Posted: 5:10 am Friday, August 18th, 2017
By Ann Kelly
I’ll be the first to admit that I came late to the coffee game. My version had a lot more chocolate and whipped cream than coffee, and that’s not right. You know what I mean!How did I make it all the way through college without a dark, rich cup at least once a day? Who knows! But thanks to Brendan Smith and the new St Pete Craft Coffee Tour I have a new appreciation for the brew and the local coffee shops that are now as numerous as craft breweries. But that’s a good thing. Brendan found the perfect way to spread the word – take small groups on a trip in and around downtown St Pete to discover so you can also discover those place. On my tour it was The Bikery, Intermezzo and Southside Coffee. The tour is focused on local shops, not the chains and opening our eyes (and noses!) to the scents, the tastes and the people who create what we crave on a daily basis. Brendan and I had a chance to talk before the tour to see what I was about to experience.
My co-worker and good friend Ashley came along not only to shoot the photos, but she’s really the biggest local coffee shop fan I know, so she had to be my extra eyes and ears. Our first stop was The Bikery Bicycle and Coffee Shop in downtown St Pete, owned by father Neil Norton and his son Taylor. It’s a unique combination of bike shop and coffee shop. Neil had looked at the concept of blended businesses that creates what he calls a “3rd community.” That’s our home, work and the coffee shop. This first stop was extremely educational, taking us through two brewing processes using the Chemex coffee maker and then the French Press. We tasted the same beans brewed two different way which produced two distinctly different cups. I think I now know more about how to brew, what the “bloom” is and what’s involved in the roasting process than I ever thought I would. It was the perfect start to the tour and The Bikery is on my must-go-back-to list.
Stop number two is another new addition to downtown St Pete – Intermezzo Coffee and Cocktails that opened this past September. With owner Jarrett Sabatini’s first anniversary looming he took us on a look back on how Intermezzo was first conceived and created as a pop-up, then graduating to his permanent café within three months. This was my first taste of expresso in a craft cocktail dubbed the ‘Spro Mint Julep that’s on the menu for $5. Money well spent and quite the buzz. It’s not a complicated cocktail. Expresso, a mint simple syrup topped off with club soda over crushed ice. This is the perfect drink to chill out and refresh your mind with in the summer heat. Keep an eye out for expansion plans that may include a new outdoor space and perhaps a Bocce Ball court. Cool!
A quick trip back in the car took us to the final stop to The Southside Coffee Brew Bar on 6th St. South which is a personal favorite of Brendan and I can understand why. A simple space, not at all pretentious, easy to get too and of course dog-friendly. This is where owner Sheila Smith taught us the art of “cupping” and how to truly evaluate that cup of coffee. Not to take a big gulp, but a small sip, a slurp – and you’ve cupped! The Southside Café is a neat little piece of St Pete and what makes the area what it is. Local owners with a passion for what their business is all about and pride in what they do. I’m ready for another tour and whether you’d like to go solo and make a few new friends or get a group together The St Pete Coffee tour is the way to spend part of your day getting to know the coffee scene in St Pete. My thanks to Brendan Smith for a great experience, and I’m looking forward to my next cup with you. To book your tour, just click here. You’ll also want to follow along on Facebook to see how much fun these tours are.
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM ANN KELLY’S KITCHEN
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons – T.S. Eliot