Written by: Jeni Strom, Marketing and Visitor Services Coordinator
As a former barista, I spent 4 1/2 years of my life learning and expanding my knowledge and taste for coffee that only further grew my love for this wonderful caffeinated beverage. The joy of a great cup of coffee, the perfect pour of a latte, nailing the fluffy foam on your cappuccino, and getting the timing of your espresso shots just right, are things only a barista (past or present) can truly understand. The things you aim to accomplish to give your customers the delicious cup they’re hoping for, no matter the style or flavor. To most people, the coffee shop or corner cafe is their first stop every morning. Believe me, for 4 years my workdays were full of the same people almost every day, and I’m willing to bet I can still rattle off a good portion of their names and regular drink orders. You become a part of their day, and them of yours. Now, as strictly a coffee customer, it’s always an exciting day when I find a coffee spot that not only takes the time and the pride in creating a great cup of coffee, but also engages with their customers. The Fox Cities has its fair share of coffee shops and I’ve made the rounds to find the good ones. Here’s a few that are definitely worth a stop!
SAP – Brunch, Brown Bag & Bakery
This one surprised me as it’s more of a restaurant/bakery, so you don’t immediately think coffee when you’re there. I met some friends here for brunch and while waiting for our table decided to grab a cup of coffee. I asked the barista a few questions about their roasts and she seemed knowledgeable (good sign). I ordered an Americano with hazelnut. Best americano I may have ever had. I immediately tell her how delicious it is, and she responds with, “It’s all about the timing of your shots.” Boom. Winner. Then we had a nice chat about coffee things. That right there is a barista who not only enjoys making coffee, but wants to make good coffee. They also make all of their syrups in-house which adds to the uniqueness and flavor. Coffee aside, try the hot cocoa; it comes with a homemade marshmallow that is nothing short of amazing. Their bakery is phenomenal and the food is fantastic too, making everything from scratch using as many local and Wisconsin made products as they can.
Copper Rock Coffee Company
With three Appleton locations and plans to open another in Green Bay, they’re a growing small business. With their main location in downtown Appleton it’s a spacious, comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, and they offer extended hours from what you’d normally expect at a coffee shop. From downtown businesses to university students, Copper Rock caters to all kinds. They roast their own coffee in-house so you’re guaranteed to get a fresh cup and the quality is always good. I have a tendency to be a bit picky when I order my lattes (I’m slightly high-maintenance with my coffee, a coffee-snob if you will; I’m aware) and here, my requests are always met and they’re happy to do so. The lattes are fab and they change up their regular brews often so there’s always a good variety. They offer a nice sized menu with plenty of options and the food is always great.
Located in downtown Neenah, this cafe prides itself on not just serving their customers, but also the community. I was greeted with a smile and some helpful advice when I couldn’t make up my mind. I was excited to find they offered aeropress coffee, which isn’t always easy to find. It was pressed just right, as expected, and the homemade blueberry muffin was a delightful addition. While I haven’t had a chance to try their much of their food yet, the menu looks delicious and they strive to use organic locally sourced foods. Their distressed wood floors, exposed brick walls, fireplace and unique lighting creates a warm cozy feel.
Seth’s is already a well known coffee spot in the Fox Cities, they definitely have an attention to detail and want to serve you the best. They have two locations, their cafe in Little Chute is average in size but the way it’s set up gives plenty of room, with little nooks and corners to cozy up in. They also have a new downtown Appleton location that is solely drive-thru or walk-up. If you’re looking for specialty coffees like chemex, pourovers, aeropress, french press, or siphon, this is the spot. They offer them all and pride themselves on doing it right. Their espresso has a smokey strong flavor, which I wasn’t a big fan of, BUT they steamed my almond milk to perfection which is not an easy feat. They also offer a small cafe style menu with breakfast and lunch options. The quiche was delicious!
All Seasons Coffeehouse
Tucked away just off Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton, this shop would be hard to spot if it weren’t for the monster sized coffee cup at the top of their building. While the cafe itself is small there’s still plenty of space to sit and relax. Just like Seth’s coffee, I’m not a huge fan of their espresso but that’s just my taste..their regular coffees and teas are great and I love their food menu. They strive to use ingredients from local and environmentally sustainable suppliers and make delicious homemade bakery too. Their macarons and beignets are so so good and during the summer you can catch them at the downtown Appleton farm market with their Pies and Pours food truck with fresh coffee and baked goods!
As I said, these are just a few, there are many more coffee shops in the Fox Cities that I haven’t yet had a chance to visit, so please do your own exploring too! Coffee shops aren’t just for coffee anymore, so if coffee isn’t your thing, all of these places offer a variety of teas and other beverages as well. No matter your preference, there’s something for everyone. Happy Caffeinating!