5 Best Coffee Shops in STL

The world definitely doesn’t run on Dunkin!

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What would you do without good coffee? Adulting would be obsolete. Chores wouldn’t be completed. Jobs would be lost. Kids would have angry parents. And so on.

As a professional coffee gulper, I am going to help you find the best shops in St. Louis. There’s a time where the half-burnt pot at the work station has to do, but October 7 is not that day, so follow along here as I list the five best coffee shops in the city.

5) Tim Horton’s Cafe and Bakery, The Pre-work Fix

Do you want that reliable diner coffee taste, but with an extra kick in the butt? Go to Tim’s. There’s a drive through off Olive and Tucker, a pitstop at Lafayette and 55/44, or the Big Bend/Manchester location. Don’t get a twenty ounce tank. Get a small coffee with two shots of espresso. Less trips to the bathroom and an extra arch in your morning grin.

4) Hartford Coffee, the Morning Gear shift

After you have polished off the hot cup of Canadian hockey player lava, head over to Tower Grove South and grab a 16 ounce Iced Americano. It’s not 40 degrees outside yet, so feel free to drop some cool temps down the throat to balance things out. A perfect Americano has a backyard firepit aftertaste to it with a bitter finish. If you have to, drop an extra sugar in there, but drink this beverage as straight as possible.

*Located at 3974 Hartford Street, 63116

3) Sump Coffee, the post lunch refuel

Throw down the Blues City Deli sandwich and then head over to Sump for a strong cup of coffee. Instead of drinking a disgusting 5 hour energy capsule, get serious with dirty water. It’s healthier. You’ll see a bald man with a long ginger beard named Scott. He may look like an extra from the Sons of Anarchy, but in reality he has the voice of an angel and is a sweet man. You’ll look behind the counter and see what looks like a science lab experiment happening with coffee. Beakers, test glasses, and pouring seminars. Don’t be intimidated by the menu. Just ask for the Kenya blend. Scott will describe it like Mick Jagger describing the writing process behind Gimme Shelter, but when you drink it, the strength will make the rest of the work day seem like a piece of cake.

*Located at 3700 South Jefferson Avenue, 63118

2) La Cosecha Coffee Roasters, the afternoon mood boost

The Maplewood gents roast their coffee right behind the counter. There’s pour overs and serious business going on like Sump, but there’s a more relaxed vibe here. One of the owner’s is a Royals fan, but that blue is still better than Chicago blue, so go in between 2-4 p.m. for half-priced happy hour, and get a two dollar Cafe Latte. I know what you are thinking: death by a thousand bubbles of foam. But these people do it right, and if you are extra nice, they will drop some honey and vanilla in there. It will almost feel like the weekend.

*Located at 7360 Manchester Road, 63113

1) Shaw’s Coffee, the finishing touch

Leave the coffee, take the macciatto. Your final National Coffee Day stop will happen on The Hill, the place where Yogi Berra called home and Frank Cusumano will eat his last meal. You’ll walk in, duck out of the way of the huge plants, and ask the lady at the counter for a tall macchiato. This isn’t your college campus preppy Starbucks macchiato, with four pumps of caramel and a dab of soy. This is espresso AND foam. Nothing else. It only takes two to make this drink tango. The real deal, minus Arnold. The good stuff. It will come in a small fancy cup sitting on a plate. Head over to a window seat. Relax. Sip. Do not drink. Sip slowly. Savor it. Certain drinks are walks, not marathons.

*Located at 5147 Shaw Avenue, 63110

That’s it. Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers, and you closed the door completely shut. The weekend won’t know what to do with you. There could be an urge to run home. Just walk. Forget the free cups of coffee at Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts. Check these places out.

The above five drinks will cost you a grand total of 16 dollars. In other words, two drinks at Starbucks.

Take my word for it. I know my coffee.

A RANT: Black coffee, stay at home parenthood and whiskey thoughts

A day in the life of a stay at home dad.

Greetings,

I am your bartender this afternoon and today’s drink is a stream consciousness that has no rhythm yet should you hit in some area of the heart or mind. As the great folk singer Todd Snider said barefoot at the Sheldon Theater in downtown STL, “I am not here to change your mind, but ease my own.” Something like that. Here we go.

A Day in the Life of Stay at Home Parenthood

Vin and IBeing a stay at home dad means you have no sick days and sometimes feel like you aren’t normal. Allow me to explain. I get up every day around 9-10am. No, I don’t rise with my kid. He gets up and dresses himself. Wipes his ass. Takes a piss. Gets a drink. Plays with toys. He’s four years old. While dad boots up like a 1985 Macintosh computer, he is already blazing. That’s kids. He will be sitting there sipping a smoothie, playing a game on his iPod, and watching Transformers before I even bare to register a thought. He’s a genius and I can only exist in his world. He knows it too. Every morning, he goes. “Are you getting up dad?” As if he was saying, I run on solar powered batteries asshole, let’s go.

When it’s time, I rise. This is normal. I get up and whisk my slow moving feet over to the Keurig, otherwise known as my second wife or mistress. It’s my go go juice. My mood barometer. Something to steady me by and launch with. I need it like a skydiver needs his parachute. Like Brian Williams needs a fairy tale. Like Vladimir Tarasenko needs a stick and ice to prove to us he isn’t human. I like my coffee black folks. No cream, milk, sugar, or ceiling dust. If anything, I drop a gram of stevia(plant extract clean sweetener) into it just so I can drink it faster. After two cups, I am ready to ask the kid if he needs anything before I start doing laundry. A waffle, some chocolate milk or a swift kick in the ass. The last one comes the easiest. I check the sink and empty and reload the dishwasher. The key is to not break glasses because you will never find all the shards. Ever. Be careful here. Nobody gets a gold star for putting away dishes fast. They just get a piece of glass in their foot. There is only one John McClane, assholes. Don’t be a tough guy with dishes. Be safe.

Afterwards, it’s vacuum time. Check the floor. My cat usually rapes it at least four times a day. I don’t get cats sometimes. They supposedly cover their shit up by kicking litter all over the floor AWAY from the actual turd and they scratch a carpet because they can’t clip their nails. Laundry started, dishes, and vacuum. I need a holster for my coffee damn it. I could really get some shit done. The possibilities. John Lennon wanted an island. Johnny Depp has an island. I just want a holster for my coffee cup.

Random thought: What did people do before they had coffee pots and Keurigs. What would the world be like without coffee in it? There’s the water crisis. Oil. Clean environment. I think about a coffee-less world and I cry. Genuine man tears. The ones where guys angle their face down, try to catch some pollen and fake a sneeze. No coffee would make me a Purge artist every fucking day. No sequels needed. Give me the gun. Can you picture the movie trailer voice guy?

“One man. One guy. One horse. All in the name of coffee bean extraction. If there’s java, he will be there. Double the action. Triple the caffeine. Dan Buffa is….the Coffee Chaser.” That would be a 90 page script. Maybe sequels where I teach the aliens how to make espresso. Who knows?

So everything is started and this is where I try to sit down and write something. The KSDK crew isn’t in yet and there are optimal times to post articles people. 9am, noon, 5pm and maybe 7pm. That’s it. You want views. Post then. If not, the words you put together will be read by the internet janitor and he doesn’t really exist. If I have nothing by 12pm, I hold off. Save the draft. Cards. Blues. Movies. Whatever, it can wait.

I’ve already checked Twitter and Facebook. Email. That’s before I even get up. For a social media bitch like myself, someone who could live tweet a sleep seminar, I grab my phone before I even lift my head. You respond to some tweet and spell three words wrong because you are holding the phone above your head in fear of dropping it you speed up the thumb taps. That’s first. The apartment could be on fire but I need to check my mentions you pricks.

Once I save the article, I see if the kid wants to go out and witness the outside world. We have one car right now so all we have are the feet and the bikes. I don’t want to talk about my car problems because it will only bore you and make you click on that Blake Shelton/Gwen Stefani “They actually are fucking” talking head piece. We have one car, so Vinny and I head out. He rides his bike around the complex while I drink more coffee and stroll behind him. I am unofficial secret service in gym shorts and a t-shirt. Who needs a suit when you are in a gated community and can be more flexible in elastic shorts. He loves it. We hit the playground and he wears himself out. After two laps around the complex and 20 minutes on the playground, he’s taxed and says, “It’s hot. I’m tired. Let’s go inside.”

I have no problem with this. Why? Because I am selfish. I don’t need to be outside every day all day. I am not Bear fucking Grylls. I can go back inside, relax and harbor my energy for a workout later or whatever. He is tired yet won’t take a nap. He’ll lay down, and get up. A few times. He’ll eat something and smash 35 toys together on the floor. Kids are marvels are scattering their toys around the apartment so a parent has to bend over repeatedly to pick them up. He will space out three trucks far enough to make you crawl around his room. All the while, he looks at you like a large ant who happens to be his bitch.

I think about writing again and then decide not to. I reconsider and pump out two quick articles. Yeah,  I can write. It comes easy to me. As you can see here as we pass the 1100 word mark, I can do it whenever I want. Some people make this big deal about writing like it’s calculus or something. They struggle. They retire and un-retire. They try to sound cool when they write something, like they are Michael Jordan coming out for a 3 on 3 session on a North Carolina back court. For me, writing is essential for being happy and maintaining my sanity. I do it because I love talking sports, movies and TV but also because I just love to express a though through the written word. Unlike podcasts and recording, a written piece is always there to go back to and revisit. I can do it easily and on many subjects. For example, I wrote articles on Lance Lynn, the beer of the week, a TV show review, a movie review and scheduled a couple interviews the past 72 hours. It’s a gift and it’s mine. Whether it’s good or not is beside the point. I can do it and people dig it. Good enough for me.

When the kid does crash for a bit, I stop everything. When he does take a short nap, if ever, that is time for me not to do laundry, write or wash dishes. That is time for me watch a TV show or movie with lots of curse words, sex or violence. Yeah, put that on a dad of the year slip. I take this valuable time to watch an R rated movie. Something not named Iron Man, Transformers or Toy Story. Something dirty. Raunchy. People doing bad things with dirty feet and hands or just an action flick with no remorse or need to censor something. You can’t watch these around the kid too much because the next time you are at Starbucks Vinny will imitate Frank Grillo and go, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” When he rises, the dark goodness gets turned off.

I need a shower before the wife gets home. It’s not a “I better smell good so I get some lovin feeling and sexy time” later shower. It’s a need to escape because for some reason, my son won’t bother me there. I keep the door open and he just stays away. He will check on me and ask me if I am done. I can just sit in there, soak, wash and soak more. I am the dad who brings a cold beer into the shower at 330 in the afternoon or maybe a glass of whiskey. Sip that shit. Slow. Drift away for a few minutes and come back. There’s something about hot water, steam, and soap that makes me think time travel is possible. I don’t know. Before I get in the shower I have to do some kind of exercise, especially if I haven’t worked out yet. I need to do a pushup, crunch, weight lift, burpee or something. Call it a man thing. I gotta do it. Explaining it would only make it weirder.

If my wife gets off work at 5pm, she is home by 545. She walks in and like a coroner assessing a dead body, looks over the house and its occupants. This is where the beaten up prisoner, the blow torch, tool belt and bullet casings need to be picked up or stashed away folks. Be careful, watch Dexter and get that shit right.

Dinner happens, loudness ensues because the wife is home and daddy has a tag team partner for the chaos and eventually Vin goes to sleep. He needs to because at 7am tomorrow, he will rise and we start this over again. My wife works 55-60 hours a week. She is a beautiful workhouse, so its Vin and I a lot of the time. That is our life and we are sticking to it. There are stressful days. It’s not even a headache. It’s a combination of a headache, shoulder pain and chest pains all together. You can’t get away from it so just suck it in. You just have to sink to the floor and eat it. It will pass. Every time. It passes and time keeps ticking. In life, the clock never stops. There are no penalties, timeouts or a time to slow it all down. The clock always moves forward, with or without you. That’s life. It’s a never ending stream of decisions, movements, stress inducers and stress relievers.

There’s nothing wrong with being a stay at home dad/writer. Really. There are days where I feel like I am ahead of the game, doing things well and keeping the kid happy. There are other days where it’s 12 Angry Men. Days where I feel like I am behind the eight, nine, and four ball. Days where I get my ass kicked and when my wife comes home, I am a charade of nastiness and it’s not fair to her. You can’t turn off a bad mood. Ever. It lurks on your face like a gash that won’t stop bleeding. I try to limit those days but what can I say I am human and can be a first rate bastard. But I won’t go away. I stay and fight. Like a boxer with no legs left but a will that can’t be denied.

When you sign up for stay at home duty, you are signing up for a 24/7 film. The camera never stops rolling. Around midnight is where I get silence and the freedom to watch several R rated movies and carry a thought or two. It’s a time to write so there is little time where I can just throw on a hoodie, roll up into the couch and not exist for a while. Stay at home dads don’t get off days or sick days. We are in it. All the time.

It’s worth it. When Vin is older, I am going to miss those days where he was four, I was 33 and time was endless. He is going to be grown up and I am going to be older and more weary. As parents, you can dream about the days where your kid goes off to school or moves out and you will never be prepared for when it actually happens. At least that’s what I think. When Vin leaves, a part of me will travel with him. Like a carry on piece of luggage that is tied to his wrist. That’s a dad. That’s a parent. You can’t shut it off.

Fuck. Fuck. I had to say this because I just dumped sap all over this previously rugged blog post. It was getting soft in here and out of control.

What else? 

*If you want to eat clean, eat lots of chicken breast. Broil it. Bake it. Whatever. Clean protein.

*Fruits that end in berry are very good for you.

*Don’t drink Sweet Tea. It will fucking kill you.

*A good workout doesn’t need to include weights or a gym.

*Never stop listening to music.

Here’s my final thought. No matter what happens in life, be you. Too often I see people adjust their personalities and makeup for someone else. Life is too short and runs by too fast to not be yourself. You know what I mean. Speak the way you were meant to. Do the things you need to do. At the end of the day, you must be satisfied with yourself. You should answer to you. Doing this will make you a better parent, son, daughter, friend and ally. A false version of yourself is good for nobody. Sometimes you will be mean to others and it’s okay because apologies are humbling and build character. Sometimes you will be nice and it won’t be received and it’s okay because receiving apologies will make you feel amazing. There will be good days and a lot more bad days. Life is a challenge. If it’s not mortality, it’s always something else. Just keep moving. Try to smile but don’t overdo it. Be careful who you bare your soul to. If they don’t deserve it, you can’t take back the information you gave them. Protect yourself at all times.

Thanks for reading. You can go now.

-DLB

Talking coffee with Maplewood’s La Cosecha

La Cosecha is brewing tasty coffee in Maplewood that deserves your attention.

When it comes to coffee, some people just want a hot cup of something in the morning. It doesn’t matter what it is. What are you drinking, exactly? Who knows? Then there are the fanatics who like a little something extra with their morning cuppa joe. Something with a taste to be remembered.

The moment I tasted the fresh brew from Maplewood’s La Cosecha Coffee, I knew it wasn’t your ordinary java. Tasty, multi-cultural and layered, the independent coffee shop’s flavors run the gauntlet of expectations. Unlike Starbucks, the commercial Goliath of coffee consumption, La Cosecha roasts their own coffee in house and adds a personal touch to the connection of supplier and receiver. It’s not just a transaction but a feeling that a face is being registered and appreciated. In order to fully get the scoop on what makes La Cosecha special and what the idea behind the name is, I asked co-founder Jamie Jeschke a few questions.
First off, what does La Cosecha mean and why was that the name that stuck?

Jamie Jeschke-La Cosecha is Spanish for “The Harvest”. As you know, there is a lot of coffee grown in Spanish speaking countries. Many of the large jute bags list the year of “La Cosecha”. We all speak Spanish & really like how so much joy comes from the harvest after months of hardwork.

When did the obsession with coffee and opening a shop take place? Did you wake up one day, taste some coffee, and think “I can do better”?

Jeschke-Gio Sparks (co-founder) was home-roasting as a hobbby. He got me hooked on fresh roasted coffee. He is an IT guy with a strong technical knowledge & I have a background in international sales. Back in 2006, I approached him with this crazy idea. We roasted coffee for 7 yrs to wholesale accounts before taking the big step of opeining our own coffee bar & roastery in 2013. Really, the driving force was to get to know our customers and show them the roasting process in the same location. Maplewood has been very good to us.

How was that first batch of coffee you roasted? Must have been an experience.

Jeschke-Thrilling! Let’s just say there was smoke, and where there’s smoke…… Seriously, there is a lot to learn to find the optimal roast level for each origin and crop.

The top of your website reads, “Only the finest, freshly roasted organic fair trade coffee”. Explain that a bit to people who may not know what they are drinking.

Jeschke-We want to connect the coffee drinker to the coffee farmer by offering fresh roasted coffee grown in a sustainable manner where the farmer was given a fair price. Hence the tag line, “From the Harvest to your cup”

What’s a normal day at the coffee shop?

Jeschke-We have our usual tasks depending on the day. Sometimes we are roasting coffee or talking to new customers. Amazingly, weather has a lot to do with the flow of a coffee business. We just try to be prepared for whatever comes our way.

Where do you get your coffee beans from and what makes them unique? Or does that come in the roasting process?

Jeschke-We currently buy our beans from several importers, so we can get a variety of coffee from different countries around the world. All are either Fair Trade or Direct Trade coffees where the farmer was given a fair price. Many carry other certifications, such as organic, rainforest alliance, bird friendly, Utz, etc… The uniqueness of a cup of coffee comes from the origin & the roasting process.

What is La Cosecha’s long term goal? Ideas on the horizon….One shop in Maplewood or more? What is happening in the future?

Jeschke-Our long term goal is to continue to develop relationships with our customer in the STL community & coffee farmers in other countries. One location is sufficient.

This seems like a passion project met a career. A rare thing in life. Is that what La Cosecha is for you, Jamie?
Jeschke-Yep. It is cool to see so many areas of interest in your life come together, such as La Cosecha has done for us.

Why should people come to La Cosecha? What’s the hook?
Jeschke-We roast, we brew, we breathe coffee. No bells & whistles, just a tasty cup of coffee.

The minute I tasted your coffee, Starbucks immediately fell down to the bottom, like right next to four hour hold gas station body shop coffee. Do you and the others carry some pride in snagging a particular clientele away from the big coffee chains? Or is it just make good coffee and let the rest sort itself out?

Jeschke-Ha. We like the fact that we don’t have a “drive-thru” window. If you want to know where the heck Burundi or Flores is located, let’s talk about it over a cup of coffee.

Jamie added that adding Gregory Lowe, a retail specialist who managed a coffee shop in St. Louis for five years before joining La Cosecha, was a huge key to the success of their coffee bar.

There’s something about consistently good coffee shops. The cups where you taste it and think, “This is seriously good and not just good enough.” When you drink La Cosecha, that is the feeling you get. Then you talk to the people working there and it becomes something more. A personal experience.

Do yourself a favor and stop by La Cosecha in Maplewood. They redefine what good coffee should taste like. When you are there, grab a fresh pastry from Great Harvest bread company on the other side of the room. Sit down and relax while some music plays in the background. La Cosecha Coffee is an independent coffee shop to treasure.