Lorca in Downtown Stamford named one of Connecticut’s best coffeehouses

Coffee Break: Connecticut’s Best Coffeehouses

Article Seen in Connecticut Magazine

 

Coffee in Connecticut doesn’t generally get the same press as other beverages such as craft beer or wine. We’re here to change that by shining a light on some of the truly incredible coffee hot spots in the state. We selected locations where coffee-making has been elevated to an art form and where coffeehouse culture continues to thrive. Many of these places specialize in making manually brewed coffee, meaning it is made under the constant direction of a skilled barista. One popular type of manual brew is the pour-over, a method of brewing in which the barista pours hot water over the coffee grounds in a circular motion, while fastidiously controlling all variables, from brewing time to water temperature. If you haven’t tried it yet, we highly recommend it.

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Blue State Coffee
Blue State Coffee

Blue State Coffee, New Haven and Hartford (also Boston and Providence)

This family-run coffee company opened its first cafe in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2007, but now has three locations in New Haven and one in Hartford. When you think of Blue State, think coffee with a conscience. Emphasis is placed on the quality and variety of their products (all coffee is organic and fairly traded), but also on paying employees a fair wage and donating profits to the community. Two percent of sales go to local nonprofits — Blue State has donated over $750,000 to date — and customers have a say in where the money goes by placing a token in any one of four jars labeled with the charity and its mission statement (the options change every six months). bluestatecoffee.com

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J. Rene
J. Rene Coffee Roasters

J.René Coffee Roasters, West Hartford

This coffeehouse and roastery takes coffee seriously; very seriously. The menu features espresso drinks made with blends that have been carefully chosen and taste-tested to produce the desired flavor profile, and the manual coffee-brewing methods offered include siphon pot, pour-over and French press. The coffee shop itself boasts communal tables in a large, open space that overlooks the coffee-roasting equipment. But, telecommuters take note, the emphasis here is on coffee and conversation, so Wi-Fi is not offered. 860-461-7858, jrenecoffee.com

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Source 3.jpg
Source Coffeehouse

Source Coffeehouse, Bridgeport

Owners Matthew and Courtney Hartl’s passion for coffee borders on obsession. They sweat the details, from water-to-coffee brewing ratios to temperature variations to bean origin. Their specialty is the pour-over, which connoisseurs drink without milk or sugar (although both are still offered). Located in the Black Rock neighborhood (unofficially, “Bridgeport’s Brooklyn”), this local institution has an open layout where guests can stretch out and relax while enjoying a variety of drinks. Source recently went mobile with a coffee truck available for private events. It also serves as a satellite location for Source during the Black Rock Farmers Market and will be parked at 4700 Park Ave. in Bridgeport serving coffee Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. 203-522-5662, sourcecoffeehouse.com

The Coffee Pedaler, New Haven

Even in a city filled with great coffee and coffeehouse options, Ryan Taylor’s bicycle-themed cafe stands out. The neighborhood space has polished wood tables and exposed brick walls that serve as the chic art gallery-like backdrop for Taylor and company’s caffeine-powered creations. Like many other coffeehouses on this list, the specialty at Coffee Pedaler is the pour-over — made here with great skill — but there are also cappuccinos, lattes and house concoctions such as the summer special, a shot of espresso served in a ginger beer with a lime garnish. 732-595-6414, facebook.com/thecoffeepedalernewhaven

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Tusk & Cup Fine Coffee
Tusk & Cup Fine Coffee

Tusk & Cup Fine Coffee, Ridgefield and Wilton

These sister coffee shops are steeped in Italian traditions, from the cappuccino (which originated in Italy) to more unusual drinks such as the marocchino (a foamy espresso drink flavored with Nutella) and a full assortment of gelato available to consume with your coffee. Though Tusk & Cup does not offer pour-overs, it does have single-origin, specialty blends made with a Bunn Trifecta coffee machine, which creates a cup of artisan coffee that can hold its own against many of the manual brews offered elsewhere. Ridgefield: 203-544-0800; Wilton: 203-762-6230, tuskandcup.com

Lorca, Stamford

Lorca offers enough artisan coffee options to keep a hipster happy. Pour-overs, cappuccinos, lattes, Americanos and more are all made well here and feature Counter Culture Coffee-roasted beans. In addition to coffee, the spot is known for its Spanish pastries. Owner Leyla Jenkins traveled to Sevilla to learn the art of churro-making before opening Lorca. Today, churros and other pastries such as alfajores (butter cookies with dulce de leche, coconut and powdered sugar) are part of what makes a visit to Lorca so worthwhile. The Spanish influence can also be seen in coffee drinks including the Lorchata (cold-brew coffee and horchata, rice milk lightly sweetened and spiced, over ice). 203-504-2847, lorcastamford.com

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Neat Coffee
Neat Coffee

NEAT Coffee, Darien

One of Connecticut’s first new-wave artisan coffee spots, NEAT is “quality obsessed,” only serving seasonal single-origin coffees that are roasted in house. Nitro cold-brew coffee and pour-overs are offered alongside a full assortment of espresso drinks in a roomy, sleek space. NEAT’s staff is rigorously trained and they are constantly taste-testing various coffees and brewing methods. The goal is to change people’s expectations about what a coffee can be, and the quality of their drinks do just that. 203-202-7215, neatcoffee.com

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Shearwater Coffee Bar's head barista, Jason Varga
Shearwater Coffee Bar

Shearwater Coffee Bar, Fairfield

The moment it opened over the summer, Shearwater took its place among the elite coffee spots in the state. The cafe arm of Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters, which is based in Trumbull, this new kid on the artisan coffee block offers an assortment of manual-brew techniques including siphon, aeropress and pour-overs. There is also nitro and regular cold-brew coffee on tap. Located within the Brick Walk section of downtown Fairfield, Shearwater has floor-to-ceiling windows and a coffee bar that is lower than a standard bar to allow guests to interact with the barista and learn about the coffee-making process. 203-955-1098, shearwatercoffeeroasters.com

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GIV Coffee
Giv Coffee

Giv Coffee, Canton

We often associate the coffee-shop experience with young urban professionals and busy city streets. But on the scenic stretch of Route 44 that goes through Canton in the Farmington River Valley, Giv Coffee could compete with any of the nicest, freshest roasts available in the trendiest city neighborhoods. Why are the roasts so fresh? Well, they don’t have to travel very far before they make it to your cup. Giv’s beans are roasted right downstairs, in the same building as the cafe. Giv Coffee’s beans are also sold throughout the state, including to New Haven’s Jitter Bus coffee truck, subject of a profile in our August issue860-764-0023, givcoffee.com

Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea, New Haven, Branford and Madison

Willoughby’s is the grand dame of New Haven’s many coffee shops, having been around for some 32 years. In the Elm City, the name “Willoughby’s” is synonymous with everything that a coffee shop entails: fresh coffee, a place to catch up with friends or do a bit of reading, or to simply watch the world go by. Since its start in New Haven (where there are two locations, on Church Street and on York), Willoughby’s has traveled up the shoreline, expanding into Madison and Branford. 800-388-8400, willoughbyscoffee.com

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Klekolo Coffee World
Klekolo Coffee World

Klekolo World Coffee, Middletown

This Middletown fixture sells T-shirts that announce the Court Street hideout as the “center for world domination.” This is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek reference to the habit of some well-known corporate chains to metastasize into every corner of our world, but it is perhaps a sincere declaration that this coffee shop is entirely content in its own skin, at peace with its place in the world. It’s also a hub for serious coffee drinkers, with a drip bar for made-to-order cups of coffee. 860-343-9444, klekolo.com

Koffee?, New Haven

Koffee has been serving up brew to the ballet dancers, musicians, professors, students and all other assorted denizens of New Haven’s Audubon Street since 1992. The shop has a particularly laid-back vibe, with a hodgepodge of couches and comfy chairs. After 5 p.m., you can also have a beer if you prefer your coffee-shop conversation with a slightly different energy. (Though don’t be misled: Koffee? is not a bar.) Sandwiches, muffins and salads are there for the lunchtime crowd, while the regular music offerings will keep you coming for more than the coffee. 203-465-6244, koffeenewhaven.com

Dom’s Coffee, Avon

This European-style, high-end coffee shop has an open design with white walls and polished wood tables. The coffee is made using roasts from J.René in West Hartford and the specialty is French press as well as a variety of espresso drinks. The shop also offers cold-brew and nitro cold-brew coffee served on tap. The cappuccino, made from a blend of various beans, is full-bodied and gives drinkers a jolt of energy. The regular (non-nitro) cold brew is darker than some cold brews with a rich, thick mouthfeel. A variety of pastries are also offered to wash down with your beverage. It’s the perfect spot to visit on a jaunt to this scenic portion of the state. 860-255-7232, domscoffee.com

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Arethusa a mano
Arethusa a mano

Arethusa a mano, Bantam

“A mano” means “by hand,” and that’s the way they do things at this coffee shop and bakery on Route 202 in the rolling Litchfield Hills. Bagels and doughnuts are rolled by hand, pastries and sandwiches are hand crafted, as is the Stumptown-roasted coffee. Situated across the street from Arethusa Farm Dairy, not to mention the upscale, farm-to-table Arethusa al tavolo, this “farm chic” coffee spot has the benefit of the freshest milks, creamers and other dairy products around. Highlights of the coffee offerings are the Americano and the nitro coffee on draft, which cascades in your glass like a Guinness. The changing-with-the-seasons food menu features a delicious bacon, egg and cheese sandwich with a blend of Arethusa cheeses on a house-made English muffin or pain au lait roll. 860-567-5722, arethusafarm.com/a-mano

Vault Coffee Roasters, Mystic

Nestled in lovely Olde Mistick Village, with its wondrous array of shopping, food and entertainment choices, Vault serves up an intriguing mix of coffee drinks and pour-overs. If you appreciate simple, but powerful, goodness, order a black velvet, which is cold-brew coffee with cream and a touch of vanilla over ice. Back for the fall is the popular hot caramel apple cider, made with cider from Mystic’s B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill. You can also take plenty of the small-batch coffee home with you, as Vault sells bags of its roasted beans. Also worth sampling are the baked goods and crêpes, made fresh daily two doors up at Vault’s sister restaurant, Mango’s Wood-Fired Pizza Co. 860-415-5045, vault.coffee

Ashlawn Farm Coffee, Old Saybrook

If you’re passing through the Old Saybrook train station — and even if you’re not — make a stop at this cafe at the Saybrook Junction Marketplace next to the station. With a rustic charm and coziness that echoes its closed-for-the-season farm location across the Connecticut River in Lyme, the cafe will make you feel right at home as you sip their freshly brewed specialty coffees. Using only specialty grade Arabica green beans, Ashlawn does all of its own roasting. Their cold-brew game is strong, as is the Turkish cold-brewed iced coffee with house-made cardamom syrup. The wide selection of baked goods, including maple pecan scones and French toast bagels, are sure to please. And their sausage, egg and cheese biscuit sandwich would be right at home on any farmer’s table. 860-434-3636, farmcoffee.com