The following article originally appeared in Food Life Magazine, which is a local Asheville print magazine, published four times a year, and available free all over downtown, Biltmore Village, and West Asheville. Some of the information contained below may no longer be current, and annotations have been made to the original content in red to indicate changes when possible
LIVING THE FOOD LIFE!
Stu Helm’s “10 Unique Facets of Asheville’s Coffee Scene.”
Let’s talk coffee. I love it! When I wake up in the morning, and I know that there’s a hot cup of coffee in my immediate future, I’m already in a good mood!
I’ve watched with excitement as the ever growing coffee scene here in Asheville, North Carolina has steadily developed into the fun, vibrant, active, and lively community that it is now, and that I enjoy very much! Below I’ve compiled a short list of 10 facets of our coffee scene that I personally love, use, and endorse. I mostly habituate downtown, so please excuse me if my list doesn’t include some of the great roasters, brewers, and baristas outside of my immediate area, of which there are many.
1) VORTEX DOUGHNUTS – 32 Banks Ave – Vortex made a big splash when they first opened their doors, as much for their amazing coffee, as for the promise of doughnuts. In fact, the buzz in the beginning was that the doughnuts needed work, but the coffee, yeah, Man, that was the jam. The doughnuts have since improved, and the coffee — provided by 1,000 Faces — has remained solidly awesome. As far as the beans, the roasts, and the preparation, I think it is some of the best and most adventurous coffee in Asheville!
2) HIGH FIVE – 13 Rankin Ave – I always want more cafes to open in downtown Asheville, so when High Five announced a second location right up the street from The Vault on Rankin, I was psyched. I’ve stopped in many times and have not been disappointed in any way! My friend Chef Joe Scully thinks this is the best cafe in town, and I don’t disagree. Along with having the most consistently well made espresso drinks in Asheville, their specialty drinks are usually the bomb. It is also the coolest, hippest, and most well designed cafe downtown, and the place to be seen.
3) PENNYCUP COFFEE CO. – 362 Depot St – Pennycup is my pet cafe, because they are right up the street from my house, but also because they roast their own coffee right in-house! In fact, they were strictly a roaster — only roasting beans for other cafes — for a year before opening their doors to the public as a cafe. Now they have two cafes, and some of the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life. I love that I can smell the beans being roasted while drinking the coffee from the previously roasted batch.
4) COUNTER CULTURE – 77 Broadway – If you haven’t taken advantage of Counter Culture’s classes and free tastings, you should do that. The classes are taught by Lindsay Lee, and she’ll learn ya up on everything you need to know about coffee, and how they do it at Counter Culture. The tastings are free, every Friday morning, and you can sign up for classes on line. I took the Espresso Fundamentals class, and according Lindsay Lee, I made the perfect latte.
5) DOUBLE D’S COFFEE AND DESSERTS – 41 Biltmore Ave – While the name is a bit unfortunate, the Double Decker Bus cafe (as I like to call it) is the most unique coffee shop in town, because it is literally made from an old double decker bus! It’s been converted, and tricked-out, and has tables upstairs, but it’s a dang bus, and that’s cool. I see a lot of young people meeting there, and I’ve seen parents bring their kids for hot chocolate. It’s fun, has a great view out the front window upstairs, and the espresso drinks are great!
6) THE COFFEE PEDLAR [ I have not seen the Coffee Pedlar in at least a year, please let me know if you’ve seen him ] – 67 Patton Ave – This guy rides a bike that is a cafe on wheels and weighs hundreds of pounds, from West Asheville to Pritchard Park every day, and he makes the best frickin’ coffee ever. He’s my hero. He doesn’t have espresso, only pour-overs, and he’s the best at making those. He’s also totally chill, and fun to talk to about coffee and such. Also: Shout out to MoCo coffee motorcycle, and Mobile Mo’Joe coffee truck.
7) COFFEE CRATE – CoffeeCrate.co – Coffee Crate is a subscription service run by Angie Rainey. When you sign yourself or a friend up for a Coffee Crate subscription you will receive three bags of small-batch roasted coffee from three different NC coffee roasters, plus a sweet treat from a local bakery / patisserie / confectioner! Yeah, man! I loved my subscription!
8) BEANWERKS – 753 Haywood Rd – When I have a great cup of house coffee at a restaurant, and ask where it’s from, it seems like a lot of times the answer is “Beanwerks.” If I’m in West Asheville the phrase, “right up the street” is usually added. West Asheville should be proud and happy to have a place like Beanwerks providing great fresh-roasted beans to the restaurants in West Asheville, and beyond. Plus, they create an amazing aroma when the roasters are fired up. YUM! Coffee.
9) FARM TO HOME MILK – I know, these guys aren’t coffee, but they deliver awesome grass-fed milk to some of the cafes around town, and the steamed-milk for espresso drinks that results from Farm to Home Milk is to die for, so I wanted to give them a nod for their contribution to the coffee scene.
10) ASHEVILLE COFFEE EXPO – So, obviously I love coffee, I drink a lot of it, and the coffee scene is growing bigger and bigger! That’s why I decided to contact Angie Rainey at Coffee Crate and ask her if she would co-produce the first annual Asheville Coffee Expo with me. She said yes! Whoop whoop! The 2016 Asheville Coffee Expo will be a celebration of the local NC coffee scene, bringing together roasters, brewers, baristas, manufacturers, and general public; anyone who loves coffee, for a day of fun, contests, vendors, demos and of course… COFFEEEEEEEEEE!
I’ll see you guys here and there, and everywhere they serve coffee.
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Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.