"A cup of coffee shared with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent."
Along with dry red wine, animals, and travel, coffee tops the list of one of my greatest loves. When I saw on Instagram that a Caffeine Crawl was taking place in St. Louis and highlighting some of our best local coffee shops, I couldn't wait to sign up.
The LAB is the team behind the caffeine crawl. Their website describes their goal to, "inform consumers abut quality-driven beverage information from around the globe." The caffeine crawl focuses on quality coffee, but also tea and chocolate. So far in 2016, they have hosted caffeine crawls in nine different cities, from San Diego to Tulsa, and Houston to Chicago. Currently for 2016, the LAB has three more caffeine crawls scheduled for other various cities.
When purchasing tickets for the Caffeine Crawl, there were options of several different routes to choose from, taking place between Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon. Twelve local coffee shops were featured this year during the crawl, and each route combined anywhere from 4 to 6 shops. I went on the crawl with a friend whose love of coffee was equally as strong, together, we decided there was no more perfect time then Saturday morning.
All the crawls are self-drive (or bike/public transportation) and of varying lengths depending on the route selected. I can't rave enough about The LAB team and what they've put together. The routes are of varying price points, likely related to the number of stops, and include a goody bag. The tickets for our route were $40/person and included visiting six stops, each with generally two samples, and a small meal at the end. In addition we were given goody bags full of coupons for free cups of coffee, mints, sweetener samples, and local coffee bean samples. The whole tour was well organized and each stop had a different and unique focus which played in with their samples. All-in-all, it was one of the best Saturday mornings I've ever spent in the city.
Here's a peak at our route and six shops we visited. I would honestly recommend any of these stops for your next cup of coffee here in St. Louis.
Kickoff: Kayak's Coffee & Provisions
Our morning begun at Kayak Coffee, which also happens to be my weekday morning ritual.
Being a relative new comer to St. Louis, nothing makes you feel more at home than being recognized and greeted by your local barista. We were offered samples of two different roasts, each prepared as a hot and as a cold brew. I am a lover of hot coffee, regardless of temperature or time of year, and have never actually tried cold brew coffee. I was shocked to see how different it tasted and how much it changed the flavor profile of the coffee. Kayak reviewed a flavor wheel of coffee with us. I'll be honest, just like tasting wine, I lack any ability to detect "flavors" within my wine or coffee, I just know if I like it or don't like it.
Nestled in the Central West End is Bissinger's and although they sell coffee, today's stop was all about chocolate. For those that haven't stopped in, the space is beautiful, and their selection of chocolates in the case looked amazing! We learned about the history of store, how they make their chocolate, and we all got to pick out a chocolate square. Then, what may have been the highlight of the entire tour for me, we were served the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever had. My friend and I took our hot chocolates to sip by the large windows overlooking Maryland Avenue. Winter is one of my favorite seasons and I can't wait to return during a classic St. Louis winter, bundled up, and drinking this hot chocolate as snow falls and covers the beautiful streets of the Central West End.
Our next stop on the crawl was also in the Central West End at Northwest Coffee Roaster. Here we were given samples of coffee as well as their new waffles along with a demonstration of the roasting process. Their gravel "patio" was amazing and I can't wait to return in the fall to enjoy a cup of coffee next to one of the fire pits. Inside the coffee shop is an antique roaster where Northwest does all their own roasting right there - talk about fresh! We were given a demonstration of the roasting, heard some hilarious stories, and then relaxed with our samples until time for the next stop.
Stop 4: The Mud House
From Northwest Coffee we drove down to Cherokee street to one of my favorite breakfast spots in the city, Mud House. After a brief history of the Mud House, we were all served, "Dark & Stormy" cocktails to happily enjoy outside in the beautiful weather. The cocktail was delicious and a nice way to break up the morning. It was made with cold brew Goshen Coffee + Fevertree ginger beer + lime. I would have never thought to combine these flavors but the drink was delightful.
Kitchen House Coffee is located in Tower Grove. The owner spoke to us about his inspiration for starting the shop as well as their chickens out back! All their coffee, tea, and food comes from local St. Louis business. Next, we got to hear from Stringbean coffee and taste some samples! We were also all given a tin of their coffee beans with a guitar pick as their original plan was to combine their love of music and guitars with coffee. All of their coffee is rainforest alliance and fair trade certified.
Stop 6: Park Ave Coffee - The Hill
We were shocked when we arrived at Park Ave Coffee to find out that after we learned about their operations we were being served a coffee themed meal! This was such a special way to cap off a Saturday morning. Unfortunately, as a vegetarian, I can't comment on the starter and entree, however, the salad, desert, and all the coffee pairings were delish!
The crawl took us all around St. Louis and introduced us to some new coffee shops along the way. It was a Saturday well spent and I can't wait for the crawl to return next year!