At first glance, The Daily Press CLT doesn’t seem much like the typical coffee shop. There are no over-stuffed chairs. There might be a slightly lower than usual number of laptops in use. Instead, there’s a higher concentration of beards and tattoos. The furniture consists of a few tables and chairs, pushed around as needed, and the walls are plastered with posters for upcoming concerts. During the day The Daily Press uses the space that The Evening Muse fills with music at night. It’s at 3227 North Davidson Street, right on the corner of 36th Street.
The first time I peeked in during the day, I wasn’t sure I’d find it comfortable as a coffee spot, despite the hundreds of times over the years I’d frequented the NoDa venue at night to hear music. I’m glad I gave it a try. Now it ranks among my favorite spots in Charlotte for coffee, primarily because of all the other ways that it’s atypical.
Adventurous coffee menu
Full disclosure: I’m an unapologetic fan of complicated coffee drinks. I do appreciate good coffee, straight-up, or a simple latte, but if a barista has put together a really elaborate concoction, I’m going to try it. Same reason as why I’ll try any insane thing that an excellent chef creates, or why I definitely want to hear the latest song by a brilliant, unpredictable songwriter. When someone combines talent and risk-taking, interesting things happen and you should say yes.
Life is too short to say no to “Tim and Eric’s Awesome ‘Spro Great Shot.”
Sit back, relax and read this description: “A double shot of espresso, split in half. One shot is sweetened with a strawberry-basil sauce and topped with whipped cream, fresh basil and star anise. The other shot is sweetened with spiced vanilla sugar and topped with whipped cream, spiced onyx mint chocolate and a Pakistan rosebud.”
Or “Fig’s Particle Collider”: “Iced Aleme Wako coffee, shaken with fig and orange bitters and fig and ginger sauce, sprinkled with Mayan cocoa and garnished with a fresh orange peel and clove, served with Whisk & Wood chocolate-dipped orange macaroon.”
How do owner Lindsey Pitman, head barista Diana Mnatsakanyan, and the rest of the staff come up with this stuff?
“We’re very fortunate that Savory Spice likes to work with us,” Pitman says. “So I’ll just go in there and, knowing the coffees that we’ll have, we try to base them around the coffees that we have and highlight the flavors, the natural flavor notes in the coffee. I’ll just see things that stand out to me, that are really interesting, like the pistachio that they have there and the different Pakistan rose buds, and then try to incorporate good flavors that will pair with them. A lot of trial and error.”
The process takes a little while. Consider yourself lucky if you’re in the coffee shop when they’re developing a new recipe.
“Usually we have a solid idea of how the flavors will taste together before we start, but it usually takes two or three days of us adjusting. Like if we’re adding bitters, do we add eight or twelve drops of bitters? If we’re adding extracts, the extract to syrup ratio. All of that takes probably two or three days, and we’ll try to have as much input as possible, so those are always fun, the days when we’re trying to hone the recipe, because we offer a lot of free samples to people.”
What I got when I asked for something “hot and fancy:”
Important note: Most of the drinks described and pictured here are seasonal winter drinks, so you might not be able to order them for long. Spring drinks are on the way.
Pitman sources her ingredients carefully. Besides the ingredients she finds at Savory Spice, she buys milk from Hunter Farms, which is right outside of Charlotte. She will soon be adding essential oils to the coffee drinks and signature beverages. As far as the coffee itself, she works with several specialty roasters, including Mountain Air Roasting out of Asheville and Counter Culture out of Durham, and will often feature guest roasters’ products as well.
But don’t be scared
If ingredients like cascara-molasses make you a little uneasy or if you just don’t want black walnut and brandy extract syrup in your latte, no problem! Just because Pitman and Mnatsakanyan are intense about coffee doesn’t mean you have to be.
Pitman says, “Honestly, I feel like a lot of people who have been intimidated come in and then they meet us, and they realize, yes, we are intense about coffee, but it’s because we love it and we want to share everything about it with people. It’s not like we’re pretentious about it. We just really, really, really like it and we want everyone else to like it as much as we do. But we don’t force it on anybody. If someone comes in and they like vanilla lattes we have that. We make our vanilla in house. There’s not one drink that I push on people. It’s a matter of collaborating with each customer and figuring out what is going to make them happiest.”
And if you do want to order something unfamiliar, don’t be afraid to ask how to drink it. I had to ask when I ordered this. PSA: don’t eat the flower.
Which leads to the thing that sold me on The Daily Press…
A customized experience
Just the third time my husband and I visited, Pitman knew our names, and, even more impressively, remembered that my husband likes the Pistachio Agave Latte and that I like something different every time.
I ask her how she does that. (Especially since I can’t even remember what I ordered.)
“That’s a part of the collaboration. It’s a process and we kind of go through this experience together of finding out something that you’re going to enjoy. And if you come to me and you say that our collaboration was successful then I want to remember that because we both put in effort to find something that was going to make you happy.”
“So it’s personal?” I ask.
“It’s very personal. I’ve never liked when people would say ‘It’s just business, it’s not personal’ because to me, business, if you’re passionate about it, is so personal.”