Caffeine Crawl Proves St. Louis is One of America’s Next Best Coffee Cities

Article and photos by  Sadie Colwell

St. Louis’ Third Annual Caffeine Crawl kicked off in the late Friday afternoon sunshine at the roasting plant of Chauvin Coffee. Crawlers grabbed burlap goodie bags filled with their very own copy of Barista Magazine and treats from our other awesome sponsors: Wholesome Sweeteners, Bhakti Chai, and Rip Van Wafels. We explored the roasting facility and crawlers ordered custom drinks from the in-plant café. After listening to Verner and the Chauvin team give a history of their more than 80 years of coffee roasting experience, crawlers piled into buses from St. Louis Transportation and we were off!

Chavin Coffee's roaster inspires historic awe and feelings of summer.
Chavin Coffee’s roaster inspires historic awe and feelings of summer.

At Sump Coffee, Scott welcomed crawlers into his uniquely charismatic space and invited us to gather around and observe the coffee brewing process in action. Serving up a delicious Rwanda through his sleek Alpha Dominche Steampunk machine made for a fascinated group of crawlers, and happy sighs of satisfaction as we sipped the finished product from brightly colored demitasse cups.

Scott explains Steampunk brewing to fascinated crawlers at Sump Coffee.
Scott explains Steampunk brewing to fascinated crawlers at Sump Coffee.

Kakao Chocolate had paired up with local roaster Stringbean Coffee to create a chocolate pairing that was out of this world. A Peaberry cold brew infused with bourbon and aged in oak barrels washed down a brownie truffle, soaked in Stringbean’s œmoonshine,  coated in marshmallow and dipped in chocolate. We drooled all the way to the next stop.

Crawlers pair price tags with tasting samples to identify Kopi Luwak at Comet Coffee.
Crawlers pair price tags with tasting samples to identify Kopi Luwak at Comet Coffee.

Comet Coffee went all out with a game of The Price is Right to compare coffee pricing and quality correlations. Crawlers were given three price tags ”$9, $16, and $125 ”and asked to pair them with the three brewed coffee samples. Astonishment reigned as the least enjoyable brew was revealed as the most expensive ”our very own taste of the renowned Kopi Luwak, for $125 per pound.

Blueprint pulled shots of their newly released Penrose Espresso on the Barista Nation Stella di Café espresso machine built by Unic. Crawlers admired their sleek, minimalistic bar set up, and USBC finalist Nora Brady demonstrated a run-through of her barista competition. An excellent evening was complemented at Kaldi’s original café on DeMun, where a lovely cocktail reception  awaited us. Crawlers soaked up the ambiance of brick, red curtains and chandeliers in the back room and relaxed after an evening of caffeination. As we mingled, we tasted Colombia Tres Cuidades paired with local Bissinger’s Chocolate Banana Pecan Caramel Bar, Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. Triskel IPA, and Tumalo Farms Pondhopper Goat Cheese from Bend, Oregon.

The happy remains of Blueprint Coffee's new Penrose espresso tasting.
The happy remains of Blueprint Coffee’s new Penrose espresso tasting.

Kaldi’s roasting plant did a fabulous job as the kickoff point for Saturday’s crawl. While enjoying a full educational tour of their impressive roasting space, crawlers observed coffee roasting first hand, participated in a cupping, and watched a barista competition run through from David Fasman.

The Bike Route's tickets to the city await their riders in front of Kaldi's roasting plant.
The Bike Route’s tickets to the city await their riders in front of Kaldi’s roasting plant.

Coffee Cartel prepared us for summer with coffee chocolate and caramel chillers before we headed to the Grove for a taste of community and local love at Rise Coffee. After learning about the heart and soul that has gone into making Rise a place the neighborhood can come together and thrive, we tasted espresso piccolos with local honeycomb and wandered through the unique shop.

Rise Coffee's chic and cozy atmosphere evokes a sense of community and caring.
Rise Coffee’s chic and cozy atmosphere evokes a sense of community and caring.

We took in a roasting demonstration at Northwest Coffee Roasting Co., with the garage doors open and the scent carrying into the streets. At Chronicle, owner Jason Wilson gave an inspiring talk on St. Louis neighborhood history and community while we had pourover brews of two different origins roasted by Northwest Coffee, which Chronicle owns and operates. Comet Coffee changed up their topic for day 2 with a washed vs. natural Ethiopian tasting, and Blueprint was back in the game on Saturday as well, with more Penrose espresso and lots of great answers to crawler questions. Sump, if you will, œSteampunked  through Saturday’s routes with just as much finesse as on Friday, and was met with awe and excitement. Scott’s extraordinary red beard may have helped.

Kayak’s Cafe rounded out Saturday’s routes with hospitality and flair as they welcomed crawlers into the cozy reserved back room. Tables lined with brewing devices and convenient boxed lunches for refueling led into an informative tasting session on coffee 4 ways: Toddy, Clever, Chemex, and French Press. Crawlers left happy with coconut chocolate cookies and a taste for brewing diversity ”a fitting end to a successful and satisfying third  annual Caffeine Crawl through the vibrant, caffeinated city of St. Louis, Missouri.

Chemex-CheerSadie Colwell  is a completely committed coffee addict who adores coffee shop culture and chocolate. She is currently living the loft life in downtown Kansas City, Mo., with her extraordinary husband, Tyler, and her imaginary dog. When she isn’t advancing her unorthodox latte art skills as a barista at Quay coffee, working on a project for The LAB (creators of Caffeine Crawl), or teaching young prodigies to play the piano and like it, she dives headfirst into blogging and freelance projects with reckless abandon.

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