I’ve tried to sit down several times to write this recap but considering I’ve been drinking coffee for basically 48 hours straight, sitting is not really an option at the moment. I am wired beyond belief and doing everything in my power not to type this entire thing in all caps. YOU’RE WELCOME.
So honestly, I feel a little drunk after the Charlotte Coffee Crawl, a two-day tour of 10 of the top cafes in town produced by Good Eats & Meets. A $10 ticket gets you access to on-site demos, tastings and special offers at each site plus an opportunity to talk faster than you’ve ever talked in your whole life and run to and from your car at each stop. Energy!
I bought my ticket on a whim the day before the event, putting very little thought into what it takes to visit 10 cafes in two days. It’s no Charlotte Beer Trail but this really felt like a marathon. (I don’t actually know what a marathon feels like.)
My Saturday kicked off bright and early at 5am when my boyfriend left to get a massage. (This is a true story and involves a legitimate business. Who does this?) Anyway, the crawl didn’t start until 9am so I decided to dig myself into a hole with two cups of coffee at home. This was a mistake.
9:20am – Check in at Boquete Mountain Coffee. This is where you pick up your “coffee passport,” if you will. Anyone who gets their entire passport stamped gets a goodie bag at the end. Now it’s a competition. Game on.
9:30am – Roasting and Chemex demos at Smelly Cat Coffeehouse. Here I learned that 100 to 500 different chemical reactions take place in just the first 10 minutes of roasting coffee beans and already I am in over my head. They use the Roastmaster app on an iPad to track temperature levels inside the roasting drum, which I thought was very scientific. I also learned that a Chemex is a type of pour over coffee maker (didn’t know that) and that the fresher the coffee the bigger the bloom (foam that forms when you pour hot water over the coffee grounds and CO2 is released). We sampled the Chemex brew and another iced coffee that was already prepared. We also got some cookies for the road that I’m eating right this very second.
10am – Siphon and V60 demos at The Daily Press. Things got real when barista Nick was announced as a “Counterculture Certified Barista.” I didn’t even know this was a thing but judging by his chem lab setup I trust he knows a lot more about coffee than I do. He walks us through a really cool siphon (or vacuum pot) method that looks pretty complicated. I ask him who would actually do that at home and he goes, “Well this is actually mine so…” There’s that! We also got a demo of a V60 pour over, which I’m pleased to say I own and use at my home but probably all wrong. It’s also worth noting that The Daily Press was PACKED and they’ve only been open about 7 months. They’re killing it.
10:30am – Ozpresso. This is a cool little Australian coffee shop with some interesting “Australian screamers” which sound like milkshakes with espresso in them. I pass on this madness and go for a honey pot shot, which is a shot of espresso with like half a cup of honey and cream. I don’t know why I thought this would be lighter than an espresso milkshake but it hit me in the face like a brick. I can’t tell if I want to go to sleep or start jogging circles around the bar so I head out to the next stop.
11am – Anything decaf at Kenilworth Espresso. At this point I can’t even look at coffee so I cheat and get a chai latte, which I’m pleased to find can be made with loose leaf chai tea instead of the pre-made concentrate. Win.
I take my tea to get my bridesmaid dress fitted for my brother’s wedding and even without caffeine for this hour I still feel like THIS:
So I go to the Dowd YMCA to run it off.
2pm – Coffee cocktail demo at Crown Station. At this point I have taken a break for exercise, lunch and a shower and I still kind of want to die but there are cocktails with coffee in them so I sprint on to investigate. We get three drinks: the Dirty Lebowski (basically a white Russian with a shot of espresso), Horchata X (Patron XO with steam milk and spices) and Irish coffee. Mistakes in my younger days steer me clear of any milk + liquor combos so I tread (or sip) lightly, but they’re actually all really good. Horchata X seems to be the crowd pleaser.
That rounds out day one of my coffee crawl. I don’t even want to admit that I went straight from the cocktail tasting to babysit my niece so let me just reiterate that I barely drank any of it. Don’t judge me. The caffeine helps me stay on baby patrol and while I thought I’d be up all night, I felt more like I’d been drinking beer all day and fell asleep at 9 o’clock like I’d had no coffee at all.
I had a whole lot of life to deal with Sunday so I spent most of the morning doing that and didn’t get out the door for the second half of the crawl until after lunch when I very much wanted some coffee.
1pm – Pure Intentions Coffee tasting flight at Sunflour Baking Company. This, I think, was one of the coolest options of the day. Pure Intentions pulled together a four-course coffee and pastry pairing. I chat with Matt from PIC and learn that I’ve been brewing my French press coffee for approximately five times longer than recommended. Excellent! This whole event has been one big lesson in how I brew coffee wrong. They should teach it in college.
1:30pm – Almond milk latte at Not Just Coffee Uptown. 7th Street Public Market is fast becoming the hippest place in Charlotte. It’s packed and I can barely find a table. I grab an almond milk latte from NJC and get more advice from a barista about how I’m doing French press all wrong. Help me, coffee people. Help me. (Their Southend location is also on the passport but you get two stamps for going to one location. BOOM.)
2:30pm – Devastation at Eagle Speak Coffee. This new-to-me cafe is my second-to-last stop on the crawl and I rolled up to find it CLOSED ON SUNDAY. If you saw a girl with curly hair weeping on South Boulevard around 2:30 on Sunday it was me because in the basketball game of this coffee crawl I just missed the game-winning free throw in the fourth quarter. (I can’t believe I just made that sports analogy! Does it make sense?! It’s the coffee! I don’t even know what basketball is!) I trudge on to my last spot…
3:00pm – Another attempt at decaf at Mugs Coffee. After my Eagle Speak fail and on the tail end of this two-day bender I’m just kind of done. I ask for a decaf iced coffee but when she says it’ll take a while for her to brew decaf I give up on life and drink more caffeine. MORE CAFFEINE.
At this point my body is either shutting down or I’m invincible. I don’t know. I head back to Boquete to submit my passport.
All told, this was a really fun event. If I had it to do over again I wouldn’t have booked it in a weekend when I had a million other things to tend to because it truly does eat up two full days. I also probably would have asked someone to do it with me so I’m not that weird girl talking to everybody but I did get to make some new friends in the group and was chattier with the baristas since I was alone and that, my friends, is how you learn to make coffee–chatting up baristas.
I learned several things on this crawl:
- Coffee is part art, part science and I’m doing most of it wrong.
- Charlotte has loads of great cafes in every neighborhood so you can just buy the coffee you can’t make correctly yourself.
- People who love coffee love to talk about coffee and will teach you their ways.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering I did get my goodie bag after all because they took pity on me and/or had some extras.
Anybody want to get coffee with me? I know some good spots.