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Note: We got a lot of feedback from our readers after we published Seven of the Best Coffee Shops in Michigan last month. So, we’ve brought the subject back and sent Erica Starr, a Michigan coffee expert, on a tour of the mitten to compile her list of recommendations. This is her first installment.
A cup of coffee, to many, is a simple pleasure. To some, however, that cup of coffee is much more than just a drink; it represents passion for an ever-developing craft. Similar to beer or wine, coffee is a complex beverage that holds the capability to produce a delicious flavor experience far superior to that of your average cup of joe. Here in Michigan, we’re lucky to have a large number of coffee professionals eager to share the magic of specialty coffee with the world. It’s my mission to introduce you to the coffee shops that provide their customers with an excellent experience (and maybe free wi-fi, too.)
1. The Red Hook – 220 W. 9 Mile Rd., Ferndale
Named for the famed Brooklyn neighborhood, The Red Hook is a small operation located in the front of Pinwheel Bakery in Ferndale. This is the only shop in Michigan where you can enjoy coffee from Portland-based roasters, Stumptown Coffee. Approachable and knowledgeable baristas offer a simple menu of espresso beverages, drip coffee and brew-to-order coffees. Add to this a warm, charming atmosphere, a convenient location and delicious pastries and you’ve got the recipe for an awesome café experience.
2. Anthology Coffee – 1401 Vermont St., Detroit
Hole-in-the-wall is a fairly literal description when it comes to Anthology Coffee’s latest digs in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. Located inside of Ponyride, a collective of local artists and entrepreneurs, Anthology offers espressos and brew-to-order coffees in a very intimate setting designed to allow their customers to see and learn just what goes on in the process of making coffee. They regularly host events such as tastings and introductions to various brewing methods. Dedication to coffee excellence is what drives Anthology, and what gives them recognition; you can find their beans all over Michigan, such as at Cuppa Joe in Traverse City and the (espresso) bar in Ann Arbor.
3. The Ugly Mug – 317 West Cross Avenue, Ypsilanti
I hesitate to use the word “cool” as a main description for most things – but “cool” is precisely the word that best fits The Ugly Mug in Ypsilanti. With its warehouse vibe and eclectic décor, this café and roastery is the perfect space for art exhibitions, performances by local musicians, and food/coffee education – just last month they hosted a raw garlic tasting and a poetry night! Comfy couches and big tables are great for setting up shop to work on homework or just browse the interwebs while drinking a cup of coffee (which they roast in house) or snacking on one of their tasty menu items.
4. Comet Coffee – 16 Nickels Arcade, Ann Arbor
Open M-F 7a-8p, Sat 8a-8p, Sun 8:30a-8p
If variety is something that interests you, Comet Coffee is perhaps your best bet when it comes to coffee in Michigan. At any given time, this cozy shop conveniently located in Nickels Arcade has coffees from roasters around the country such as Ritual, Terroir, Ceremony, 49th Parallel, and Counter Culture Coffee. Their bar features a menu with espresso drinks and a number of brew-to-order choices such as v-60 and eva solo. While the space is small and seats are often hard to come by, Comet is comfortable and relaxed – a perfect stop if you’re on your way to class or on break from work.
5. The (espresso) bar – 327 Braun Court, Ann Arbor
Open M-F 9a-5p, Sat&Sun 10a-3p
This cozy barista-owned shop, located right beneath The Bar at Braun Court, opened in early 2012 and has since taken off among Ann Arbor’s coffee crowd. I don’t exaggerate when I say that this is where I’ve enjoyed the best traditional cappuccino I’ve ever had. On top of the excellent coffee (sourced by Counter Culture Coffee and Anthology Coffee,) the (espresso) bar offers pastries from Zingerman’s, home-brewing equipment and accessories, books, and events such as public cuppings and game nights. If you are looking for excellent coffee and a place that feels like home, you need look no further.
6. Madcap Coffee – 98 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids
One of the heavy-hitters of the specialty coffee industry, Madcap is known nationwide for the quality of its coffees. The company’s founders, Trevor Corlett and Ryan Knapp, have both won titles in the United States Barista Championship and trained many of their baristas to go on and compete as well. The staff here is happy to tell customers about their impressive selection of coffees both on the bar and for retail sale (if you’re looking for beans to brew at home, this is the place to go.) Located in downtown Grand Rapids, the entire experience provided by Madcap is one that exudes quality. Clean lines, simple décor, and admirable professionalism amongst the baristas ensure your experience here will be a great one.
7. Morsels – 321 E. Front St., Traverse City
Living in Northern Michigan, a delicious coffee beverage can be difficult to come by – that’s where Morsels comes in. In Traverse City, a town full of coffee shops, Morsels shines with well-trained staff, top-of-the-line equipment, and a variety of coffees and teas from Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee. While their claim to fame lies in the delectable bite-sized treats so adequately called ‘morsels,’ the owners of this popular café value quality across the board with a seasonal food menu, house-made syrups and sauces, and excellent customer service from their baristas. It’s no wonder they’re set to open a second café early in 2013!
-Erica Starr, Contributing Writer
Erica Starr has worked in the coffee industry for a seemingly-mere three years, but has worked in the service industry for seven and knows how to give the people what they want. A Traverse City native, she manages Cuppa Joe, a coffee shop with three locations in this Northern Michigan destination town. She’s visited coffee shops all over the Midwest and recently traveled to Norway to meet Tim Wendelboe, the 2004 World Barista Champion and owner of this self-named shop in Oslo. She is a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast, though she would never call herself a coffee expert. But don’t worry, we definitely define her as one.