// The St. Louis coffee, tea, and chocolate scene bring extra excitement to the city. //
After weeks of rain in St. Louis sunshine and sweet breezes greeted us for the city's 6th annual Caffeine Crawl. A few key roasters that were with us from the beginning were joined with several new faces to make this lineup an excellent event showcasing the best in coffee, tea, and chocolate in the Lou.
The St. Louis drink scene momentum is rolling. Tours of impressive roasting facilities, chocolate and coffee collaborations, loose leaf tea, and creative brewing methods fueled this Crawl's success.
Park Avenue Coffee was on both Friday and Saturday's routes, and had our largest spread of cold brews to date on a Crawl. Talan led the presentation explaining each of the five cold brews to us as we drank each one off a designed menu drink mat. From first to last sample they were Amp'd Blend, Amp'd on nitro, a single-origin Ethiopia Yirgacheffe brewed using the Japanese method, Kaffelemonad (the Ethiopia brew with lemonade), and their Cafe con Miel (a draft latte with honey).
Kaldi's Coffee Roasting hosted a breakfast for two of their groups starting Saturday's routes. Breakfast highlighting Kaldi's culinary skills in their St. Louis shops followed brews of their coffees. Andrew took us on a tour of their space from the unique history of one of their Probat roasters to what takes place in the cupping room. Andrew's presentation was centered around the life of a coffee bean, which sparked a lot of fun questions.
Pete at Stringbean Coffee Co. welcomed us to his new roasting facility designed with his shared love for music and coffee. Guitars, artistic album art, and the original Soul Train disco ball surrounded us as he brewed using the Chemex and newer Phoenix 70 from Saint Anthony Industries. We had cups of the collaboration roast, a Peru and Guatemala, where Stringbean and Living Room worked together on this roast - sales went directly to local charity, All Among Us. Before we left Pete had samples of a homemade coffee ice cream using their Red Eye Blend for all of us
Signature drinks were a highlight on this Crawl, also. Catalyst Coffee Bar was a new face on the Crawl, and Jac was surrounded by walls of fine art in the gallery space and invited us closer to try his drink creation. The drink, served over ice, used a Burundi from coffee roaster Passenger, an elderberry kombucha, tonic, fresh squeezed orange and lemon, and muddled grape.
Paul at Kitchen House Coffee gave us the background on his shop and the importance of the shop's effect on the surrounding environment from their chickens outside the shop, reusing waste product, and the team all being able to walk or bike to work. Sam passed around her drink creations - soda with a blueberry-lavender-honey syrup, and seltzer water, and a cold brew using the same simple syrup, and option for a half & half float.
At The Mud House the team brought their mobile cart out front for us to imbibe and soak in the sun with Cherokee Street vibes. They put together a cascara soda over ice called the Bauhaus Blast, a cascara simple syrup, elderflower soda water, and fresh lime to quench our thirst.
As we walked past the full patio in the Central West End (with locals casually drinking Toddys) Kitaro guided us to their roaster so he could give us a demo of the roasting process at Northwest Coffee Roasting Company. The Northwest team had liege waffle samples alongside a Toddy of their Ethiopia-Guatemala blend for us to take part in during the demo, and listening for those "cracks".
With a mix of different cold brews, different variations of hot coffee was just as comforting. Another new participant and roaster, Coma Coffee, brewed up their Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and the roaster, Chad, talked about roasting this particular coffee as teammate and barista, Connor, did a manual brewing demo. Our drink was paired with doughnuts holes from Pharaoh Donuts.
Sump Coffee also had a focus on brewing methods and a compare and contrast of their Peru Guay Apae from the 3Temp Hipster brewer and the Poursteady over a trio of V60s. Scott opened up a discussion on the change in taste relating to device to temperature to technology.
And, what about those tea and chocolate options in the Lou? Perfect timing too, with it being Mother's Day weekend,
Kakao Chocolate was our very first stop on Friday. The owner of the shops, Brian, gave us an overview of chocolate history, percentages in products, and more insight of the low amounts of caffeine in craft chocolate. Ilonka passed out a mocha caramel chocolate using a Stringbean coffee for us before we headed off to the next stop.
We learned about Bissinger's Handcrafted Chocolatier's rich history as a St. Louis chocolatier, and had a double chocolate creamette as we huddled around on the patio. For our drink, Bissinger's made iced cocoas for us. A nice combo!
We made sure we got tea time in with two more new shops for this Crawl. The London Tea Room hosted us on Friday and Confluence Kombucha on Saturday.
The London Tea Room had a set-up waiting for us led by Jackie, the owner of the Tower Grove shop. We got cozy with a range of teas - an Assam with and without milk, a black currant-vanilla blend, and cold steeped Burberry rooibos. Jackie shared with us the differences in processes and origins of each tea, and an English approach to tea as we also enjoyed our tea biscuits.
Confluence is located in the gastroLAB, which serves not just their own kombucha on tap, but fresh vegetarian options for lunch and dinner. For the Crawl we received a tour of production, talked about flavor combos, and had a sample of a rose kombucha.
We can sit around toasting our coffee cups arguing which has been the best Caffeine Crawl ever in St. Louis, but this one will be really hard to beat. The mix of getting to see new spaces, growth with other local businesses participating, and adding in a few new neighborhoods on routes made the perfect two-day forecast leading up to Mother's Day ideal. Thanks again to local support from Yelp - St. Louis, industry leaders Ally Coffee and Barista Magazine, and the new St. Louis Passport program. For a handy list of the shops and sponsors please visit this Crawl page. See you next year if not sooner. - Jason Burton