Restaurant Review: Local Coffee and/or Tea Shops

Over the past month or so, I realized that I while I could easily be a hermit, I can’t happily be one.  Too much alone time makes me a crazy person.  Now I’m still an introvert and still like my solitude, but too much time at home makes me nutty. I still have tons of work to do for school and upcoming teaching gigs, but home is no longer a great place to get things done.  Plus, it’s filled with other distractions – an adorable but mischievous beagle, 2 ornery cats that like to hold my books hostage, other chores that could be done, television, fun reading, etc.  Thus, I’ve been checking out various local coffee shops in an attempt to find a few comfy spots to curl up and do work amongst other people outside my house.  Here’s where I’ve been thus far.

Note: these are ranked in order of my visit, not in order of my favorites.  And if you have any other suggestions of places for me to check out, please feel free to leave a comment as I’m always looking for new ideas.

1) Uncommon Grounds in Uptown.  This place has fabulous chai, a fun and cozy vibe with comfortable seating.  However, the staff isn’t super thrilled to have people hanging out doing homework.  They’d rather have social/dating coffee drinkers.

2) Grand Central over near Macalester College in St Paul; it’s right on Grand Ave.  They have a really tasty smoked caprese sandwich that I will occasionally crave now.  The peppermint herbal tea is tasty and comes in a cute little pot.  But, their kitchen can be closed at weird times; when my sister and I went the first time, they closed their kitchen several hours before the shop was closing.  Very strange – especially as A and I watched people come in again and again and try to order only to be told that the kitchen was closed.  My sister was really not thrilled with the place; she went with the sole purpose of getting crepes, but they, for unknown reasons, weren’t making crepes that day. But, I went back again by myself (I really, really liked the smoked caprese sandwich) and had a good experience.

3) J & S Bean Factory, off of Randolph Ave in St Paul, was super tasty.  The place smells incredible! A loved her Mexican mocha, and wants to go back again soon for another.  The space is tiny and not super comfortable, but they do have a plethora of outlets for those needing to charge a laptop or tablet.  The staff is super friendly and helpful, seem to really love what they do, and there’s great energy between the staff and patrons that’s super fun to watch.  Seems to be quite the community that gathers around this place.

4) Rustica Bakery over near Lake Calhoun has a friendly staff, but their kitchen was closed on the day I visited.  My Earl Grey tea was nice, but the chocolate croissant was stingy on the chocolate, slightly burnt, and stale.

5) Verdant Tea Tasting Room in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.  The staff is very kind, helpful, knowledgeable and laid back!  I felt like a deer in the headlights looking at their tea selection, but they’re excited about what they do and make helpful recommendations.  They have a great tea selection filled with items that you’re not likely to find anywhere else.  You can do tea tasting flights (4 different types of tea), and these are designed to share and more fun that way.  Or you can do bottomless pots of tea for $3.00. They’ve got tea brewing down to a science, and consequently, no sugar is needed with their tea.  (Though to be honest if you needed it, I’m not sure where you’d find it here;  consequently I’d probably never bring my dad here.)  They also do chai lattes which are loaded up on ginger; there’s definitely a ginger burn from the chai, but its so good and not overly sweet.  The chai latte and Sweet Science Apple Crisp ice cream are a perfect pairing!

Verdant also has tasty food with lots of gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian options to pick from; they have really yummy toast and jam, but the Sweet Science ice cream is very, very good.   The space is tranquil and thoughtfully designed with live plants everywhere.  There’s also an ample supply of outlets just in case you need them for your laptop.  Seating can sometimes be hard to find, as quite a few folks are aware of this little gem.

6) Corner Coffee in the Warehouse district of Minneapolis was a place I accidentally checked out last week.  Accidentally meaning it wasn’t on my list, but had a meeting there so decided to get there early and read with some hot chocolate.  The staff is super nice, and the shop got bonus points from me for the staff’s hospitality and kindness towards a homeless man who hung out the entire time I was there.   They do have a few cute and comfy couches, and also, they do have power strips along the seating facing the windows.  So, you can drink your mocha, charge your laptop, and stare at passersby all at one time.

7) Overflow Espresso Cafe near the U of M off of University Ave. The picture above was taken here while my sister and I worked on homework and sipped on pots of tea.  A pot of tea (about 3-4 cups) is $2.50. They’ve got a nice selection of loose leaf teas.    This, for me, is a great deal as it takes me about 2-3 hours to drink that much tea.  And additionally, they’ve got a range of comfortable seating and tables for groups. The staff is super nice.  For concerned laptop users, there are outlets all over the place. Once the University light rail extension is finished, they’ll be handily right next to one of the lightrail stops.  Also nice about this place is that they have free parking in the form of a large lot.  On a random note, the bathrooms have some of the most interesting faucets that I have ever seen.

My two favorites are Verdant Tea Tasting Room and Overflow Espresso Cafe.  I can easily see myself as a regular at either of these places.

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