For My Caffeine Fiends
Winter in Connecticut can be TOUGH, and finding things to do can be even tougher! What are we to do when the beaches are too cold to tread? When all the cider mills stop pouring? When all the small towns’ holiday light parades are long gone???
Despite the weather being so dreary, I try to get out and about at least once a day. My favorite way to curb the winter time blues is to pop into my favorite coffee shop and just soak in the atmosphere. There’s something about the quaintness of a coffee shop that always lures me right in. Not to mention the sweet aroma of those magical little beans roasting away!
I never realized how many amazing locally owned and run coffee shops we have all over our state. I went on a mission to discover some of the best to get you out of the house on these chilly, gloomy, February days.
Whether you’re a caffeine queen or a dainty decaf lover (hey, we don’t judge) here’s a breakdown of my favorite coffee shops to check out in your area!
Vault Coffee Roasters
Situated in Ye Olde Mystick Village (I always read that Old-eee), this coffee shop is a gem! I make the trip at least once a week. My favorite thing about Vault is the atmosphere, by far. Every time I walk in, the baristas are chatting with a faithful customer or two and are always so friendly. I love that sense of small town community.
On a more mild winter day, I like to take my latte to go and walk around the shops there! Nothin’ like stretching your legs after being cooped up inside since October. Step into Vault and turn around to see a large chalk board boasting of the local ingredients they carry! Followed by a very homey decor, of course.
All the best things are always seasonal; Reese’s eggs, apple cider, candy canes... Vault has a drink that is no different. They have an Eggnog Latte that I cannot get enough of! I think that is the one and only thing I will be sad about when spring and summer comes, because I won't be able to get my hands on another until next year (Oh, the horror!) But that's fine because they have such a great list of good eats, drinks, and specials. I typically grab a coffee cake muffin to compliment my latte too. I've also ordered bagels from them on occasion and I know they just started carrying Devious Doughnuts (YUM).
Another gem in Mystic I came across for the first time was MBar, and what a treat it was! A unique building boasting of a chic industrial interior. There was not only great coffee but a wine rack! (Heart eyes for days).
Jonah and I went for a nice brunch date and were so pleasantly surprised. While they don’t do alterations on the food orders, I was glad because it forced me to try something new! Jonah had eggs and hash, that he said was so fresh and delicious.
Naturally I got myself a latte, but when my warm drink came to the table I was beside myself. How could I consume this masterpiece?! I thanked the man behind the counter (with a rather impressive mustache, I must say) for blessing me with this beauty.
What’s so interesting about MBar is that it was once a gas station! When they renovated, the owners kept the garage doors which totally adds to the character of the building. When the weather starts getting nice out, they have outdoor seating too.
Grounded Coffee Company
A newby but goodie! How I WISH this was here when I went to school at Eastern... I could see myself being a regular.
Situated on the main strip of Willimantic, this WiFi equipped coffee shop was full of students and fellow coffee lovers alike. Some individuals were typing feverishly on their laptops while my friend, Jen, and I were chatting away!
I ordered the mocha latte, and Jen had gotten a drink with oat milk! Yes you read that correctly. The most allergen friendly thing they could have for a “creamer”. We got such a kick out of it! Being someone with a lot of allergies though, I appreciate the thoughtfulness of having options.
We couldn't help but take in the old fireplace that they kept in the middle of the dining area. Jen said it was so sweet to think that this building was probably an old mill worker's home and their little ones would crowd around that very same fireplace together. There is definitely an undeniable charm to Grounded, and it can't be missed by its very cheery, yellow exterior! But step inside and it looks like Joanna Gaines paid a visit. No seriously, I want my future home to look like the inside of this coffee shop. Hats off to whoever did the decorating!
My tummy was rumblin’ so I ordered a plain bagel with cream cheese. I didn’t realize a plain bagel could be SO good. This was not your Dunkin on the run bagel... I’m talking a fresh crunch and just the right amount of dougheyness (definitely not a word but now it is). The best part was not feeling heavy and lethargic after scarfing it do- I mean, eating it like a lady... That’s when you know it’s good.
Social Coffee Roastery
Tucked away in this little part of Stonington was a coffee (and Instagrammer's) paradise! You can just tell how much the owner thoroughly enjoys what he does. When it comes to coffee, he really knows his stuff! In store you can buy bags of coffee to take home from some of the best places in the world. Under the sign you can see yummy pastries like scones, cannolis, and all sorts of other home baked goodies in these pretty glass display trays. Basically all the perfect pairings for even more perfect drinks.
Walking into Social, I could understand why the name fit so well. Everyone was engaged in conversation over their espresso drinks. Or at least I assume they were having espresso drinks because that’s all I usually get! Lattes are life, okay?
My brother's fiancee and I went and sat right up in the front window seat were we got a perfect street view. Looking around, the palm leaves were so reminiscent of my trip to Hawaii last March... Needless to say, it was making me very travel hungry too. The very modern decor evoked such a fun atmosphere and definitely aids in this being a very social space!
The quality of the coffee here is unmatched. Of course I went ahead and added two shots of caramel to my latte, and wished I had only had one as to not mask that espresso! I cannot wait to come back and (this time) enjoy their caffeinated goodness for what it is.
Story & Soil Coffee Co.
A magnet for the modern eclectic, S&S is a very hip place. It seeps cool. With a neon sign highlighting the name and a record player delivering some nice tunes overhead, I couldn’t help but want to stay and lounge here forever with my newest poetry book (thank you, my dear Lex!) Over head there were potted plants bringing about the earthiest feel, which was so refreshing after coming in from the hustle and bustle of Hartford. Jonah got a black iced coffee (I know) and I got a hot chocolate to mix things up a bit.
Not one detail went overlooked here! I only wish I was closer so I could try everything. One thing I saw on their menu that differed from all the others was their kombucha. I have yet to try Kombucha but from what I’ve heard... it’s pretty darn good! AND good for you. I think I'm just having a hard time seeing passed the little seed things in there, I'm kind of a texture person.
I didn’t realize how much coffee knowledge I lacked with such an educated staff behind the counter! One woman was explaining the differences between drinks to a customer and I couldn’t help but listen in. I was learning so much! And they didn't even seem to mind us asking all these questions- they were more than happy to share.
One thing that caught my eye was this humongous cookie topped with what looked like Reese’s Pieces. It took everything in me not to snatch that up and dip it in my cocoa! Which by the way, was a work of art in and of itself. I haven't seen a coffee place get crafty with their hot cocoa before, but Story and Soil is different. Complete with whole milk that made it so rich and there was a strip of what I assume was either cinnamon or cocoa, topped with a single marshmallow.
Essex Coffee and Tea Company
Now I know the point of this was not to play favorites or anything buuuut....
HOLY MOLY this shop is fantastic. I got my usual caramel latte from them and let me tell you, the foam was flawless! Beyoncé level flawless, ladies, I’m not messin' around here.
Jonah branched out and ordered a maple latte. He is typically so against anything that’s not a regular black coffee but when he tried this I could not get over his expression! The look on his face said it all and he finally realized that my “fancy” order was quite the treat after all.
One thing I have to go back for is to try their Coconut macaroons. As I was heading to the outdoor seating on that UNSEASONABLY warm day we had, I noticed those macaroons won multiple awards and are very famous. Not to mention there was the cutest apparel and stickers to the right as well.
This was the type of latte I have dreams about after having it. So delicious and not too sweet either! The ratios of milk, espresso, foam, and flavor were exceptional. I cannot rave enough about how good this was. They also had a whole counter of baked goods to go with their liquid gold, in case you can handle even more deliciousness on your pallet.
The locals already knew of this wonderful place, as the seating off to the right was pretty full, and not just of any one demographic either. Everyone comes to enjoy their friendly service and beverages. I can only imagine how slammed they must be in the summertime! The roadstrip this shop is on is the cutest area and really encompasses Essex’s rich beginnings. They also have local honey for sale and a whole slew of choices in beverages.
If coffee isn’t really your thing, the tea they have here is incredible! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an extensive list of teas with the same variety. If you want black teas, green teas, herbal teas, you name it, they have it. They even have a matcha green latte for my matcha lovers ;) I thought that was perfectly fitting to try out for St. Patrick’s Day coming up! Along with their other holiday appropriate drinks...
I genuinely cannot wait to be back! This is for sure one of my new favorite spots. It's even on the way to Jonah's work so the next time I go to bring him lunch... hehehe. Any excuse to get back in there!
J. Rene Coffee Roasters
The moment I walked in, I wished I had the ability to copy and paste a place so that it could be closer to me. But no matter how many times I mentally right clicked, this awesome shop wasn’t going anywhere. Perfectly situated for a coffee break after your Westfarms mall visit, though!
What really caught my eye was the humongous machines. (Sidenote: who else is totally in love with that exposed brick?) Just to the left of that was neat little accessories you could by like glasses and what looked like a decanter type glass, but I'm assuming for coffee. Regardless, I'm sure there was an art to it that enabled your coffee drinking experience to be even grander.
I was feeling like a true New Englander when I ordered an iced mocha in the middle of February. In my defense though, the temperature was 67 outside! At that point it might as well have been July after the 27 degrees I'm used to. It seemed like that was everyone else's drink of choice too. They were crankin' out the iced coffees and iced lattes that day! Although, I broke the trend by getting Jonah a dark roast, which he really enjoyed.
I loved the relaxing atmosphere and the friendliness of the people behind the counter was even better. On almost every table inside were these cute little plants. (Again, I’m really digging the greenery, guys!) The sitting area here was far larger than the other shops already mentioned, which is perfect for all of you and your gals after a nice long shopping trip at Westfarms! Listen, I’m not used to nice malls like that in this part of the state, okay?
While I didn't hit all of these in the same day, Jonah and I did make a fun road trip out of the ones farther from us. Starting south and working our way up, we were getting more and more caffeinated as the day went on (perfect for a second shifter like myself). I'm so glad I went beyond my comfort zone and my "usuals" because the reward was very great.
What Coffee shops do you love to frequent? Have a favorite order from some of these places? Let me know in the comments below, I'd love to try them all out! Don't forget to like and share with your fellow caffeine fiends (or your tea lovers) for plenty of ideas for your next coffee shop adventure.
All the best,
a very caffeinated Kels