgepodge Coffeehouse (Reynoldstown location)
Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Location:
Reynoldstown ☕Atlanta ☕ ITP

Address:
1 Moreland Avenue SE
Suite C
Atlanta, GA 30316
Google Maps link

Hours of operation:
Monday-Saturday: 7AM to 5PM
Sunday: 8AM to 5PM

Coffee Roaster / Roasting Partner:
Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters (Olympia, WA)

A Treasure in the Edgewood Neighborhood of Atlanta: El Tesoro Taqueria and Coffee

Tucked on the corner of Arkwright Place and Whitefoord Avenues, El Tesoro is a neighborhood restaurant that almost feels out of place—there are no other restaurants in the vicinity in this residential area of the Edgewood neighborhood of Atlanta. As you approach El Tesoro, it may feel like you’ve been transported to a scene from a Western movie.

El Tesoro has become a popular neighborhood joint for a quick bite; the restaurant is partnered with Counter Culture Coffee for its coffee offerings. Because of a great selection of coffee offerings at El Tesoro, you can think of it as both a restaurant and a coffee shop.

Atlanta Coffee Shops recently visited El Tesoro, and the following photos are from that visit.

This post is organized into three parts (click on the parts below to be taken to the respective section)

  1. Photos of the interior and exterior of El Tesoro

  2. Menu and drink options

  3. An interview with the co-owner of El Tesoro

Interior and Exterior Views

The exterior of El Tesoro is vibrant, adorned with various plants outside of the building. The “Taqueria el Tesoro” painted on the front wall (by muralist @chris_makes_art) is beautiful.

Exterior of El Tesoro.

To the left of the building is a nice outdoor seating area.

Another view of El Tesoro.

The interior of El Tesoro features all kinds of items and collectibles (the co-owner of El Tesoro, Alan Raines, enjoys collecting things; you can read the Q&A to get a perspective).

Interior of El Tesoro.

Lunch time crowds begin to arrive.

It was packed inside El Tesoro on this particular weekday around noon. Sitting in the frame seen below are Judah and Nick of @badlaptops_art (website coming soon)—having chatted with these two guys, they recommended the mulitas on the menu. Judah and Nick also mentioned that El Tesoro has become their favorite lunch/coffee spot.

Interior of El Tesoro. Fresh tacos are being served.

Cool decorations on top of the espresso machine at El Tesoro.

Pick-up.

Mexican flag hangs in the back side of El Tesoro.

A vintage cashier’s machine. Rumor has it that this contraption will make it to the bar area of El Tesoro sometime in the future.

On the walls…

The shelves at El Tesoro have a number of photographs of Luchadors (wrestlers who participate in Lucha libre), food, landscapes, and family photos, including one of the landscapers originally from Mexico. 

Detail from items on the shelves at El Tesoro.

The shelves at El Tesoro also have a prominent display of coffee-related items. From a wide variety of familiar brewing methods like the Turkish Ibrik to the Italian Moka to a traditional way of brewing a lot of espresso at once—”the sock”:

“The sock”—a traditional way of doing a pour-over. Read more in the Q&A with the co-owner of El Tesoro.

Looking down: the floor at El Tesoro.

On the shelves of El Tesoro are these Mexican taza de barro mugs, which are made of clay.

The Menu and Coffee Options

The menu at El Tesoro is divided into breakfast and lunch options (dinner is in the works for later this year). Breakfast options include breakfast tacos and burritos, with several filling options (such as the migas: scrambled egg, queso chihuahua, crispy tortilla chips, esquite corn, pico de gallo). Lunch options include tacos, burritos, and the ever-popular mulitas, with various filling options to choose from (including carne del dia, puerco verde, tinga de pollo, chorizo con papas, and frontera).

Coffee Options

El Tesoro is partnered with North Carolina based Counter Culture Coffee for its coffee supply. The restaurant offers traditional coffee options (espresso, cappuccino, latte, etc.), but the three specialties are the horchata iced coffee (especially great in the hot summer months), the café olla (brewed coffee with house-made spices), and the Mexican hot chocolate. Personal recommendation: opt for the horchata iced coffee (the horchata is made in-house and is delicious).

El Tesoro also has chai and tea options on the menu; El Tesoro has recently partnered with Rishi Tea for its tea selection.

The drinks menu at El Tesoro. You can’t go wrong with the horchata iced coffee!

Q&A with Alan Raines, Co-Owner of El Tesoro

To get additional background information about El Tesoro, Atlanta Coffee Shops conducted a Q&A with the co-owner of El Tesoro, Alan Raines. The Q&A is presented below.

Q: What are some of your personal inspirations and/or personal journeys/travels that are evident in the design/layout of El Tesoro?

A: I spent many years traveling to Mexico for work and pleasure. I made it a point to seek out small towns and places to eat. I love eating somewhere that is one step away from basically being someone’s home. We were fortunate to start with an old building with decades of layers of fading paint and irregular surfaces, similar to many places in Mexico that I have visited. Travels between Mexico City, Queretaro, Toluca and many, many small towns has had me dreaming up Tesoro for 20 years. Our building is actually 3 joined together, also lending itself to the evolution of a small place that grows into more space over time.

Q: Can you talk more about some of the items on the shelves inside the restaurant? You mentioned the traditional way of doing a pour-over with the sock that sits on the top shelf, for example. It would be great if you could highlight a couple more items in this way.

A: We include a lot of photographs, relics and other art treasures to reflect an owner’s family, travel or inspirations. In our space we have a lot of coffee inspiration. From a wide variety of familiar brewing methods like the Turkish Ibrik, Italian Moka, to a traditional way of brewing a lot of espresso at once, ’the sock’. This is the original pour-over method I grew up with in my grandmother’s Puerto Rican home. Literally a cotton sock filled with ground coffee and hung in a special rack so you can pour hot water onto the grounds. This was the family brewing style the Jibaritos or “hillbillys” of Puerto Rico and other Latin countries. We also have a lot of photographs of Luchadors, food, landscapes and family photos, including one of Frida Kahlo, signed by her sister.

Q: How did you end up partnering with Counter Culture Coffee? Was that an easy decision to make? What has been your partnership experience like to date?

A: Counter Culture is such a great partner for our coffee program. I actually used to sell them roasted bean packaging back in my sales life. Over the years I witnessed them grow and continue to  dedicate people and resources to delivering the best coffee possible. When we started Tesoro it was a pretty short list of possible suppliers but CC was an easy winner, especially with the Atlanta sales, tech and training programs they offer. It’s pretty seamless now.

Q: In this Eater article, it says that "The front sidewalk will eventually be the connecting point between the Stone Mountain bike path and the Beltline. This connector — the forthcoming Trolly Line Trail extension — should join two disconnected sections of the trail between Woodbine Avenue NE and Woodbine Avenue SE…”

A: Yes, the construction on the trolley line should be getting underway soon and will hopefully get to us by year end. This is a tremendous boost for Edgewood and the restaurant. We are super excited.

Q: What are current expansion plans for El Tesoro? Is the bocce court still in the works? 

A: We are working on plans for our covered patio, bar and eventually a larger kitchen. Our additional side patio space is still in design flux. We have a lot of ideas to bring together. Eventually it is going to be amazing. The evolution is part of our long term plan to make us a tiny Mexican oasis.

Q: What's been the clientele like since you opened? is it mostly locals that live in the Edgewood neighborhood, or have you had a diverse group of people from all parts of town visit?

A: Since we opened we have developed a long list of daily, weekly and regular clients from the Edgewood neighborhood. It’s nice to be a part of people’s routine. We have received a lot of press so we also get people from all over the city now, sometimes from Kennesaw, Milton and other spots pretty far away.

Q: What's been the biggest challenge so far since El Tesoro has opened?

A: Hiring is tough for us right now. We have a great crew but we work them a little too much since we are having a hard time hiring restaurant staff. There are so many places opening we have a lot of competition for quality labor.

Q: Is a dinner option at El Tesoro still in the works? 

A: We will be opening for dinner sometime after we get our liquor license and figure out where to serve the drinks from. It’s a tiny space as you know. We also will need to hire more staff and be open for about 14 hours a day. It’s going to be challenge but a fun one for sure. We look forward to expanding our menu to include many more items and specialities.

Q: What are your personal recommendations from items on the menu?

A: There’s a lot of flavor in our kitchen. For me, I love the Mulita, a runaway success for us. The Pozole soup, tamales and whatever the ladies in the kitchen cook up are next in line. As for coffee, I’m a Cortado man. It delivers a lot of espresso flavor and allows for some pastry dipping. Out Horchata iced latte is a huge hit. Hit it with some Mexican spiced chocolate for an extra kick.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to share with a larger audience who are coffee fans/enthusiasts about El Tesoro?

A: We hope people will have fun with us and enjoy our style of food and service. It’s a bit off center from a typical food environment but that’s part of what makes us a side of the road place that just kind of evolved into a taqueria. The food and coffee that we offer is made with a lot of care and we think it shows.

Final Say

If you enjoy Mexican food and coffee, then be sure to add El Tesoro to your destination in Atlanta. El Tesoro has already cultivated a loyal following among the locals; so if you come during the lunch-time hours, expect a bit of a wait to place your order.

It is really cool to walk inside this small restaurant/coffee shop and marvel at all the decorations and historical artifacts on the shelves—each of them has a story to tell.

Overall, El Tesoro is a really great addition to the Atlanta coffee community with a great selection of coffee options available.


El Tesoro
Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Location:
Edgewood ☕ Atlanta ☕ ITP

Address:
1374 Arkwright Place SE
Atlanta, GA 30317
Google Maps link
ph: 470-440-5502

Hours of operation:
Monday-Sunday: 7AM to 2:30PM

Coffee Roaster / Roasting Partner:
Counter Culture Coffee (Durham, NC)

New Coffee Shop Now Open in Reynoldstown: Dairies Coffeehouse and Cold Brew Bar

A new coffeeshop named Dairies Coffeehouse and Cold Brew Bar opened on Memorial Drive in the Reynoldstown neighborhood of Atlanta in mid-April.

Atlanta Coffee Shops paid a visit to this new spot during the coffee shop’s opening weekend, and below are some photos and first impressions.

The TL;DR version:

  • The coffee shop has an incredible 14-tap cold brew bar (Cold Brew, Nitro Cold Brew, Nitro Latte, Nitro Oat Milk Latte, Nitro Matcha Latte, Sparkling Arnold Palmer, Sparkling Hibiscus Tea, Sparkling Yuzu Green Tea, Nitro Chai Latte, Cascara Cream Soda; and the following seasonal drinks: Sparkling Oolong Tea, Blueberry Hibiscus Soda, Nitro Earl Grey Latte, and the “Captain” on Tap)

  • Strong focus on “clean” and healthy food options (including gluten free and vegan)

  • Emphasis on a long-term, sustainable relationship with the coffee/tea farmers with which the coffee shop partners

  • Beautiful and thoughtful design elements throughout

  • Guilt-free tipping (you can send a tip to Cold Brew Bar via Venmo after your visit, channeling your inner millennial)

  • Amazing wireless chargers built into the tables!

  • Pet-friendly

  • Free parking

Details from this visit are profiled below.

The Space

Dairies Coffeehouse and Cold Brew Bar (with its parent company Thrive Farmers; read below for details) is part of Atlanta Dairies, an urban development project that has been in the works since 2015. Next door to Cold Brew Bar is an apartment complex called Alta Dairies that recently opened. There is a parking garage (free for customers) that is connected to the coffee shop via a catwalk (or you can take an elevator from the parking deck). Three Taverns Brewery is slated to open in the vicinity this summer. You can read more about the Atlanta Dairies development here.

Walking around the area, you get a sense of the massive space (Cold Brew Bar is one of the first retail places to open in the 11-acre complex of Atlanta Dairies).

Exterior view of Dairies Coffeehouse and Cold Brew Bar.

Interior view of Dairies Coffeehouse and Cold Brew Bar. There is plenty of comfortable seating!

Interior view of Dairies Coffeehouse and Cold Brew Bar.

Wide angle view of the interior at Cold Brew Bar.

Another interior view at Cold Brew Bar.

Tea drinkers will appreciate a very strong focus on tea at Cold Brew Bar. Profiled on the @coldbrewbar Instagram here.

The Menu at Cold Brew Bar

The menu at Cold Brew Bar is extensive and is split into “Drinks,” “Breakfast and All Day,” and “After 11AM.”

The Drinks

The drinks at the Cold Brew Bar include the following drinks available on tap (10 out of 14): Cold Brew, Nitro Cold Brew, Nitro Latte, Nitro Oat Milk Latte, Nitro Matcha Latte, Sparkling Arnold Palmer, Sparkling Hibiscus Tea, Sparkling Yuzu Green Tea, Nitro Chai Latte, and Cascara Cream Soda.

From the hot beverages, the menu includes traditional coffee drinks such as americano, macchiato, latte, and cappuccino. There are also frappes (flavors include col brew, sea salt mocha, caramel anise, and vanilla cardamom, and early grey) , milkshakes (early grey, cold brew, or chai; pistachio green tea; and “The Captain”—with housemade cap’n crunch cereal-infused milk), smoothies, and cold-pressed juices.

There are also so-called Functional Beverages on the menu, which include a goldenmilk latte, vanilla rose latte, mushroom chai latte, and keto coffee. For the tea fans, there are no fewer than twelve loose leaf teas on the menu at Cold Brew Bar.

Overall, there are literally 100+ drink choices on the menu at Cold Brew Bar (there are, in addition to the above mentioned options, seasonal offerings on the menu; the current selection of seasonal beverages on tap at Cold Brew Bar includes Sparkling Oolong Tea, Blueberry Hibiscus Soda, Nitro Earl Grey Latte, and the “Captain.”)

Breakfast and All Day Menu Items

The focus at Cold Brew Bar is on healthy options (including gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and vegan options): yogurts, oat+chia puddings, and lifestyle bowls are available all day. Each of these dishes can be supplemented with superfood add-ons such as chia seeds, goji berries, or beet powder.

After 11AM Menu Items

The “After 11AM” options include sandwiches (including Korean pork sliders, veggie flatbread, and French country grilled cheese), toasts (including avocado smash, smoke salmon, and goat cheese), salads (including kale salad, arugula salad, and kale salad), and various bowls (such as the Thai Bowl, Detox Bowl, an the Moroccan Bowl). For the toasts, one has the option to choose a Holeman & Finch sourdough bread.

The menu at Cold Brew Bar is beautifully designed like a magazine.

The nitro oat milk latte at Cold Brew Bar. Delicious!

Espresso pull.

What’s on tap? There are fourteen options at Cold Brew Bar (see above).

Design Elements at Cold Brew Bar

During my conversation with Michael Jones, CEO of Thrive Farmers (the parent company of Cold Brew Bar), he explained how the vision for Cold Brew Bar was almost a decade in the making. The wholesale operation of Thrive Farmers has been very successful, and Michael had a vision to bring a retail location where customers could learn about the farmer-direct revenue sharing model. Thrive Farmers seeks to bring farmers as partners in the operation in order to create a more sustainable income for the farmers and their partners. Inside Cold Brew Bar, there is a board which shows the prices Thrive Farmers pays its farmers per pound of coffee from various regions, compared to “Fair Trade” prices observed in the market.

For those curious about the differences in “Fair Trade” system and what Thrive Farmers has been doing, this New York Times article from 2013 offers an excellent explanation:

Typically, farmers sell their green, or unroasted, beans. At that stage, the beans generally fetch a price based on the commodity market price, which in February averaged $1.53 a pound for Arabica coffee, according to the International Coffee Organization.

The fair trade concept offers an improvement on that model. It will pay the market price for beans, but, importantly, it guarantees a minimum price — now $1.40 for Arabica coffee. In addition, the local co-op that collects and processes the beans keeps a premium, now 20 cents, which is used for social services like scholarships and health care for farmers and their families.

Theoretically, a fair trade farmer never loses, because when the commodity market price is higher than the fair trade price, the farmer receives the market price, and the co-op still receives the premium. But fair trade buyers purchase unroasted beans, and the processes that add to the price and value of the coffee come later.

In the system that Thrive is trying to develop, farmers are paid only after their coffee has been exported, packaged and sold — at a much higher price — to retailers. If coffee is sold for, say, $7.25 a pound, Thrive splits the proceeds 50-50 with the farmers, who end up, in that example, with about $3.60 a pound.

Michael Jones provided additional commentary with respect to the above-cited New York Times piece. Specifically, Thrive Farmers has moved past the initial model that is described in the NYT piece and the company now uses an algorithm that is much more sophisticated and takes into account local economy and cost of living with market prices for specific coffees and qualities, etc., all in relation to the cost of production. Michael further elaborated in an email exchange:

We conservatively estimate that a general cost of production figure that could apply to any farmer in coffee in any region would be $1.50/lb—which in almost all cases would be even higher but we wanted a “bulletproof” number that just couldn’t be challenged by anyone in coffee so that’s what we went with. That is very important context when considering the true value of a fair trade program because that means that a farmer in that system can barely expect to break even…which most people don’t understand. Further, there are other expenses that get taken out of those prices before the farmer actually gets paid. That is why we decided to publish our prices that we pay to the farmer—which are net of all those other expenses (which our industry calls “farm gate” pricing). There really isn’t anyone else in the industry who has a fully integrated supply chain and even has access to pricing all the way to the farmer, much less who is committed to positively impacting the farmers.

This additional feedback is really useful if/when you visit Cold Brew Bar and observe their board for prices of coffees they pay to the farmers vs. “Fair Trade” estimates.

Because Michael and his team had a lot of time to build out the space, virtually nothing has been overlooked. From the beautifully designed menu to the ceramic cups to the furniture to the wireless chargers built into the tables, there is a form and function to the elements at Cold Brew Bar.

A cappuccino at Cold Brew Bar. The ceramic cups at Cold Brew Bar are from ceramic artist named Isabel Glatthorn (Soul Matter Studio).

Beautiful interior decor at Cold Brew Bar. Note that the tiles—with the exception of the white ones—are each unique in shape/color. A diverse selection of plants is also a welcome touch.

A “Grab and go” cooler at Cold Brew Bar.

Interior detail at Cold Brew Bar.

The Manifesto at Thrive Farmers (coffee supplier / parent company of Cold Brew Bar) is seen below.

We are in the business of impact. It is the most important thing we strive to make. From the start of a customer’s morning to the end of a farmer’s day, this is how we are measured.

Our farmers aren’t suppliers—they’re people. And what they cultivate isn’t a commodity—it’s a livelihood. It’s not just a supply chain, it’s a chain of values that guides everything we do. Integrity leads to transparency. Transparency to prosperity. And prosperity to quality. It’s a purposefully crafted product and process where all of us—from farmer to customer—thrive.

The Manifesto at Thrive Farmers. Profiled on the @coldbrewbar Instagram account.

A table setting at Cold Brew Bar.

Interior vibes at Cold Brew Bar.

A centerpiece art installation at Cold Brew Bar.

Something easy to overlook: the circular branding of Cold Brew Bar found on the tables is actually a hidden wireless charger for your phones (if they are capable of such functionality). I had no idea these were wireless chargers until the head of IT operations at Cold Brew Bar pointed out this amazing detail!

Another fantastic consideration by the team at Cold Brew Bar is the concept of “guilt-free tipping”. The idea is that you can tip Cold Brew Bar post your experience there. Bonus points for making it easy via Venmo!

Guilt-free tipping in effect at Cold Brew Bar.

Guilt-free tipping in effect at Cold Brew Bar.

Dairies Coffeehouse and Cold Brew Bar is one of the most pet-friendly spots in Atlanta. There is ample outdoor space (including nearby grassy areas) with plenty of water for your furry friends. See some more doggies that have recently paid a visit to Cold Brew Bar in this Instagram post.

Dairies Coffeehouse and Cold Brew Bar is one of the most pet-friendly spots in Atlanta.

Another very cool element in the design of Cold Brew Bar is the transparency (literally). In the back, you can see a section of the kitchen as well as the canisters for the fourteen taps.

Exterior of Cold Brew Bar with the kitchen and the taps visible.

Feeling at home.

Exterior view of Dairies Coffeehouse and Cold Brew Bar.

Final Say

Dairies Coffeehouse & Cold Brew Bar is a must-visit new destination in Atlanta for coffee, tea, and healthy food options. I’ve learned so much in just one visit and will certainly be back. It’s clear that this coffee shop took serious planning and the execution has been exemplary. Just, overall, spectacularly impressive.

If you haven’t yet checked out this new coffee shop (but it’s so much more), what are your weekend plans?

Editor’s note: there may be a part II of this post with additional details about Dairies Coffeehouse & Cold Brew Bar in the near future.


Dairies Coffeehouse & Cold Brew Bar
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Location:
Reynoldstown ☕Atlanta ☕ITP

Address:
777 Memorial Drive SE
Suite 103A
Atlanta, GA 30316
Google Maps link

Hours of operation:
Monday-Thursday: 6:30AM to 10PM
Friday-Saturday: 6:30AM to 11PM
Sunday: 6:30AM to 10PM

New Coffee Shop Now Open in Inman Park: DeKalb Athletic Club (Gym Clothes Optional)

A cool new coffee shop opened up in late February this year called DeKalb Athletic Club. Upon hearing the name for the first time, you may think it’s some kind of gym—rest assured, however, no membership is required to enjoy this new spot located close to the Beltline.

DeKalb Athletic Club (DAC) is the latest venture from Victory Brands, the team behind the two Atlanta locations of Victory Sandwich Bar (in Inman Park and Decatur), S.O.S Tiki Bar in Decatur, Little Trouble in West Midtown, and more recently, Lloyd’s (which is actually adjacent to DeKalb Athletic Club).

I recently visited and captured some photos of the interior and exterior, as seen below.

First impressions: DeKalb Athletic Club (DAC) has a great coffee roasting partner in Radio Roasters, a nice selection of some specialty drinks like the cubano and the cortadito, and a truly massive interior space. My first thought (which I shared with the barista and manager) was that one could set up some foosball or ping-pong tables inside the space because there is plenty of it. (Perhaps a caffeine-infused tournament in the works sometime in the future?). In all seriousness, DAC could host some really fun events in the future.

DeKalb Athletic Club also has a wonderful and whimsical branding message going, with such slogans as “B for effort,” “If you’re not first, you’re last,” and “Still working on that 2019 Participation award.”

DeKalb Athletic Club, or DAC, is open for business.

The exterior space of DeKalb Athletic Space. The promenade connects with the next-door neighbor Lloyd’s.

The interior of DeKalb Athletic Club. So much space! Also, what do you think warranted the “Unfair Play” award in 2015?

The drink menu is printed on the door.

Another view of the space at DeKalb Athletic Club. What do you call those ladders in the background?

Plenty of comfortable seating in the space.

Track & Field.

The counter at DeKalb Athletic Club.

A cappuccino in the making.

Some of the Radio Roasters coffee bags for sale.

Breathe easy—no athletic prowess is required to enjoy the drinks and food at DeKalb Athletic Club.

How do you keep track of coffee shops opening in Atlanta? Get it, track? You can follow the Atlanta Coffee Shops blog or Instagram account.

I will aim to profile DeKalb Athletic Club in more detail in the future.

Help DeKalb Athletic Club secure that 2019 Participation Award by checking out this new coffee shop on DeKalb Avenue in Inman Park. Arriving in gym clothes, is, of course, optional.

Highly recommended overall.


DeKalb Athletic Club
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Location:
Inman Park ☕Atlanta ☕ ITP

Address:
900 DeKalb Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
Google Maps link
ph: 404-228-7226

Hours of operation:
Monday-Friday: 7AM to 7PM
Saturday-Sunday: 9AM to 5PM

Coffee Roaster / Roasting Partner:
Radio Roasters Coffee (Atlanta, GA)

The Inaugural Sprudge Twenty Class of 2019: Spotlight on Daniel Brown of Gilly Brew Bar

This week, the coffee magazine Sprudge announced the winners of its inaugural “Sprudge Twenty”. (See the Instagram announcement and the winners tagged here). This class of twenty people are changing the coffee scene around the world. In the words of the magazine, the Sprudge Twenty are people:

[W]hose work challenges and excites us, from every step of the coffee value chain. It includes entrepreneurs and coffee producers (they’re often one and the same!), working baristas and cafe owners, career professionals and those whose careers are just starting, competition success stories and folks working quietly behind the scenes, leading by example.

And from the amazing list of nominees, there are two people from the Atlanta coffee scene who made the list: Sara Frinak and Daniel Brown. Sara is well-known as a volunteer and supporter of coffee events, both regionally in the Southeast, and nationally through the Specialty Coffee Association’s (SCA) USA competitions circuit. You can read more about Sara in this Barista Magazine profile and Sara’s involvement with green coffee in this Medium piece from Ally Coffee (where Sara works). (Perhaps a future spotlight about Sara may appear on this blog).

Daniel Brown at Gilly Brew Bar

The other nominee from Atlanta in the Sprudge Twenty inaugural class is Daniel Brown of Gilly Brew Bar.

Here is the blurb that accompanied the Sprudge piece about Daniel:

Daniel Brown is the founder of Gilly Brew Bar, a successful and important new coffee company based in the Stone Mountain suburb of Atlanta. Housed inside a historic 19th century home known as “The Mayor’s House”, purchased in 2015 by Brown and his wife, Shellane Brown, Gilly pushes quality and innovation across an ever-changing range of premium coffee “elixirs” featuring dried herbs, bitters, and aromatics. Brown was nominated by multiple people for The Sprudge Twenty, and in one nomination essay is described as “one of the most innovative, creative, savvy interpreters of the coffee experience I have ever encountered.”

Daniel’s nomination for this award was submitted by Justin Brostek (from Atlanta’s Read Shop) and Juanita Brown. I asked Justin if he wanted to contribute a quote to accompany this post, which he gladly agreed to do. Here is what Justin had to say about Daniel:

Daniel is, by far, one of the most influential voices in the coffee scene today. He’s proud but never egotistical, always insanely approachable and humble. He’s a trendsetter at heart—always looking for the next thing but never letting others tell him what that is—and his shop embodies that. It’s old, but with soul; fresh, but still timeless. Daniel is redefining mastery in the coffee industry—purism is one thing, but instead he chooses to tell the story of how coffee can be the foundation for art. And he’s doing all of this by serving—Daniel’s employees speak of how he’s never above the worst task in the shop. He’s built a family in a way every shop dreams they could build. I don’t think there’s another person in Atlanta who puts more love, acceptance, and creativity into the coffee scene than Daniel does. 

I profiled Gilly Brew Bar last year with respect to their inventive summer elixirs (I visited Gilly Brew Bar approximately two weeks after their grand opening). More recently, I went back to Gilly Brew Bar in March to capture some more scenes from the coffee shop as well as to sample the Winter elixirs that were slowly being unwound from the menu in preparation for the release of the Spring elixirs.

A few of the photos from the visit in March appeared in this Instagram post (with the focus on the drinks). However, this blog post showcases a few more behind-the-scenes photos with Daniel performing his magic behind the bar.

An inspiring print at Gilly Brew Bar. The “Create something” like speaks to what Daniel is doing every day at Gilly Brew Bar.

Daniel Brown behind the bar at Gilly.

Getting ready to make an iced elixir.

The finishing touch! Thank you to Winnie for joining this outing to Gilly Brew Bar and performing the pour so I can capture this photograph.

A matcha elixir.

Nitro shots!

The slow pour.

Almost ready.

Daniel putting on the finishing touches.

Chilled and ready.

Daniel steaming the milk.

An interesting story about the image below. After I captured it, I realized in post-processing that there was a chocolate drop that slowly cruised down onto the wooden ledge. On Instagram DMs, I asked Daniel whether he thought the drop was distracting (I also have a version where I cleaned it up in post), but he agreed that it worked for this particular image. I also liked it. And so this was the version I shared on Instagram. I think the metaphor here is that sometimes progress isn’t perfect but nevertheless beautiful. What do you think?

The drop that sparked a conversation.

Another elixir in the making. There were about a dozen customers this particular afternoon (who found out about Gilly Brew Bar through word-of-mouth or some other channel).

More elixirs at the ready.

A bit of a serious tone here.

Last image in the series, which I think is representative. If you visit Gilly Brew Bar, you’re likely to find Daniel smiling or cracking jokes. He takes the craft of making amazing elixirs seriously while having fun. A vibrant personality such as Daniel’s adds to the experience (in every sense of the word) that you are likely to have when you visit Gilly Brew Bar.

Congratulations Daniel on being nominated to the Sprudge Twenty! So well-deserved!

###

If you haven’t yet checked out Gilly Brew Bar in Stone Mountain and what Daniel and his team are executing there, what have you been waiting for? I hope you make the trek to sample the Spring elixirs that are now on the menu.


Gilly Brew Bar
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Address:
5329 Mimosa Dr.
Stone Mountain, GA 30083
Google Maps link

A Unique Experience of Art, Coffee, and Community at Docent Coffee in Atlanta

One of the most interesting and unique coffee shops in the Atlanta area is Docent Coffee, located in the Old Fourth Ward / Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta. This coffee shop has a unique mission in making coffee and art accessible, without being snobby or pretentious. The coffee shop—which also does an incredible job roasting coffee beans in-house—partners with local artists and puts their artwork on every coffee bag they sell in store and online.

The co-founders of Docent Coffee have a diverse set of experiences in coffee and art, bringing their passions, knowledge, social networks, and synergies into one coherent space, branding, and mission. As they explain:

We think specialty coffee should be more approachable, which is why we have taken it upon ourselves to make great coffee, and the community it has traditionally been associated with fostering, accessible again...to everyone. We at Docent feel that you can roast and serve seriously amazing craft coffee, without taking yourself, and the entire endeavor, too seriously. After all, the hip branding, the carefully curated social media content, and all the other already well-trodden 'coffee cliches' relating to specialty coffee aren't going to make that coffee you're drinking taste any better or worse...so why hang your hat on that stuff? 

So we just try to be ourselves. This simply involves roasting the best coffee we can, forging personal relationships with coffee farmers from around the world, sourcing the best teas available, seeking out/promoting great local art, and doing our part to support the communities we feel passionate about. 

Similar to how a docent at a museum is there to guide you, the team at Docent Coffee aims to do so for both coffee and art—they are there to helpfully navigate you in discovering something new in coffee and in art. It’s an amazing concept that is truly unique not just in the city of Atlanta but in the greater United States.

I visited Docent Coffee in February and had multiple interactions and discussions with the co-founders. As a result, this blog post is the lengthiest I’ve published to date, but it is because there is so much to cover. Those of you who appreciate both the technical and the artistic/creative will enjoy how the co-founders’ vision meshes together at Docent Coffee.

For your convenience, this blog post is organized into the following sections (hitting the links below will navigate you directly to the corresponding section in this blog post):

Please enjoy!

The Space

Docent Coffee is located in the Old Fourth Ward / Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta at 381 Edgewood Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312. The space was previously occupied by Cafe Velo. The coffee shop features ample seating inside, and there is a wonderful patio/courtyard adjacent to the shop that offers plenty of seating as well and is pet-friendly. There is also a covered patio on the second floor, accessible via back stairs.

The front of Docent Coffee on Edgewood Avenue. Photo courtesy of Docent Coffee and used with permission.

Interior at Docent Coffee looking toward the Edgewood Avenue front entrance.

Interior of Docent Coffee. The view through the window is toward the outdoor courtyard (patio) of Docent Coffee.

Interior of Docent Coffee.

A view of the courtyard at Docent Coffee. There is plenty of outdoor seating and the space is pet-friendly! Note the stairs on the left leading to the second-floor patio with a covered roof.

The patio at Docent Coffee captured during summer. Photo courtesy of Docent Coffee and used with permission.

The covered patio on the second floor at Docent Coffee.

The interior of Docent Coffee. There is a full espresso bar. Docent Coffee also offers various sandwiches which are all named for famous artists.

Interior design of Docent Coffee. The coffees seen on the two shelves are profiled in this section.

Interior of Docent Coffee. That is Andy Warhol drinking a cup of coffee seen on the back wall.

Interior coffee vibes at Docent Coffee.

Another view of the interior of Docent Coffee.

Wide-angle view of the interior of Docent Coffee. The coffees on the two rows are profiled in this section.

The blue accents work well inside Docent Coffee.

The Menu

The menu at Docent Coffee features pour-over coffee, drip coffee, cold brew, and the classic espresso drinks like a cappuccino or a cortado (see the full list of coffees in this section). There are also loose leaf teas (from Rishi Tea) on the menu. Light snacks/meals include bowls, toasts, and various pastries (such as croissants, cookies, and muffins that are baked fresh daily).

The menu at Docent Coffee.

Most interestingly, Docent Coffee also has sandwiches on the menu which are all named after famous artists: Warhol, O’Keefe, Banksy, Twombly, Kahlo, de Kooning, and Rothko are currently on the menu. A selection of rotating/season specials (such as the lavender latte and the tomato soup) rounds out the menu (PDF).

The Coffees

The following are the coffees that are currently available at Docent Coffee. Because Docent Coffee is both a coffee shop and a roaster, each of the coffees profiled below is roasted in-house (Docent Coffee is closed on Mondays for roasting).

Click through the links to go to the individual pages on the Docent Coffee website for additional details.

  • Jaguar is a Costa Rican single origin, honey-processed coffee with notes of pomegranate, roasted almond, and cane sugar; it is a light to medium roast. I have personally tried the Jaguar in my espresso machine at home and highly recommend it. The artist featured for this coffee is Kelly McBride (Etsy | Instagram).

  • Conceit is an Ethiopian single origin, naturally processed coffee with notes of honey, concord grape, blueberry, and pineapple; it is a light roast. The artist featured for this coffee is John Tindel (Web | Instagram).

  • Miscreant is a Zambian single origin, wash-processed coffee with notes of watermelon, apricot, and lime; it is a light roast. This coffee would be excellent for a pour-over. The artist featured for this coffee is Sarah Emerson (Web | Instagram).

  • Cloud Walker is a Papua New Guinean single origin, peaberry-wash processed coffee with notes of chocolate, honey, and fig; it is a light roast. The artist featured for this coffee is Craig Dongoski (Web | Instagram).

  • It’s Classified is a Kenyan single origin, wash-processed coffee with notes of mango, red berry, burnt sugar, and meyer lemon; it is a light to medium roast. This coffee is also excellent for a pour-over. The artist featured for this coffee is Craig Dongoski (Web | Instagram).

  • Snarf Snarf is an Ugandan single origin, wash-processed coffee with notes of red apple, black tea, caramel, and fig; it is a medium roast. The artist featured for this coffee is Amelia Carley (Web | Instagram).

  • Ayahuasca is a Peruvian single origin, wash-processed coffee with notes of chocolate, walnut, and apple; it is a medium roast. The artist featured for this coffee is Kyle Brooks, aka BlackCatTips (Web | Instagram).

  • Cream + Sugar is a Brazilian and Guatemalan blend coffee (natural and wash-processed, respectively) with notes of cocoa, burnt sugar, strawberry, and rose; it is a medium to dark roast. The artist featured for this coffee is Trendz (no link to social media presence as he is private/anonymous).

  • Meander is a triple blend coffee from Tanzania, Peru, and Indonesia (wash-processed from all three origins) with notes of berries, chocolate, and raisin; this coffee blend is a dark roast. This blend is great for both espresso and drip coffee. The artist featured for this coffee is Jeff Demetriou (Web).

  • Inconceivable is an Ugandan and Colombian blend coffee (wash-processed for both origins) with notes of brown sugar, caramel, and dried cherry; this blend is medium to dark roast. (Editor’s note: pay attention to the Inconceivable link; I hope the reference makes sense). The artist featured for this coffee is R. Land (Web | Instagram).

  • Counterfeit is a Colombian single origin decaf coffee with notes of cherry, citrus, and cane sugar; it is a medium roast. The artist featured for this coffee is Miya Outlaw (Web | Instagram).

  • Epiphany is a Colombian single origin wash-processed coffee with notes of chocolate, cherry jam, and plum; it is a medium roast. The artist featured for this coffee is Angie Jerez (Web | Instagram).

  • Abstract is a Guatemalan single origin wash-processed coffee with notes of strawberry, honey, and cream; it is a light to medium roast. (The artist featured for this coffee has chosen to remain anonymous)

A selection of coffees at Docent Coffee. From left to right: Cloud Walker, It’s Classified, Miscreant, Abstract, and Snarf Snarf.

The coffee bags available for purchase at Docent Coffee. In focus at the far left: Epiphany.

A selection of coffees at Docent Coffee. From left to right: Counterfeit, Cream+Sugar, Meander, and Inconceivable.

The Espresso at Docent

The espresso at Docent Coffee is the Meander: a triple blend of coffee beans from Tanzania, Peru, and Indonesia (in a 40/30/30 ratio by weight). Hailing from the Kilimanjaro, Amazonas, and Sumatra regions, respectively, this dark roast blend allows for an incredible tasting cappuccino, cortado, or other espresso-based drinks that Docent Coffee offers. I had the chance to try the cappuccino, and I was blown away by the quality and taste. For more about why Docent uses a triple blend of beans for its espresso (rather than a single origin coffee), read the Q&A with Nolan below.

A video of the cappuccino being prepared by Nolan from Docent Coffee is below, followed by a few photos.

The cappuccino from Docent Coffee.

The cappuccino from Docent Coffee.

The cappuccino from Docent Coffee, next to the Meander triple blend (Tanzania, Peru, Indonesia) coffee bag.

Another view of the cappuccino next to the Meander.

Events and Partnerships at Docent Coffee

Docent Coffee is currently partnered with the Museum of Design Atlanta which has an ongoing exhibition called Passione Italiana, chronicling the evolution of the espresso machine. This exhibition, which opened on February 24, runs through June 9, 2019.

Passione  Italiana  chronicles the  evolution of the espresso machine and documents technological and industrial design developments.  The  exhibit   showcases  espresso  makers  used  in  Italy  during  the  mid-twentieth century—alongside inventive coffee sets and unique crockery—and traverses through  the  decades,  highlighting  the  influence  designers  such  as  Aldo  Rossi,  Toyo  Ito,  Richard Sapper and Massimiliano Fuksas have had on classic and contemporary models.

Appealing to both design lovers and coffee enthusiasts alike, the exhibition surveys the social and historical impact coffee and coffeehouses have had around the world,  including  the  role  of  cafés  as incubators in social justice  movements and how they  have helped fuel everything from literary and musical achievements to political revolutions.

There are some incredible items on display at this exhibit at MODA, including an espresso machine made of concrete!

Docent Coffee will work with MODA to bring coffee cupping/tasting events both at MODA and at their coffee shop throughout the months of March and April; check the MODA calendar for details. The joint event with MODA and Docent Coffee that was held on March 9 was at full capacity.

Finally, Docent Coffee will soon unveil monthly cuppings and brew classes (tentatively scheduled to begin in April 2019). As spring brings warmer temperatures, there will also be pop-ups and other events hosted on the patio of Docent Coffee. Best way to keep track is to follow the Docent Coffee Instagram account or check the Atlanta Coffee Shops events page.

Coffee Roasting at Docent

Docent Coffee is closed on Mondays as this is the day of the week when they roast the coffee. I had a chance to visit Docent Coffee on one of their roast days and spoke with Nolan, the master roaster at Docent Coffee, about the roasting operation. At the heart of the roasting operation at Docent Coffee is a Diedrich Roaster; Nolan has complemented the hardware (the roaster) with an open-source software to precisely monitor the temperature profile of the beans as they are roasted. For those curious, there are a few open-source roasting applications available on GitHub.

During my visit, I saw the Cream + Sugar (Brazil and Guatemala) blend and Miscreant (Zambia) being roasted. For the coffee blends, Nolan uses a simple 50/50 split by weight to combine the beans after roasting.

During my extensive conversation with Nolan, I was really impressed with Nolan’s technical background (he has a mechanical degree from Georgia Tech) and his passion for roasting coffee. On the (very?) nerdy side, as we discussed the technical details of coffee roasting (the science aspect of roasting compared to the art aspect of roasting), topics such as concavity and differential equations came up in our conversation. I was thrilled to have this conversation because, as someone with a technical background as well, I could relate to what Nolan was discussing. As you read through the Q&A with Nolan about his experience, you’ll learn how Nolan built his own coffee roaster during his time at Georgia Tech and how his experience has ultimately shaped him to become the master roaster at Docent Coffee.

A few photos from the coffee roasting day at Docent Coffee are below.

Nolan getting ready to put some coffee beans sourced from Brazil into the hopper for roasting.

First batch of coffee beans is roasted!

Nolan getting ready to start roasting the Guatemalan coffee beans.

Nolan getting ready to start roasting the Guatemalan coffee beans.

Freshly roasted! The coffee roasting software is seen running on the laptop in the background.

Freshly roasted! Look at that smoke!

Macro detail of the freshly roasted beans.

Detail from the beans getting cooled.

Final step before mixing the beans and packaging—collecting the cooled beans.

Q&A with the Docent Coffee Co-Founders

Following is a Q&A with Docent Coffee co-founders: Mr. Docent and Nolan Hall. The first set of questions is for both Mr. Docent and Nolan, the second set of questions is with Mr. Docent (aka, artist-in-residence), and the final set of questions is with Nolan. [Editor’s note: I made some minor spelling/grammatical changes during the transcription of this Q&A]

Q: Can you tell me more about how Docent Coffee came to be founded and how you two met each other? Did you have any connections to the owners/team at Cafe Velo as you transitioned into their space?

Docent Coffee: We met each other through a mutual friend (who was also in coffee) after we both expressed an interest into putting together a different kind of coffee roasting business and shop. We each brought different things to the table, and those different things happen to mesh very nicely to form a very cohesive and solid brand/concept. Nolan’s focus would be all things coffee, while mine was more in the branding, creative, and outreach departments. We often use the Apple analogy of Nolan being the Steve Wozniak component of Docent and myself being the Steve Jobs component.

Aside from providing Cafe + Velo with their coffee the last several months they were open, we did not have a connection with them.

Q: In my conversation with Nolan, one highlight was that the staff that used to work at Cafe Velo is still employed at Docent Coffee. Can you comment more on this detail?

Docent Coffee: Yes. Initially the most of the original staff came onboard with us; however, a couple of our employees moved out of state a couple of months after we opened, so now we have one remaining Velo employee.



Q: What are your favorite coffee drinks? 

Docent Coffee: Black coffee is our number 1 of course, but I think it’s safe to assume cortados and cappuccinos would be our 'espresso-based drink’ favorites.

Q: Can you talk more about your membership plan for coffee? It sounds like a really great deal. What was the impetus for this decision and was this something you've wanted to do from the start?

Docent Coffee: It is a really great deal if you’re even an average coffee drinker. We just figured it would be a better way to get more people engaged with better coffee at a fraction of the price they would pay elsewhere piece-meal.

Q: Do you have any events that you are hosting on a regular or semi-regular basis? If so, what are they? If not, do you have any plans?

Docent Coffee: We plan on offering monthly cuppings and home brew classes very soon. Probably starting in April. March—April we will be doing this type of programming with MODA and their current Passione Italiane espresso design show (both at MODA and at Docent).

Lots of pop-ups on the patio are in the pipeline as well.


Q: What have been some of your biggest challenges in running Docent since opening up your coffee shop?

Docent Coffee: Probably the biggest is just getting out there enough so that people know you exist, and where you are. After that hurdle is overcome, you’ve got to get them to taste the coffee. When you have a coffee scene so dominated by convenience and style, it can be difficult for carefully crafted premium coffees like our own to get the recognition and reception we feel they deserve.

Q&A with Mr. Docent

Q: Can you briefly talk about your experience with art and how you envisioned incorporating coffee and art into a coffee shop? Who are your favorite artists/inspirations? Do you follow any art blogs?

Mr. Docent: I’ve been a career artist for over 20 years, and I noticed very similar parallels with regard to how both art and specialty coffee are perceived, presented, and approached by the general public. In my opinion, they both suffer from the same 'perception problem’ and/or cliches often associated with the two that prevent a large majority of the population from even considering in learning more and/or having deeper experiences of the two. Quite simply, the pretense, and the air of exclusivity surrounding both, creates an unnecessary ‘barrier-to-entry’ for a lot of people; something that an analogous industry like, say, craft beer doesn’t have. We are both very passionate about coffee and art, so I thought Docent would be the perfect vehicle to utilize in bringing what we felt are enjoyable and expansive experiences to more people in more places…without the pretense.



Q: Do you have a strategy for finding local artists whose work goes on the coffee bags? Is it personal connections you've made over the years, strolling through Instagram looking for inspiration, or something else?


Mr. Docent: I have a strong network of local artists I know to whom I initially reached out to be involved, but we also receive submissions as well. It’s combination of our own discoveries, submissions, and suggestions that all get filtered through a curatorial process.


Q: Is it correct that the only non-local (Atlanta-based) artist featured on your coffee bags is a South-Carolina based artist Kelly McBride with the Jaguar design?

Mr. Docent: Yes. Given that we felt the subject matter for that coffee/bag needed to be more literal, we sought out artists we felt would work well for the label.

Q: Who are your favorite artists?

Mr. Docent: My favorite artists are Cy Twombly, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, and Janet Echelman.

Q: Is there anything else that you'd like to share about the art + coffee theme that others reading this Q&A would appreciate?

Mr. Docent: We encourage people to check out more different kinds of art and our more different kinds of coffee. Getting more engaged in either community is very rewarding and eye-opening. You don’t need to ‘know anything about art (or coffee)’ to appreciate or like it. Picasso once remarked that he didn’t need to understand a sunrise for it to move him. In my opinion, this view captures the essence of appreciation for really anything. At its core, it’s the visceral experience of person that’s the most pure, powerful, and honest one. It’s when you start passing it through the filter of your mind and unrelated qualifications that you can convince yourself its something entirely different.

Q&A with Nolan

Q: We spoke about your coffee experience during your days at Georgia Tech, how you came up with your own coffee roaster, which led to some seed money to begin TopTime Coffee. Did you foresee yourself going in the direction where you currently are (co-owner / head roaster) compared to the degree you received? Was there a moment where you knew for certain that one day you'd open up a coffee shop of your own?

Nolan: I definitely didn't see myself roasting coffee when I started school. Like many of my friends at Tech, I thought I would end up with an engineering job at a lab somewhere. As I got further into my education, I realized my love of building machines. During my second year, I received some grant money to invent a product that would solve a problem, so I 'solved' the problem of home coffee roasting by building a prototype roaster. I turned this project into a year of research about the coffee roasting process to improve my designs. This project sparked a fascination with the coffee industry, building roasters, and eventually led me to start Docent with Mr. Docent.


Q: TopTime Coffee, your coffee start-up/cart at Georgia Tech, is going to open a second location soon. How passionate is the coffee community at Georgia Tech? Do you foresee expanding to other parts of Georgia Tech or perhaps to other universities?

Nolan: From four years of personal experience and now running two shops on campus, I can say with certainty that those students live on coffee. The coffee community at Tech is fairly large and well-versed, so I've always been surprised at the lack of good, accessible coffee to students/faculty. One of my goals when I graduated was to open a shop on campus so I could solve that problem, and we are now opening our second one a year after the first. 

Editor’s note: TopTime Coffee launched its second location in the Van Leer Electrical & Computer Engineering Building on March 4, 2019.


Q: I think we are in agreement that the coffee roasting process can be both an art and a science. Can you comment on how your engineering degree has informed your views on the technical/science part of it?

Nolan: Absolutely—and for me more of a science than an art (but don't tell Mr. Docent!!). Studying heat transfer and thermodynamics in school really helped open my eyes about potential problems with roasters on the market and how changing your roasting parameters can alter the chemistry inside the beans dramatically. I think that with any craft such as this, the person in control should fundamentally understand every process which takes place and why it occurs. Of course there is also an art in creating a beautiful temperature curve and cupping a delicious end result—I'm just better at speaking nerd language.


Q: For the coffee aficionados of the world, you mentioned that coffee beans used in espresso should not be single origin but a blend. Can you elaborate more on your stance?

Nolan: Some roasters will hate me for this, but I believe that espresso should always be a blend. In my experience with single origin espresso, I find that the flavor profile tends to be too one-dimensional. If a coffee has a bright, fruity profile, I don't want that to be the only thing I can taste. To me, espresso should tell a story. I blend three different coffees in our espresso that offer a wide variety of flavors. When dialed in correctly, the shot should come in three phases: floral, chocolate, and berry. I am the type of person that can't appreciate a good steak without a side of potatoes and green beans. I don't think espresso should be treated any differently.


Q: Is there anything else that you'd like to share with a wider audience about coffee, favorite coffee shops, your interests, etc.?

Nolan: I think naturally processed coffees are underrated and deserve a chance. I love coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Guatemala (Ethiopians and Kenyans are great too but those already get too much love). My favorite coffee shops are ones that I make friends at. My girlfriend and I foster pit bulls from Fulton County Animal Shelter. We have adopted two of them so far. 

Conclusion

Docent Coffee has an amazing concept and vision. The coffee is some of the best I’ve tasted in Atlanta. The partnerships that Docent Coffee has forged with artists are wonderful; Docent Coffee embodies how a local business can and does support other locals in creative fields.

If you haven’t already, put Docent Coffee on your must-visit itinerary for a one-of-a-kind experience. If you like what you see (and taste), you can become a patron of Docent Coffee for $50/month for unlimited espresso coffee drinks and teas (there is also a yearly patron option if you’re seriously committed). In my opinion, Docent Coffee in Atlanta is a coffee shop that deserves much more awareness and recognition than it has garnered so far—I hope you visit, taste the coffee (and view or talk about art), and hopefully agree with this assessment.

Docent Coffee: helping you discover something new about coffee and art, without pretense. In the wise words of Steve Jobs: that’s who they are—that’s what they are about.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds in store for Docent Coffee, and I hope you do too.


Docent Coffee
Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Location:
Sweet Auburn/Old Fourth Ward ☕ Atlanta ☕ ITP

Address:
381 Edgewood Ave SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
Google Maps link
ph: 404-254-3267

Hours of operation:
Monday: closed (roasting day)
Tuesday-Friday: 8AM to 3PM
Saturday-Sunday: 9AM to 3PM

Coffee Roaster / Roasting Partner:
Docent Coffee (themselves)

Books, Music, and Coffee Off-the-Beaten Path: Cafe Rothem in Duluth, GA

What coffee shop(s) come to mind when you hear the words books and coffee? There are a few in Atlanta, perhaps the most well-known is Read Shop in Vinings (previously profiled here). Today’s post aims to spotlight another coffee shop in the metro Atlanta area known as Cafe Rothem.

This coffee shop is not known widely known and, in fact, may be considered well off-the-beaten path. When I first entered the coffee shop, I was taken aback by the large bookshelves here and the abundant space inside this coffee shop. After I placed my order, I spoke with the owner, James, about this coffee shop and what makes it special. You can browse the books during your visit, of course, but Cafe Rothem also has a yearly membership plan (it’s called Book Club) similar to a local library for those that want to borrow a book for an extended period of time (up to a year, apparently).

During my visit, James escorted me around the space and showed me some highlights: for instance, there is a large conference room at Cafe Rothem that can be rented daily or by the hour for business meetings. Cafe Rothem is also known as a place for music and Open Mic night—it’s held every first Monday of the month (the next one is happening on Monday, March 4!). Note the grand piano inside Cafe Rothem as you scroll through the photos below.

The tagline of Cafe Rothem is apropos of the space: Books. Music. Coffee.

What’s in a Name?

The first question people ask: what is Cafe Rothem named after? Helpfully, there’s a page on Cafe Rothem’s site with an explanation:

Our name comes from the Rothem tree, the Hebrew name for the juniper tree, which makes many appearances in the Bible. (--although it's technically the white broom tree.)

 The rothem tree is common in the deserts of the Middle East, from Jordan down to Egypt.  Although its leaves are very small and sparse, simple, and linear, it nevertheless forms a very agreeable shade in desert regions. In some parts of the desert, it is often the only bush that affords any shade…

I think you'll get what we're all about from our favorite story of the Rothem tree:

In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah was fleeing for his life from Jezebel and King Ahab, who were furious at him. Exhausted and weary in the desert, he rested under the shade of a rothem tree, praying for death. There, he was visited by an angel, who gave him the courage to go on.

So Cafe Rothem’s intention is to be your rothem tree to get some rest in your busy life.

The Space

Cafe Rothem features high ceilings, plenty of seating, and a large selection of books on the shelves. The place is like a scavenger hunt—as you approach various shelves, you’ll never know what you’ll discover! Pro tip: if you have children, Cafe Rothem would be a great place to bring them for some exploration.

Cafe Rothem features high ceilings, plenty of seating, and a large selection of books.

Books and more books. The books are in both English and Korean.

Detail from a bookshelf at Cafe Rothem.

There are cute little spots throughout Cafe Rothem. The next two photos show my favorite little nooks inside the coffee shop:

Cute decorations at Cafe Rothem. I like that book-end holder.

A beautiful, cozy corner at Cafe Rothem. This photo was featured on the Atlanta Coffee Shops Instagram page.

Does anyone remember Encyclopedia Britannica?

Some vintages atlases for your viewing or reading pleasure.

Another view of the interior of Cafe Rothem.

Hello, gramophone.

There are vinyl records in the coffee shop as well. This is where the music part of the coffee shop shines. There’s also light ambient music playing in the background.

The Menu

Cafe Rothem features a selection of food and drink options. On the food menu, there are waffles, pastries, sandwiches, rice bowls, and bingsu (Korean shaved ice dessert). On the drinks menu, there are traditional coffee drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes, as well as a nitro cold brew. Cafe Rothem is partnered with the local coffee roaster Phoenix Roasters. You’ll also find tea options and a great selection of smoothies (which I can personally recommend).

Nitro Cold Brew!

The menu(s) at Cafe Rothem. Coffee drinks, teas, smoothies, waffles, and even ice cream are available.

Detail of the menus at Cafe Rothem.

Exit, stage left. (There is a conference room that can be rented out in the back which I didn’t photograph for this series).

Final Word

If you find yourself in Gwinnett County and want to explore a coffee shop off-the-beaten-path, I highly recommend a visit to Cafe Rothem in Duluth, GA. The owner, James, is attentive and very friendly. And if you spend a little time exploring the various bookshelves, you’ll certainly discover something new or interesting along the way.

And for the book lovers of this world: if you are seeking a place filled with books where you can get away from the hustle-and-bustle of the city for a few hours and enjoy some peace with coffee (or whatever your beverage of choice), Cafe Rothem certainly delivers. What a cute and cozy coffee shop destination in the suburbs of Atlanta!


Cafe Rothem
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Address:
3585 Peachtree Industrial Blvd, Suite #128
Duluth, GA 30096
Google Maps link
ph: 678-878-3780

Hours of operation:
Monday-Saturday: 10AM to 10PM
Sunday: closed

Coffee with a Higher Mission at Independent Grounds Cafe in Kennesaw, GA

On a chilly winter afternoon, I drove to Independent Grounds Cafe in Kennesaw, GA. This was a different kind of coffee excursion where I wasn’t interested in tasting great coffee but rather learn more about the coffee shop and its wonderful story. I spent about three hours at Independent Grounds Cafe and spoke with Lorna Heid, as well as four baristas/employees at the shop: Ben, Emma, Alexis, and Kathryn.

The mission of the shop is to empower adults with disabilities by giving them a chance to work at the coffee shop, to interact with the local community, and to inspire the customers who come in through the door to think differently (in a positive light) about adults with special needs.

Coffee with Heart

The mission of Independent Grounds Cafe is to serve great coffee while hiring adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). Lorna Heid, the owner of the shop, sought to fulfill this mission because her own daughter, Emma, suffered a traumatic brain injury at birth. Emma is now one of the baristas employed at Independent Grounds Cafe.

In a report issued in June of 2018, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics cited that in 2017, only about 19% of persons with a disability were employed. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65.7 percent. In my conversation with Lorna (the owner of Independent Grounds), she mentioned how people with disabilities want to work and take on responsibility. Independent Grounds fulfills its mission by hiring about a dozen staff with special needs. As Lorna Heid explains:

Our goal is to put a smile on your face and give you an amazing cup of coffee. We want you to feel at home here, to get to know our team and maybe inspire you to think differently about the world of special needs.

Photos from the space are below, but I want to emphasize that my visit was more about getting the message about what Lorna and Independent Grounds Cafe is doing. Of course, it helps that Independent Grounds has such a beautiful space and serves Rev Coffee!

The Space

Independent Grounds Cafe is fully contained inside a building which used to be either a dentist’s office or some other local business. The space is massive, complete with a large outdoor deck and, in addition to the main space, there are three separate rooms which are more like “quiet rooms” if you want to get some work done in peace (scroll down for those photos).

The exterior of Independent Grounds Cafe.

Another entrance to Independent Grounds Cafe.

The front patio at Independent Grounds Cafe.

The main dining space at Independent Grounds Cafe. So much natural light!

Continuation of the main dining space at Independent Grounds Cafe. The front counter where you can order coffee is at center left.

View toward the other side at Independent Grounds Cafe. Plenty of space to relax.

Beautiful tabletop decorations at Independent Grounds Cafe.

The Menu

The drink menu at Independent Grounds Cafe consists of hot and cold coffee beverages (the cafe is partnered with Smyrna-based coffee roaster Rev Coffee for their beans), frappes, tea, and smoothies. The cafe offers light snacks and desserts; Independent Grounds Cafe is partnered with Remedy Bake Shop to offer gluten free cookies. Finally, Independent Grounds Cafe has a partnership with King of Pops ice cream.

The menu at Independent Grounds Cafe. Independent Grounds Cafe is partnered with Smyrna-based coffee roaster Rev Coffee for their beans.

Muffins and other desserts on sale. The cafe is partnered with Remedy Bake Shop to offer gluten free cookies.

You can sign a guest book at Independent Grounds Cafe. I shuffled to a blank page to take this photograph.

Ben, one of the baristas working at Independent Grounds Cafe, prepares a strawberry smoothie.

Ben warming up the milk for a coffee drink. All smiles here!

Muffins at Independent Grounds Cafe.

Another highlight: there is a pop-up box with King of Pops ice cream! So many great partnerships at Independent Grounds Cafe.

One of the rooms inside the cafe where you can retreat to study or read quietly.

Another room inside the cafe where you can retreat to study or read quietly.

And yet another room inside the cafe where you can retreat to study or read quietly. So much space!

Merchandise for sale.

Friends Gather Here — a great message at Independent Grounds Cafe.

Interior decor at Independent Grounds Cafe.

An Inspiration to Others

In my conversation with Lorna, she mentioned how her coffee shop has become a destination for parents with disabled children/young adults all over the Southeast. Here, the parents come with their children and the parents can proudly show to their children that their disability shouldn’t be an excuse to slow down; in fact, places like Independent Grounds Cafe show that it’s possible to have a disability but feel empowered and provide a benefit to society.

A Message to Readers

This blog post is certainly not the first to shed light on Independent Grounds Cafe. Previously, Barista Magazine did a feature on Independent Grounds Cafe. Beth McKibben, writing for Eater Atlanta, spotlighted Independent Grounds Cafe at the top of her article, “Atlanta’s Essential Coffee Shops.”

Nevertheless, I feel like these spotlights have been few and far between, and the purpose of this blog post is to shed some additional light on what Lorna, her staff, and Independent Grounds Cafe stand for and do on a daily basis.

During my conversation with Lorna, she lamented that the hardest thing for her business is still getting foot traffic through the door. Too many people still find it inconvenient to get out of their cars and therefore they choose to stay in their vehicles and go through the local Starbucks drive-thru. The mission of this website and blog is to profile independent coffee shops that deserve your business, and I hope I am able to convey this message about Independent Grounds Cafe. As I recently observed on Instagram, coffee is one of those elements that provides us with an opportunity to slow down. I only wish people would take this message to heart and divert even a few minutes out of their day to stop at Independent Grounds Cafe, enjoy the coffee, interact with the wonderful employees there, and perhaps learn something new or even gain a new perspective about employees with disabilities.

If you found this message inspiring, the best thing you can do is drive up to Kennesaw and spend your hard-earned money by purchasing drinks and other treats at Independent Grounds Cafe. If you live in the surrounding area, then I hope you make an effort to get to Independent Grounds and support this local business. My general rule-of-thumb is that select coffee shops are deserving of the extra drive no matter where you live in the Atlanta area, and Independent Grounds Cafe certainly belongs on this special list.

Of course, the other thing you can do is to share this blog post with your friends and family via email, text, or on social media, letting the awareness grow about Independent Grounds Cafe and its honorable mission. After all, Independent Grounds Cafe is a coffee shop with ❤️.

The logo. Independent Grounds Cafe: a coffee shop with heart.


A special thanks to Ben, Emma, Alexis, and Kathryn for keeping me company during my visit and chatting about all things coffee; and a heartfelt thank you to Lorna for taking the time to speak with me, but more importantly, for executing her mission with Independent Grounds Cafe.


Independent Grounds Cafe
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Address:
3900 Legacy Park Boulevard, Suite #A100
Kennesaw, GA 30144
Google Maps link
ph: 678-695-7132

Hours of operation:
Monday-Saturday: 8AM to 5PM
Sunday: closed

Coffee Roaster / Roasting Partner:
Rev Coffee Roasters (Smyrna, GA)

Closer to Home: East Pole Coffee Company in Atlanta

East Pole Coffee Company, located in lower Buckhead (at the cross-section of Armour, Brookwood Hills, and Piedmont Height neighborhoods), is becoming one of the favorite coffee spots in the Atlanta area. And for a good reason.

East Pole has many elements that make it one of the top coffee destinations in the greater Atlanta area: an incredibly bright and spacious interior, floor-to-ceiling bleachers in the lobby of the building, a cohesive and beautiful theme (read more about it under “The Nautical Theme” heading in this blog post), very friendly and knowledgeable staff, and of course, incredible coffee. (Seriously, it’s some of the best coffee I’ve had in Atlanta). The coffee is roasted in-house at East Pole, so the coffee shop is also a coffee roaster.

I’ve visited East Pole several times in order to write this more comprehensive post. This post is organized into three parts:

  1. Photos of the East Pole exterior and interior, including some details from inside the shop.

  2. Photos from a cupping event I attended in February.

  3. Interview with Jared Karr, one of the co-owners of East Pole Coffee Company, about the shop’s history, design, coffee partnerships, and more.

Please enjoy!

The Space

Located at 255 Ottley Dr NE, Suite #105, East Pole Coffee Company is located inside a retail/coworking space (the Coyote sign up front is just as prominent as the COFFEE sign in front of the space). Readers familiar with the Atlanta beer scene will be happy to learn that East Pole is located several hundred feet away from Sweetwater Brewing Company. There is plenty of free street parking across from East Pole or in a dedicated retail lot adjacent to the building.

Exterior of East Pole Coffee Company located on Ottley Drive.

In a testament to great and unpretentious design, COFFEE is the dominant sign up front, rather than the name East Pole.

Interior of East Pole Coffee Company. There is plenty of seating.

Interior of East Pole Coffee Company (opposite view). The bar area on the right offers plenty of natural light.

Details from the front counter at East Pole Coffee Company.

Coffee preparation at East Pole.

The Nautical Theme

One of the unique elements about East Pole is the prevalent theme found throughout the shop. A brief backstory: Jared Karr, one of the co-owners of East Pole, was living in Indonesia with a friend; they hosted a video blog to just their friends, their church, and their family what they were up to in Indonesia. They repeatedly called Indonesia “The East Pole” because… it was the farthest east they had ever been. The name stuck and became the name of the coffee shop we know today.

As for the interior, it’s a (subtle) theme on a nautical universe. There is the diver helmet, squid paintings, and bluish tones throughout. Read the Q&A with Jared at the bottom of this post for more details.

Details from East Pole Coffee Company. The golden diver mask was purchased from an Army Navy store.

Details inside East Pole Coffee Company. Little known fact: the artist who created these two paintings actually used real squid, dipped them in white ink, and placed them on wax paper to get the final result seen here. Thank you to Jared for highlighting this cool fact in the interview.

Details from inside East Pole. The cyan/light blue espresso machine bolsters the nautical theme inside East Pole.

Details from inside East Pole Coffee Company.

A drink being prepared at East Pole.

The Menu

The drink menu at East Pole Coffee Company is straightforward: six to seven coffee drinks (with coffee beans roasted in-house, of course), plus tea. The seasonal drinks change every quarter or so; the current winter seasonal drink is the “Winter Citrus” latte, which consists of blood orange, dried chilis, sage, and black corns. East Pole is partnered with Atlanta’s The Chai Box if you want to try out some authentic Chai.

The food options are also light: waffles, energy bites, danishes, muffins, and a sweet potato biscuit (a personal favorite!).

The coffee (and tea) menu at East Pole Coffee Company.

East Pole offers a very light food menu. Recommended: the sweet potato biscuit!

A cappuccino I ordered at East Pole.

Interior of East Pole. Lots of natural light during the day!

During one of my visits to East Pole over the holidays, the coffee shop was beautifully decorated! So festive, right?

Outdoor patio at East Pole. On the day of this capture, it was a rainy day, so every customer was inside.

Front sign at East Pole Coffee Company.

East Pole adjoins a retail/coworking lobby where you can find additional stadium seating. This lobby was designed by Smith Dalia Architects, and I think the design is gorgeous (see more here). It is the same design as found in Copper Coin Coffee in Woodstock.

The lobby area just outside of East Pole. The stadium seating is on the left.

The lobby area and stadium seating just outside of East Pole’s doors.

Details from the lobby area outside of East Pole.

Coffee Cupping Events at East Pole

East Pole offers free coffee cuppings every Saturday morning at 10AM. Their recently published blog post explains what happens during this event:

A coffee cupping is a universal baseline for evaluating coffees. We add 13 grams of medium-fine ground coffee to a 7.5 oz. cupping bowl and we fill it to the brim with ~200 degree water. Three to five minutes later, we will use specific deeply-concave spoons to break the crust of coffee grounds, and evaluate its aroma. As the coffee progressively cools and the grounds sink to the bottom of the bowl, we use those spoons to take tablespoon-sized slurps of the coffee, evaluating its quality:  flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, sweetness, uniformity, and cleanliness.

We cup coffees multiple times a week to know what to buy from farmers and importers, what to tweak, what to feature, and… what to take home for ourselves!

I went on one of these coffee cuppings myself, during which the theme was Guatemalan an Ethiopian coffee varieties and the differences between them. This coffee cupping session was led by Whit who is a guru in all things coffee. I and several other attendees asked him a few questions during the event and he had thorough responses for every question.

Preparing the coffee cupping event at East Pole.

Coffee cupping in process.

Jared filling the cups with hot water.

Getting ready to taste some coffee!

Coffee cupping at East Pole. Whit, holding the two spoons, led the event.

Coffee with crust.

Details from the coffee cupping event. Whit, seen in the background, is smelling the fresh coffee.

These coffee cuppings events at East Pole have been going on for over a year. I inquired more about the cupping events, and they may range from the very novice (i.e., you’re totally new to coffee and don’t know that it’s a plant) to intermediate coffee drinkers (you know the various coffee separation techniques, can differentiate various subtle flavors among coffee beans, etc.). The serendipity in what you may learn from these events is very cool.

Interview with Jared Karr, Co-Owner of East Pole

I have been so intrigued about East Pole Coffee Company and wanted to get some additional information about the company, the background and design elements, and more. I reached out to Jared Karr, one of the co-owners/co-founders of East Pole Coffee Company, about an interview. Below is a slightly edited transcript of this interview. [Editor’s note: don’t miss the question and answer about one amazing customer experience near the bottom of this post!]


Question: In my conversation with Whit [during the coffee cupping event], he mentioned that your path to coffee was very unconventional -- you went overseas and were training to become an FBI agent in Indonesia. Can you share a bit more of that story? How did you go from there to becoming a co-founder/co-owner of a coffee shop? 

Jared: I wanted to work for the FBI. I was not training for the FBI! After graduating from The University of Georgia with a major in International Affairs I was eager to apply for the FBI. I noticed at that time that they had a high need for someone who was fluent in the language Bahasa Indonesia. During my time at Georgia, I had studied that particular language and had even been to the country Indonesia on a missions trip with a local church and had established some relationships there. In order to hone in on my language skills I decided it would be a good idea to go live in the country for 6 months to really get immersed in the culture and the language with the intentions of returning home to apply for the FBI being fluent in Bahasa. I reached out to a company that I visited once and asked for an internship, to which they agreed. I was working for this company and was also sent by my local church (which is how I was able to afford everything!). I lived there for 6 months and during my time there I was thrown into all kinds of wild adventures. One of which was helping the company pioneer a new partnership with coffee farmers. We were set to pay local farmers a higher price for their product than what they would get at a local market. Small gig really. Because of this I met with a lot of coffee farmers during my time there and every encounter left me a little more eager to learn more about this world of coffee. The farmers were incredibly kind people, generous in sharing information as well as their homes and meals. I slowly fell in love with coffee and decided by the end of my time in Indonesia that I wanted to work with farmers all over the world. And in order to do that I would need to start a roastery. I returned home to the states and started working in coffee to get a feel for the industry. I worked at a roastery and then moved to strictly a coffee bar in Atlanta. From there I roped in a couple of my good friends Jules Tompkins and Matt Chesla to help me start what is now East Pole.



Question: According to a few previous stories, the name East Pole is a nod to a video blog you hosted while in Indonesia, "the East Pole" of the world. For the very curious people of the world, are there archives of this blog still available on the web?

Jared: The name certainly comes from what I called Indonesia! I was living there with a friend of mine and we would host a video blog mainly to just show our friends, our church, and our family what in the world we were doing there. We continually called Indonesia The East Pole because, well, it was the farthest east we had ever been. The name stuck. When I was thinking about what to name this company I thought it would be a good idea to give a nod to where I fell in love with coffee.



Question: Can you comment on some of the interior decor inside East Pole? For instance, is there a story behind the images of the squid? Also, is there a significance to the giant golden aqua helmet on the shelf? [Editor’s note: Any gamers out there? The diver helmet reminds me of the game Bioshockone of the few games I played].

Jared: Our interior should be a subtle play at a nautical theme. Hence the squid paintings (my wife actually found these at a garage sale in Atlanta. The girl who painted these actually used real squid, dipped them in white ink, and placed them on the wax paper!), the diver helmet that we purchased from an Army Navy store, and the other little nautical nods around the shop. It's just something we liked and went with! 



Question: I've commented in a Q&A with the owner of Copper Coin on the similarity of the spaces between East Pole and Copper Coin -- who was the designer/architect of East Pole that brought some of these similar elements into fruition? 

Jared: As Randy mentioned, it's purely coincidental. The East Pole team had the liberty of designing our space the way we wanted. The lobby (the area you are referring to) was designed by Smith Dalia, an architectural firm. They were inspired by several spaces in L.A. 



Question: You guys are partnered with several Atlanta-area coffee shops (Copper Coin) and restaurants (such as Full Commission, previously profiled here)—are you still aiming to grow your partnerships or are you happy with where you are right now?

Jared: We will continually be looking to grow our partnerships! We care greatly about the shops (and businesses and restaurants) that are booming in Atlanta. We love this city and want to see our current and future partners thrive. We believe we can help by providing great coffee, tech services, and training for all of our partners. We are also keen on throwing some pretty fun events with our partners ; )



Question: East Pole offers a free coffee cupping event every Saturday at 10AM (I attended the one last Saturday). How long has this program been running? Do you have a list (full or partial) of the previous "themes" covered in these tastings? [Whit mentioned that some events are really beginner-level while others are more intermediate in nature].

Jared: We have been doing cuppings consistently for a little over a year now. We believe this is a great way to bring people in and taste our coffees in a relaxed, yet educational environment. Whit has done a great job of curating "themes" for each class. We do not have a collection of these themes currently. 



Question: Are there any interesting or spectacular stories that come to mind with some of the customers that have visited East Pole to date?

Jared: One thing comes to mind that I really enjoyed. I may end up not getting all of the details right, but so goes it. There was a couple who had been trying to get pregnant for quite some time with no luck. One day, the wife emails us and asks if she can bring in her own special mug and if we could serve her husbands latte out of this cup. She wanted to bring the cup in on a Friday so that she could bring her husband on a date Saturday morning. We agreed to this. We served his latte in the cup and they enjoyed their date. Upon finishing his latte he noticed a few words written at the bottom of the mug. The words read: "you're going to be a dad". The two were ecstatic and to me that was a really fun moment to be let into. 



Question: What are your and Sara's personal favorite coffee drinks? [Editor’s note: Sara, the director of wholesale at East Pole, is Jared’s wife]

Jared: My personal favorite drink is: black coffee. Sara's favorite drink: a well made cappuccino. 



Question: What's been your biggest (or one of your biggest) challenges running East Pole? 

Jared: That's hard to say. I guess learning how to be a boss to a group of kids who are not much younger than me? It's an interesting dynamic because you spend so much time together and become friends and can forget that there is a boss aspect to it. I will say this though: while this is what I am listing there really isn't much struggle here. We have an incredible staff. Everyone that works here is hospitable, knowledgable, fun to be around, and good at what they do. Having business partners (in Matt and Jules) who can crush what they do helps me be able to focus on the coffee bar and roastery. I would say that has been vital to the success of East Pole. 


Conclusion

You know how there is a high school yearbook award called “Best All Around” given to one or two students? Well, I think East Pole Coffee Company would get this award in the Atlanta area for its amazing coffee (roasted in-house), incredible design and decor within its interior, strong partnerships with coffee shops and bakeries around Atlanta, and impeccable customer service.

Run, don’t walk, to East Pole Coffee Company if you haven’t yet visited this coffee shop gem.

###

Many thanks to Jared Karr for taking the time to answer my questions to accompany this blog post.

Editor’s note: In case you are wondering about the title of this post: 1) East Pole Coffee Company is closer to home for Jared when compared to his time away in Indonesia 2) The coffee shop is located just a few miles from where I live and 3) East Pole’s fairly central location inside the Atlanta perimeter means that East Pole is one of those coffee shops that should be accessible regardless of where you live in the metro Atlanta area.


East Pole Coffee Company
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Address:
255 Ottley Dr NE, Suite #105
Atlanta, GA 30324
Google Maps link
ph: 404-939-6498

Hours of operation:
Monday-Tuesday: 7AM to 3PM
Wednesday-Friday: 7AM to 5PM
Saturday-Sunday: 8AM to 4PM

Japanese-Inspired Drinks and Desserts at Momo Cafe in Midtown Atlanta

Located in Midtown Atlanta, Momo Cafe is a Japanese-inspired cafe that offers specialty coffee, tea, pastries, and other desserts. Located within Momonoki restaurant, Momo Cafe is located on two levels, with the second floor overlooking the nearby I-75/I-85 exchange. I had the chance to visit Momonoki and Momo Cafe twice in the new year and my impressions are below.

Photos from my visit are below.

The Space

Momonoki (Momo Cafe) is located at 95 8th Street NW, Suite #100 in Midtown Atlanta—about three blocks away from Georgia Tech’s Technology Square. The front door takes you inside Momo Cafe and Momonoki; the cafe is on the left and the counter from which you order at Momonoki is on the right (Momonoki is a counter service restaurant, where you order up front and then can take a seat anywhere you would like inside the restaurant).

During my first visit, I ordered both from Momo Cafe and from Momonoki—the barista brought out my cappuccino to the main dining area of Momonoki. I ordered the Filet Mignon bowl (served with shallot ponzu, fried garlic, poached egg, scallions, mix green, wasabi, and rice)—it was a delicious lunch.

On my second visit, which I had pre-arranged with the staff at Momonoki, I focused on Momo Cafe. During this visit, I was able to sample a couple of the specialty coffee drinks on the menu at Momo Cafe as well as chat with the General Manager of Momonoki, McKenzie, about the cafe’s service offerings, what’s in their pipeline (hint: dedicated lunch offerings from Momo Cafe are coming in March 2019), and more.

The front of Momonoki/Momo Cafe. An outdoor patio is seen at left, but it was not occupied during my visit because of the cold weather.

Another view of the front of Momonoki. Highway I-75/I-85 is seen in the background.

The interior of Momonoki. Since there is no place to sit inside Momo Cafe on the first level, you’re welcome to bring your coffee/tea/desserts here. There is also a dedicated second floor for Momo Cafe customers.

Front counter of Momo Cafe.

Momo Cafe features beautiful design elements throughout its space. For example, the gorgeous table display at Momo Cafe, seen below, features porcelain china. At top, a gold-colored triangular pot. At the edge of the table are coffee beans for sale from one of the roasting partners of Momo Cafe, Methodical Coffee. I think this partnership meshes well, as Methodical Coffee also has a beautiful design aesthetic (both on its coffee bags and in its brick-and-mortar presence). Momo Cafe also has rotating partnerships with other roasters, which include or have included in the past: Verve Coffee, East Pole Coffee Company, and Stumptown.

A table at Momo Cafe. Bags of Methodical Coffee are available for purchase.

Wide view of Momo Cafe. Behind the glass pane in the back is the seating area of Momonoki.

The front counter of Momo Cafe.

Details from inside Momonoki.

Details from Momo Cafe.

Details from Momo Cafe.

Detail of tea leaves on the front counter of Momo Cafe. Though I have not tried the teas on my visit, the menu consists of three Japanese-sourced teas and three Taiwanese-sourced teas.

A view of the Momo Cafe/Momonoki space on the way to the second floor, reserved for Momo Cafe customers.

View from the second floor of Momo Cafe (looking south).

Details from inside Momo Cafe, looking through the window pane toward Momonoki.

Momonoki means Peachtree in Japanese, which, of course, is unique to Georgia and the city of Atlanta (fun trivia: there are 71 variants of the word “Peachtree” in street names in the city of Atlanta).

Building on the Momonoki name, the logo at Momonoki is a representation of a peach with the Kanji character “wood” written in the interior. This logo represents Atlanta’s I-285 (perimeter) with the I-75/I-85 through Atlanta’s middle and I-20 bisecting the city east and west:

Momonoki’s logo is a nod to the Peach State and a representation of the major highways that are found in Atlanta.

The Drinks

Momo Cafe offers specialty coffee drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes, as well as teas that are sourced directly from Taiwan. During my visit, I watched as the baristas prepared three drinks: the black sesame latte, an iced strawberry matcha, and the iced Okinawa brown sugar latte. I want to thank Dorothy and Summer, baristas who were working at Momo Cafe the day of my visit, for preparing the drinks and guiding me through the preparation process of these drinks.

Grinding the beans in preparation for the black sesame latte. Methodical Coffee was used on this day.

A brief video of the latte preparation at Momo Cafe, with Dorothy the barista behind the espresso machine:

 

Preparation of the iced Okinawa brown sugar latte.

The iced strawberry matcha drink at Momo Cafe—prior to mixing.

Latte preparation in the works while the iced strawberry matcha enjoys the spotlight on top of the espresso machine.

The iced strawberry matcha latte after thorough mixing was quite delicious. It’s hard to describe its taste profile, except that the sweetness of the strawberry syrup complemented the less sweet matcha; no additional sugar was needed to be added, per recommendation of the barista, with whom I agreed after tasting. Highly recommended.

The strawberry matcha latte after mixing.

Dorothy, the barista, in the latte art process.

The black sesame latte at Momo Cafe is like a work of art. I love the final presentation, including the use of the elegant porcelain cup in which the latte is served:

The black sesame latte at Momo Cafe.

Another view of the black sesame latte.

The iced Okinawa brown sugar latte at Momo Cafe.

A section of the coffee, tea, and dessert menu at Momo Cafe.

The Sweets

One of the co-owners at Momonoki/Momo Cafe, Ching Yao, is the baker at Momo Cafe who whips up the light and fresh-baked pastries daily. As with the coffee drinks, sesame and matcha play a key role in the ingredients of some of the pastries available daily at Momo Cafe.

The homemade matcha croissants are one of the most popular dessert items at Momo Cafe (and, I think, in the Atlanta area).

Desserts at Momo Cafe. At front: the black sesame croissant. At left: the chocolate citrus croissants. At back right: the matcha croissants.

The chocolate citrus croissant at Momo Cafe.

Homemade cookies at Momo Cafe. Flavors include matcha, dark chocolate, and chocolate chip walnut. Yum!

Finally, another unique element at Momo Cafe is the soft-serve ice cream. There are two popular flavors, as you may have guessed: matcha and black sesame. I tried the combination and it was fantastic:

Soft serve ice cream at Momo Cafe. You can’t go wrong with the matcha and sesame combination.

Conclusion

Momo Cafe is a wonderful addition to the specialty coffee shops in the Atlanta area. The drinks are prepared with precision and are elegantly presented. The staff are very welcoming and knowledgeable. If you go, you could combine your visit to Momo Cafe and Momonoki (as I did previously, getting coffee and lunch). Certainly, if you are a coffee aficionado, Momo Cafe deserves a spot on your to-visit itinerary for the unique Japanese-inspired drinks that you can taste there.

Finally, in some exciting news, Momo Cafe will begin to have lunch offerings of its own beginning in March 2019 (i.e., these lunch options will be separate from what is already on the menu at the adjoining Momonoki restaurant). Keep an eye out on their Instagram page for details of the announcement.

Thanks again to Momo Cafe and its staff for the visit and opportunity to profile them here on the Atlanta Coffee Shops blog.


Momo Cafe
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Address
95 8th St. NW, Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30309
Google Maps link
ph: 404-390-3025

Hours of operation:
Monday-Saturday: 8AM to 9PM
Sunday: 9AM to 9PM

Coffee and Community at Copper Coin in Woodstock, GA

Located in suburban Woodstock, the spotlight in today’s post is Copper Coin Coffee.

The coffee shop occupies a sizable space on Chambers Street in downtown Woodstock and attracts a devoted crowded to its location daily. There is, of course, coffee (Copper Coin is partnered with East Pole Coffee Company)—but also breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Copper Coin is tightly integrated with the community and there are all kinds of events that occur there on a frequent basis, such as hosting a local knitting group, an art history class, and other special interest events including pop-up art shows, and a number of photo shoot and TV/movie productions. There are live shows/concerts on the weekends; see the events calendar for details.

In the summer of 2018, Copper Coin received a liquor license and has been serving beer/wine (and a few months later, alcohol).

The photos from Copper Coin are from the Woodstock location (there were previously two other locations in the Atlanta area).

NOTE: At the bottom of this post, you can read the responses from the owner of Copper Coin Coffee, Randy Altmann, to the questions I had about the shop, some of its challenges, and more. I think Randy’s responses are very insightful, and I am thankful for Randy sharing his thoughts.

Exterior of Copper Coin Coffee in Woodstock, GA.

Interior of Copper Coin Coffee. Adjacent to the brick wall in the back is where live music/performances may be heard at Copper Coin,.

Inside Copper Coin Coffee. There are coffee options: the basics, espresso drinks, and manual brew coffee.

At Copper Coin Coffee.

Art on the walls at Copper Coin.

Stadium seating at Copper Coin Coffee. Please take a look at the interview questions with the owner at the bottom of this post.

Coasters for sale.

Since Copper Coin is partnered with East Pole Coffee Company, you can buy their freshly roasted beans at Copper Coin,

Front counter.

Ambient light. Plenty of seating.

Tables and booths are options at Copper Coin.

Copper Coin has a community room which you can reserve by the hour ($35/hour of $100 for a 3 hour block). The rate is $10/hour for any non-profits that would like to reserve this community room.

Risk, anyone?

Lots of board games to choose from at Copper Coin.

A cappuccino.

If you’re in the Woodstock area, I highly recommend checking out Copper Coin for coffee (the fact that they’re partnered with East Pole Coffee Company, one of the Atlanta’s best specialty coffee shops and roasters is an added bonus). And if you’re not a coffee person, you can always check out Copper Coin for their breakfast/lunch options and/or their numerous live events.

Interview with the Owner of Copper Coin

Following is a condensed interview with the owner of Copper Coin, Randy Altmann:


Question: When was Copper Coin founded? Was it founded at the same location as the current one? 
Answer: This is the Third location for the shop.  It started as the Woodstock Coffee Shop almost 15  years ago. The original location was next to where the Sprouts Farmers Market is currently located in Towne Lake. Nine years ago, the former owners purchased the shop.  They did a deal with ACRU, a loan institute, that was in this site and became “Copper Coin Coffee”  inside the bank.  Over time they took over more and more of the space and 3 years ago, the bank (by then Bank of the Ozarks) moved out and Copper Coin took over the entire site.  They also opened up two other locations, Brookhaven and Cumming, which were full-out restaurants that closed in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The former owners announced in October of 2017 that they were closing the Woodstock location.  We purchased the assets from the bank.  They closed Oct 31 at 9 PM and we re-opened Nov 1 at 6:30 AM.



Question: Since its opening, has Copper Coin undergone any significant renovations or expansion? 
Answer: We have expanded to a fairly functional, good sized kitchen.  We also have renovated the old bank offices and rent out cubicles or offices by the hour, day, week or month.

 

Question: Did Copper Coin serve beer/wine/drinks from the beginning or was this an expansionary move per customer demand?
Answer: We added Beer/Wine in August of 2018 and the first Alcohol in December 2018.

This was part of our business plan to expand the CC from a Daytime Coffee Shop/Gathering Place to expand “The Flip Side of the Coin” to be a place where adults  could come and relax in the evenings but feel comfortable having their children with them.

As part of the transition we greatly expanded the kitchen offering to include more Breakfast and Lunch items. A lot more desert offerings.  We are just now beginning to offer lite food in the evenings.

 

Question: There are some similarities in the architectural space with East Pole Coffee Company (with whom you have a partnership) -- I am thinking of the stadium seating, for example. Is that just a coincidence? 
Answer: Purely a coincidence other then the original designers of both spaces wanted the “gathering space”

 

Question: Can you comment on what your clientele is like? Is it people who come in regularly every day to get some morning coffee and/or do some work? Or is it a varied mix of customers? 
Answer: Daytime we are a gathering place for a lot of Woodstock.  Coffee out Mom’s, business meetings, home away office.  Afternoon and Evenings are more students.  We have begun live music 4 days a week.  This brings a different weekend crowd as we feature an eclectic mix of music types.  Jazz, R&B, Classical, Old Blues, Americana.  Our Jazz Lunch on Sundays has become a packed house place to come and relax after church or a lazy morning.

The Fri/Sat music includes local and Atlanta based talent as well as touring indie acts from Nashville, Washington, Indiana and even Italy so we are becoming a quasi-concert venue.

With the addition of board and card games we also are getting everything from Scrabble to Uno games most nights.

We also host a local knitting group, an art history class and other special interest events including pop-up art shows, and a number of photo shoot and TV/movie productions.

 

Question: Do you have any partnerships or outreach with any non-profits or other local organizations? If so, which ones and how do you partner together?
Answer: We support a number of local worship places by donating/discounting coffees for their major events (Xmas, Easter).  East Pole Coffee Company also supports us in this by grinding the beans for free for these events.

We support most of the local School PTA groups and offer discounts to their teachers and families as well as support their newspapers etc.  We also work with the Lions Club as a collection point for winter clothing.

 

Question: What are some of your biggest challenges in running your business today? What, if anything, would help you operate more successfully?
Answer: Keeping and Training a staff is the lifeblood of what we do.  They are the frontline and are a contact point for ALL our customers.  Teaching them to make a great cup of coffee is “easy”.  Teaching them to make every customer experience fantastic is a never ending challenge.  To encourage our staff to stay, we offer supplemental insurance through AFLAC and a simple IRA program that we do matching funds to.

Managing the evolution from a “simple” Specialty Coffee Shop to a full day and night gathering place for the community is a huge challenge.  Older regular customers got upset as we brought in live music because they felt it was a distraction. New customers come in because we offer a new type of entertainment.  Adding alcohol to support the evening business without becoming “A BAR” is a Rubik’s Cube.

But the history books are full of great businesses Large and Small that have gone out of business by not changing what they do and meeting the changing needs and expectations of their customers. Woolworth’s and Sears both had the tallest buildings in the world at one point, and are both out of business (or close to it).  Independent businesses usually fail because the owner either does not understand business, or how to match their passion for the business with the customer’s needs.