A coffee crawl is similar to a bar crawl – multiple locations are hit up for the benefit of sight-seeing and experiencing things that you might not just sitting in one location all evening. I wanted to get a feel for where New Orleans was at in their coffee scene, especially since my time in the south has largely left me with a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to their coffee – literally.
It was a great time! I got the chance to walk all around New Orleans, and my coffee experience ran the gambit from truly great to extremely distasteful. NOLA is well on its way to a great coffee scene. Check out the video I made during my experience, below. I’ve listed out individual observations for the various coffee shops below as well.
Located on Magazine street, Velvet Espresso Bar didn’t look like much from the outside. The inside doesn’t have a ton to offer either: two bars with stools to sit and have a quick lunch is all the seating available. They use square and an iPad to process orders, and their menu is written on the wall in chalk. But a majority of the one room building is dedicated to what actually matters: coffee. A large espresso machine, siphons, and a pour station give way for plenty of ordering options. On the wall opposite the espresso machine the available coffees were lined up. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Velvet serves Stumptown coffee. After spotting the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, I ordered a V60 pourover with a shot of espresso on the side.
There were two other gentlemen in the shop with me, and both were eating sandwiches when I entered. After ordering, I took a seat and admired the local art that amply decorates the walls. One of the gentlemen asked if I wanted half of his sandwich since he wasn’t going to eat it, and I happily obliged. Velvet knows how to make an egg-and-jam sandwich! After sucking up the last bite, my coffee was ready. The presentation was phenomenal, and the barista was sweet.
I found my espresso to be a little flat, and while I’m not sure the exact type of coffee they were using for it, I was surprised. It was smooth on the palette, but had a rocky finish that wasn’t quite to my taste. The pour-over was extremely well made, however. I love a good Yirgacheffe in the first place, and this one exceeded expectations. The sweet, fruity-carmel notes were present throughout each taste. The cup was clean and well balanced – every sip left me wanting another. As it cooled the cup took on richer flavors of chocolate that only got more delicious.
I can’t recommend Velvet enough as a place to pass through or grab a quick sandwich and pour-over. It’s not an ideal place to try and get work done, but the coffee is worth making it a destination spot.
On my way to find the New Orleans classic Cafe Du Monde, I ran into this record store. They had a sign that proudly proclaimed “cafe” on the outside, and I figured any record store that felt it was worth advertising their coffee was worth me checking out. I’m glad I did! Peaches is filled with character. A store that felt similar to Boise’s Record Exchange, it is as quirky as it is homey. I found myself engaged in a conversation with one employee about the merits of records becoming popular once again – a subject I couldn’t have cared less about mere minutes ago.The staff was engaging, helpful, and in the end they made a killer espresso.
The espresso was much better than Velvet’s – a welcome surprise. It was full bodied and rich, nutty notes throughout. In one employee’s words, “people from other countries come here and say it’s the best espresso they’ve ever had.” I was happy to indulge while listening to great music (Preacher Man played on the speakers overhead).
Peaches is located on N. Peters Street right in the hubub of downtown. If you need a quick reprieve from the hustle and bustle of tourists I would highly recommend grabbing an espresso or latte and taking a seat at one of their several tables. Or, if it’s your thing, talk up one of the employees about records. They sell plenty of those as well!
If you’re in New Orleans for any stint of time, someone will tell you that you have to visit Cafe Du Monde. While they are probably most famous for their beniegets (a French type of donut), they also boast about their chicory coffee. Chicory is plant which has been used as a coffee substitute/additive off and on for centuries. I had never tried it myself, and Cafe Du Monde seemed like the place to do it.
There are several locations inside and outside of New Orleans, the most famous being the one in the French Market. This location was established in 1862. Open 24 hrs a day, it only closes on Christmas and when the occasional hurricane messes up the daily routine.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect at Cafe Du Monde even after hearing so much about it. As I took my seat at one of the many outside tables, I was struck by just how many people were there. There was something about the smell of fried dough, mixed with the 40-something fathers with cameras draped around their necks and young children running around that made me instinctively look around for where my Mickey Mouse ears went.
A small order of beniegets and a small coffee cost me only $5 (cash only). The coffee is really not that good. Unfortunately, it seems as though the chicory is present to mask the burnt coffee taste. An initial sip revealed the presence of a foreign substance immediately – undoubtedly the chicory. It isn’t unpleasant, but it’s definitely not delicious or desired. Akin to eating a skittle and expecting an M&M, perhaps. The beniegets are another matter altogether, however. As someone with a bit of a sweet tooth, I admit that I loved the ample amount of powdered sugar present on each one. They were really delicious.
Cafe Du Monde is worth visiting simply to say you did. If you’re looking for a great place to have a seat and enjoy a conversation over a cup of coffee, look elsewhere. The loud crowds and unsatisfactory brew make this tourist destination worth the pictures, and that’s about it.
Desiring to end my day on a high note, I walked through the French Market over to Royal street in the hopes that a cafe named The Orange Couch would give me some relaxation and a good cup of coffee. Situated in a much quieter part of the city, no tourists were fighting to get inside the small doors. The Orange Couch uses white as its primary decorative color, giving the room a fresh, clean feel. Situated in the middle of the coffee shop towards the front is a bright orange couch.
After inquiring and being told that they, unfortunately, do not serve pour-overs, the knowledgeable barista recommended I try their cold brew. Iced coffee did sound good after the hot walk from Cafe Du Monde, so I consented and found a table to sit at. The Orange Couch has plenty of tables, couches, and chairs. Free wifi and plenty of power outlets make this a great location to get school or work done.
The cold brew was quite good. Nothing strikingly original made it stand out, but by the end I felt refreshed and highly caffeinated. The body was tart, and the end was smooth, if a bit watered down from the ice.
While I wouldn’t go to The Orange Couch expecting to be blown away by their coffee, the environment was the best I experienced all day. The staff was friendly, and the peaceful atmosphere made me glad I had made the trip.
In all, my New Orleans coffee crawl was a success. While it’s clear that NOLA has a ways to go in its coffee scene, there were plenty of options that I wouldn’t mind coming back to. Velvet and The Orange Couch rank up there with some of the best I’ve had, while Peaches felt like a welcome little taste of home.
If you’re ever in the New Orleans area, I’d love to hear about your coffee experiences. Feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter.
The Coffee Guy