It’s that time of year again. The Caffeine Crawl reaching it’s third year in existence, made it’s way back to it’s roots in Kansas City. The first Crawl took place two years ago in 2011. Jason Burton of the LAB bringing the Caffeine Crawl back to Kansas City bigger than ever. It started as a one day event and has now grown to a three day event leading up to the second annual Specialty Coffee and Tea week. The crawl has grown so much over the past three years. Burton and the rest of the LAB team have big things in store for next year.
So I went on the crawl last year and kind of knew what to expect. I knew to bring water, and food. Even though it’s just coffee, if you are not careful too much coffee on an empty stomach can be painful. I had everything I needed in my bag and was ready to get a plethora of coffee and knowledge as well as getting over caffeinated.
Two groups of Caffeine Crawlers got to the meeting hub at Foo’s Fabulous Frozen Custard. There we grabbed our goodie bags filled with Barista Magazine, a guide, Rip Van Wafels, and other samples. We were all quiet, unfamiliar with each other but that was all about to change. We wiggled our way to the front of the store where Jeff Stotle, franchise owner of Foo’s, talked to us about the history of Foo’s and a little bit about how they picked their coffee from The Roasterie and now also carrying Oddly Correct. Then we got a very generous portion of affogato. This affogato contained a scoop of their awesome frozen custard, Roasterie’s espresso, and a square of Christopher Elbow chocolate. It was delicious but so rich. I only ate half because I knew that I was going to have a ton more coffee. When you are on the crawl you learn to pace yourself.
We all got on the bus with our trusty leader, Kate Blackman. Relationships started forming as soon as we got on the bus. I met friends that I met on the crawl last year and then other coffee professionals. As we were conversing, we lost track of time and were already at our next stop. One More Cup in Waldo. Here we enjoyed a cup of hot toddy latte. Concentrated toddy cut with milk steamed together. As we were enjoying Stacy and Jeff, owners of One More Cup, gave us a brief history of coffee houses and their coffee house. It was very interesting. I learned so much. Stacy mentioned that at One More Cup they pride themselves in using local products, as well as Fair Trade, Direct Trade, and Organic coffees from roasters like Roasterie, Oddly Correct, Benetti’s, and PT’s. I love this shop so much. As soon as you walk in, it feels like you are walking into a friend’s house. It is such a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
We are all starting to get a little more caffeinated and we were on our way to Oddly Correct, located off Westport and Main. As we walk in we are welcomed by Gregory Kolsto, owner of Oddly Correct, and Lacy and Tyler brewing coffee at the bar to taste later. We received a print made by Gregory about the parts of coffee and how it is processed. Gregory had a pad of paper with drawings on each sheet and had a really awesome picture of Tyler, holding his trophy for winning the South Central Regional Barista Competition. As we went through each page Gregory said, “This crawl exists because of freaks like us.” Talking about how we all love coffee so much that we want to learn the in’s and out’s of it. While encouraging them to ask their baristas questions about the coffee they are drinking as well as challenging them to find the answers to the questions they don’t know the answers. Meanwhile, Tyler and Lacy were handing out two coffees. A washed Panama and a natural Ethiopia. We then were tasting the differences between the two.
Our next stop was at Shang Tea in Crown Center. There we were greeted by Nick and Shang. There we learned that tea is one plant with different varietals, like coffee. Shang was brewing us different teas: a white tea and the tangerine blossom. I was surprised to find out that these teas did not contain any sweeteners. We also learned that the tea we were drinking came from Shang’s tea farm in China. “We love to brew tea, talk about it and it’s process,” said Nick. Sound familiar? Sounds very familiar to the coffee industry. Tea can be an overlooked part of the coffee shop and that should not be the case. We should be proud of every product in our shops, and that includes our tea.
The tea added a nice change to the coffee intake. Now we were on our way to Quay Coffee in the River Market. A shop that’s only been around for a year and a half is already making a mark in the coffee community not only in Kansas City, as well as making it on lists for awesome coffee shops around the country. At Quay, Cory and Tanner, owners of Quay, were brewing up some Four Barrel Colombia out of San Francisco on three different Chemexes. We were tasting the difference between three filters: paper, cloth, and metal. Teaching us that the paper filter is going to let very little oil and no sediment through. Then the cloth filter was going to let more of the oils through but none of the sediment. The metal filter was going to allow the oils and the sediment through, much like a french press would.
A bus full of over caffeinated people can be crazy but luckily we had one stop left and that was Mud Pie’s Vegan Coffeeshop and Bakery located on West 39th Street. When we arrived to this yellow house with a white fence surrounding the outside patio. Walked through the front and entered what felt like the living room and the coffee table was covered with amazing looking pastries. It was hard to believe that these pastries that tasted so good were vegan. These pastries included homemade butterfingers, scones, peanut butter crispy treats, cupcakes, and muffins. They were served with a drink they called the London Smog. Earl Grey Tea with vanilla, and soy milk topped with cocoa powder. They also provided other milks such as coconut milk and cashew milk. Yep, cashew milk; they also have almond, and hemp milk. A couple of these milks they make in house. They told us that this milk was made by mistake. One day Michael was making a London Fog and accidentally dumped cocoa powder on it and the customer loved it. Then they had to come up with a creative name, thus the London Smog was born.
Even though the Caffeine Crawl was over tonight, the relationships and connections made definitely were not. I actually ran into one of my Instagram followers on the Crawl. Sara Danner (@chailatte87) was on the Crawl tonight and this was second year. This year she brought two friends and they were having a great time learning. She works at Take 5 in Leawood, Kansas. She was a little nervous coming on the Crawl this year, but those nerves melted away as soon as the event started. She was nervous that shops were going to be talking about the same things as the last year, and I can say I was nervous about the same thing. That didn’t happen or if it did, it happened in a way that we still learned so much. It was so also exciting to see many new shops on the Kansas City Crawl to prove even more how much our scene is growing.