6 Amazing Drinks in Kansas City, Mo.

The city jumped into the specialty-coffee game early, and continues to be a top-tier destination for good brews.

BY EDDIE P. GOMEZ
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

Kansas City, Mo., continues to solidify its status as one of the premier specialty-coffee destinations in the United States. With its high concentration of tenured coffee professionals, tight-knit barista communities, and an ever-expanding network of cafés and roasteries, there is a lot to experience in Kansas City when it comes to coffee. We recently spent five days in the city searching out amazing drinks, and here are some of the delicious drinks we discovered.

The blueberry, lemon, ginger espresso tonic from Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters is a guaranteed thirst quencher. Photo by Eddie P. Gomez.

Blueberry, Lemon, Ginger Espresso Tonic: Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters

Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters in the River Market neighborhood feels like it is part fishing cabin nestled in the middle of a busy city and part community hangout spot. Rustic collectibles line the walls, with plenty of nooks in which to settle. The café includes a full bar that serves alcohol, so it’s busy late into the night.

Their espresso tonic features a locally sourced and house made blueberry, lemon, and ginger syrup so bursting with flavor that it lingers on the palate long after it’s gone. Thou Mayest buys blueberries from a farm just outside of Kansas City, keeping with its reputation for sourcing only the best ingredients. The syrup adds to but does not overshadow the Super Ego Blend, a chocolatey, nutty dark roast. The effervescent tonic water provides a last pillar of balance to the blueberry, lemon and ginger espresso tonic while a candied ginger garnish finalizes the icy drink’s lip-smacking potential.

The Honeybear Latte at PH Coffee features a scrumptious syrup designed by Kansas City coffee legend Kate Blackman. Photo by Eddie P. Gomez.

Honeybear Latte: PH Coffee

PH Coffee in Pendleton Heights is reminiscent of coffee’s second wave—the type of shop where friends gather over coffee and forget about the world outside. Picturesque windows, a big-screen TV, and a children’s play area give the café an irresistible living room feel. The neighborhood beyond the windows and the comfy interior felt like one continuous space into which it was possible to melt in the sunset’s last light.

Longtime KC coffee pro Holly Bastin helped us find the right coffee drink: “We have a few great ones, but you have to try the Honeybear Latte. It tastes like Teddy Graham crackers but way better,” she said. KC coffee and wine expert Kate Blackman designed this drink, which is driven by a syrup with dynamic ingredients: star anise, wildflower honey, brown sugar, and cinnamon. The Honeybear uses Hammerhand Coffee’s Light of Eärendil, a light-roasted blend of Ugandan and Brazilian coffees. The drink proved so delicious that I ordered a second one to further melt into the moment.

The cortado at Sway Coffee Roasters provides a perfect balance of espresso and milk in a relaxed atmosphere. Photo by Eddie P. Gomez.

Cortado: Sway Coffee Roasters

Sway Coffee’s self-described “down-to- earth” approach combines a minimalist yet comfortable aesthetic in the café. It features a neon-lit menu, Kandinsky-like paintings, artisan ceramics, blonde wood accents on bare concrete walls, and a full view of the roastery. The shop buzzed with activity during my visit. People didn’t mind stopping to chat; after I asked an older couple about their favorite drinks, the pair talked about their weekend coffee ritual and life in Missouri.

Cortados abound in Kansas City, but the one at Sway Coffee delivers an espresso forwardness that captures the best of two worlds. Anchored by the Dark + Stormy Blend, it also finishes smooth, creamy, and sweet. The organic blend is “equal parts Colombia and Ethiopia, dark and bright, robust and floral,” per Sway Coffee. A final treat consisted of talking with Kelsey about the roastery and taking home a bag of the Dark + Stormy Blend, which proved as tasty back home in California as it was in Kansas City.

The Shakerato Latte at Take Care by Oleo Coffee features a flavorful blend that delivers frothy satisfaction. Photo by Eddie P. Gomez.

Shakerato Latte: Take Care by Oleo Coffee

Take Care by Oleo Coffee is a coffee bar in Kansas City that opened last year with an inviting, bright-red facade. The café evokes a working-class charm that includes wood floors, brick walls, and farm life paraphernalia for decor. The coffee bar is the brainchild of Christopher Oppenhuis and Mark Sappington, founders of the Kansas City wholesale roasting company Marcell Coffee.

A tray of piping-hot biscuits came out of the oven as I stepped through the door of the café. I ordered a Shakerato Latte and took a seat in order to measure its potential, trying to forget about the biscuits. The Farm Blend—a dark roast featuring coffees from Colombia and Brazil, and sourced by the roastery’s partner, Anthem Coffee Imports—is hard at work in this shaken latte, up front and present, despite a greater ratio of oat milk. Vanilla syrup and a dash of cinnamon add their own zip. The foamy texture ends up a chewable treat that elevates the drink’s potent but not-too-sweet balance of flavors. 

Curiosity got the better of me, and I ordered a second Shakerato Latte and one of the aforementioned biscuits, which are served with copious amounts of butter. The result proved enchanting, one of the simplest yet tastiest pairings in recent memory. An impromptu Instagram story set to Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” captured the moment of bliss: “One sip shakerato latte, one bite magic, crispy biscuit.” Mission accomplished. 

The latte flight at Café Corazón is an all-time great, but the Churro Atole Latte will set your taste buds to full throttle. Photo by Eddie P. Gomez.

Latte Flight: Café Corazón

In Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District, a line snakes out the door at Café Corazón on most afternoons, but visitors don’t mind the wait. Inside, a Latinx and Indigenous motif supercharges the coffeehouse with artwork and a sense of community. Roll-up doors add to the scene by allowing the rattle and hum of Southwest Boulevard to filter inside. According to their website, “The incredible variety of culture, food, language, and music—fostered and appreciated by Latinx cultures provides beauty and inspiration to us all. And this is what Café Corazón reflects.”

The barista staff at Café Corazón was kind enough to make a latte flight even though it was closing time. Each of the three lattes set in motion a flavor overload that was held together by a capable and tasty espresso blend. The Horchata Latte, a mix of espresso and a traditional rice milk beverage, proved deliciously light, and contrasted well with the dessert-like decadence of the Dulce de Leche Latte, which is topped by caramel-like ribbons. The Churro Atole Latte, which contains organic blue corn pinole (ground, roasted maize), maple syrup, and cinnamon, was the one that most captured our hearts. It was possible to taste the wholesomeness of the organic blue corn alongside the espresso, and the resulting texture of the drink made for a unique sensory experience.

With Love, from Messenger is a cold-brew mocktail featured at one of Messenger Coffee’s Slow Bar Saturdays. Photo by Eddie P. Gomez.

With Love, from Messenger: Messenger Coffee Company

Messenger Coffee’s flagship location in the heart of downtown KC is deeply woven into the city’s social fabric. Slow Bar Saturday showcases mocktails made from the company’s expertly sourced coffees and teas. Experiencing this bit of coffee greatness is as easy as buying a token on the first floor and taking it upstairs, where baristas set up shop in a corner of the second floor. An array of windows lights up the space, while staff roasts coffee nearby and waves of customers eat, sip, and socialize.

With Love, from Messenger (which the café featured back in February)shocks the palate with an unforgettable burst of tart and sweet. The Jamaica-inspired drink combines cold brew, a sorrel base that features spiced aromatics, and simple syrup. It delivers notes of “tart cherries, hibiscus, citrus, spices and cold brew,” per Messenger. There are great mocktails, then there is With Love, from Messenger, a delicious rendering of artistry and craftsmanship in a vibrant but everyday setting.   

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eddie P. Gomez (he/him) is a freelance writer based in Modesto, Calif. When he is not substitute teaching kindergarten classes, he wanders from city to city, perfecting the art of the food and coffee adventure.

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