As you know, I am a coffee addict or enthusiast if you will. So when I heard about the Caffeine Crawl I knew I had to jump on the (caffeinated) bandwagon!
Originally started in Kansas City in 2011 by LAB 5702 (a Kansas City-based beverage marketing company), the Caffeine Crawl has since expanded nationally. Each crawl is “built around the (host) city’s personality, culture, traffic structure, and local event flow”. This year was Chicago’s second annual Caffeine Crawl. It contained 11 different routes over the course of a weekend. Each route explored five different local coffee or tea shops in the Chicagoland area. Each shop explained a little about the company and the caffeinated drink it served.
The crawl I went on was called “Route 11”. It stopped at five incredible and distinct local coffee shops. Each one had its own story to tell and vibe to share.
Stop #1: Dark Matter Coffee
The first stop on this adventure was at Dark Matter Coffee, specifically its Mother Ship location.
Its look and ambiance was none like any other I had ever experienced. The walls were painted to appear as if customers were inside an old fashioned machine with large pipes, which was part of a working art installation named “The Machine”. Hanging on the wall across from the countertop were swords resembling what you see pirates use in the movies. The menu was written in chalk above a hand-drawn world map. The workers were friendly, efficient, and dressed in an array of cool t-shirts. This combination gave the shop a trendy and cool atmosphere.
Throughout my entire crawl experience, the one thing that stood out the most to me was this local coffee company’s mission. Dark Matter describes itself as “an innovative culinary family fueled by community and passion to deliver the most intellectually honest coffee”. To adhere to its honest coffee guarantee, Dark Matter not only works closely with organizations such as the Fair Trade Alliance, but also has direct partnerships with farms in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. This unique business model provides Dark Matter with sourcing transparency that “yields fair business practices and unparalleled quality control, a difference that can be tasted in every cup”.
Dark Matter’s humble business practices truly pay off in its premium quality drinks, which are all reasonably priced. I personally ordered a cappuccino, which was very delicious. But, the drink that blew everything out of the water was actually that of my friend who came on the crawl with me. She ordered Dark Matter’s infamous cold brew named Chocolate City. After just one sip, she started gushing and telling me I needed to try some of hers. Originally I was a little hesitant, but man am I glad she let me taste it! The explosion of different flavors was extreme, unique, and sensational. Everyone needs to experience this citrusy, yet chocolatey masterpiece.
Stop #2: The Eastman Egg Company + Mem Tea
The display put on at Eastman Egg Company contained a variety of drinks and even a tasty tart and some chocolate for snacks. The employees explained how the coffee and espresso each store serves are roasted weekly by a New York-based company called Irving Farm Roasters. By receiving its coffee on a weekly-basis, Eastman Egg Co. offers consumers a high quality cup of joe.
After learning a little about the company, our group watched as the employee brewed us drip coffee from the Irving Farm Roasters blend. The coffee was quite good; however, the store’s ice tea was even better!
Set up at another table was the tea company called Mem Tea. The company had three different hand-picked tea displays: a green tea named China Green Jade Mao Jian, a black tea called English Breakfast Ceylon, and an herbal tea by the name of Chamomile Flowers. Since I am an avid coffee drinker I assumed my favorite of the teas would be the black tea. However, to my surprise I found the herbal tea to be the best for it was calming, yet full of flavor.
The ladies of Mem Tea shared an insider’s tip on how to brew green tea and I want to share it with all of you tea lovers. Since green tea is lightly oxidized, it doesn’t need as hot of water. In order to achieve this ideal temperature, pour a little cool water in your cup and then full the rest with your boiled water. The mix of cold and hot temperatures will provide you with a more precise flavor of the green tea.
Stop #3: Dollop Coffee Co.
Started in 2005, Dollop Coffee Company has its coffee (that is, its Metropolis Coffee) in the bag! Its modern layout is exquisite, and its name literally in lights catches your eye when you walk by the store. We were able to try a pour over, a cold brew, and a drip coffee called the Kyoto. The Kyoto seemed to be the crowd favorite. It was dripped one drop at a time from this tall, sophisticated looking instrument. This Japanese method for slowly dripping coffee is definitely the coolest I have ever seen!
Stop #4: Bow Truss Coffee Roasters
Bow Truss Coffee Roasters originally opened in Lake View, IL and since has opened 10 other stores in the Chicagoland area. Each of its stores has its own individuality, but they all tend to have a very minimal layout. And you will usually spot refurbished vintage suitcases and/or canoes used at shelves in the majority of its stores.
This particular Bow Truss had two very unique table choices. One was an arcade table, while the other was literally a coffee table.
It also incorporated a very unique piece of cardboard art – something I had not seen before, but was in awe of.
Bow Truss buys its coffee in large lots from Columbia and Guatemala. The cold brew we sampled here was called Nitro. It was extremely tasty! I definitely recommend it.
Stop #5: TeaGschwendner
Stepping into TeaGshwender was like walking into a bank’s safe deposit vault that held rows and rows of treasured teas. This setup created an ambiance that was elegant and sophisticated. Its teas complimented this look by filling the space with a beautiful aroma that enticed your senses. With just one sip of its refreshing tea had me going back for more.
This last stop on the crawl was extremely educational. I learned that all four types of tea are from the same plant. Another fun fact I learned from this stop was that caffeine in coffee and tea are consumed differently. Caffeine in coffee is more molecular and instant, whereas you need to digest tea’s caffeine for it to kick in.
Caffeine – it gets us moving in the morning, keeps us going in the afternoon, and compliments a delicious dessert. So whether you are a coffee lover like me, a tea enthusiast, or if you just want something fun and different to do, the Caffeine Crawl is for you! Make sure to check out where the Crawl is headed to next.
Thanks for stopping by!