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

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.


Question: Is there anything else you'd like to share with a wider audience about Copper Coin?
Answer: Our focus is on the community.  We want community groups to come and use our conference room (Community Room) and offer discounts to them.

We are dedicated to supporting the arts. Live music, Local artists.

We host Coffee with a Cop and are starting up “Friday with a Fireman” to encourage better understanding within our area. 

And, I am not allowed to make any coffee.  My first week, I was learning to make our drip coffee (as do all starting team members).  Everything went well but the coffee came out REALLY weak. The barista I was training with pointed out that next time I should grind the beans first!

I live within my limitations.


Copper Coin
Web | Facebook | Instagram

Address:
400 Chambers St.
Woodstock, GA 30188
Google Maps link
ph: 470-308-6914

Hours of operation:
Monday-Thursday: 7AM to 8PM
Friday: 7AM to 10PM
Saturday: 8AM to 10PM
Sunday: 8AM to 8PM

Taproom Coffee & Beer in the Historic Kirkwood Neighborhood of Atlanta

It’s mid-afternoon on the weekend: do you go for a cup of coffee or a craft beer? At Taproom Coffee & Beer in the historic Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, the choice is yours: the menu consists of a nice selection of coffee plus seven to ten craft beers on tap (during my visit, I decided to try out one of the draft beers on tap).

Taproom Coffee is a great local spot in Atlanta tightly integrated into the Kirkwood community. The coffee is from a local roaster (and coffee shop) East Pole Coffee Company, many of the draft beers are from local Atlanta/Georgia breweries, and the pastries and other food items are fresh from another Atlanta-based vendor, H&F Bread Co. 

A few photos from Taproom Coffee are below.

The exterior of Taproom Coffee & Beer.

Interior of Taproom Coffee. The coffee for sale is from East Pole Coffee Company, a local Atlanta coffee roaster and coffee shop.

Lights on! The blues add a nice contrast against the golden glow.

Taproom Coffee is proud of its Kirkwood location and community.

A draft beer I ordered.

As of 10/1/2018, the following beers are available on draft at Taproom Coffee:

  • Wrecking Bar Breaking Bob

  • Brewery Ommegang Rosetta Kriek

  • Second Self Triforce

  • Wild Heaven Wise Blood

  • Reformation Cadence

  • Orpheus Sykophantes

  • Gate City Terminus

  • Southern Tier Pumking

  • Dogfish Head Bitches Brew

Artwork inside Taproom Coffee.

At the front counter of Taproom Coffee.

The coffee/tea menu is straightforward.

If beer/coffee/tea is not your style, you could always go for wine…

Coffee for sale from East Pole Coffee Co.

A selection of fresh pastries, cookies, and muffins are available.

If you prefer to have your coffee/beer at the bar, Taproom Coffee does not disappoint.

Interior of Taproom Coffee.

One interesting item of note: Taproom Coffee owner Jonathan Pascual advertises his consulting services to help individuals/businesses in starting a coffee business.

You can follow Taproom Coffee on Instagram, Facebook, or their blog. Also, there are a number of events happening at Taproom Coffee every month. For example, on 10/23/2018, Taproom Coffee held a free Home Coffee Brewing Class. Check the event page for details on upcoming events.


Taproom Coffee
1963 Hosea L Williams Dr NE
Atlanta, GA 30317
Google Maps link
ph: 404-464-5435

Operating hours:
Monday-Thursday: 6:30AM to 10PM
Friday: 6:30AM to 9PM
Saturday: 7:30AM to 9PM
Sunday: 7:30AM to 8PM