Higher Grounds

With caramel-laced frappes oozing with sugary sweetness and strong shots of creamy espresso, coffee is alive and well in 417-land. Read on to learn about the roasters and coffee shops that are leading Springfield’s caffeinated love affair.

BY ETTIE BERNEKING | PHOTOGRAPHY BY VIVIAN WHEELER | ILLUSTRATION BY HEATHER KANE
Published in 417 Magazine's January 2017 issue

FLOWER POWER: The Rose Water Latte from Eurasia Coffee and Tea is one of its signature drinks.   

FLOWER POWER: The Rose Water Latte from Eurasia Coffee and Tea is one of its signature drinks.

 

The coffee scene in Springfield is as robust as most of the drip coffees brewed around town, but each cafe serves its own twist to the classic cup of Joe. Some are sleepy getaways where bookworms can hide from the world for a few hours. Others are bustling with activity or hosting coffee education seminars. It might seem like this coffee renaissance popped up overnight, but it’s been percolating for many years thanks to roasters and cafe owners who have dedicated their time to brewing, roasting and serving quality coffee. They’ve carefully selected their beans, invested in equipment and put forward a great product. As new coffee shops continue to put down roots in Springfield, we turned to three roasters and cafes that offer a distinctly different take on Springfield’s coffee obsession to learn why they chose to set up shop in the Queen City.

 

THE GEEKS

If you ever hear Jonathan Putnam, owner of Brick & Mortar Coffee (1666 E. St. Louis St., Springfield, 417-812-6539, brickandmortarcoffee.com), talk about the third or fourth wave, don’t be fooled. He’s not talking about time-release coffee, although that would be glorious. He’s talking about the class of coffee shops dubbed third wave, which focus on the handcrafted cup of java. Since launching Brick & Mortar in 2014, Putnam and his team of knowledgeable baristas have hosted their fair share of community events, cupping sessions, food pairings and seminars all aimed at one thing: gathering a community around coffee and inviting that community to join the wave. 

Here, coffee is stripped down to its purest form. There’s no cream, no sugar, no smoothies, no food, nothing. You won’t even find WiFi here. What you will find is an incredible cup of coffee and baristas eager to share their knowledge. Coffee neophytes who want to up their game can attend one of the shop’s weekly cuppings on Saturdays at 1 p.m. 

Predominantly a roasting house that supplies local businesses and restaurants with coffee, Brick & Mortar focuses mostly on lighter, third wave, Nordic-style roasts. “In roasting, two main things play into flavor: time and temperature,” Putnam explains. “If you roast coffee for 20 minutes to reach 400 degrees, it will taste a lot different than a coffee roasted to 400 degrees in 10 minutes. How you get there is just as important as where you’re going.”

The same can be said for the success of Brick & Mortar, which Putnam credits to a dedicated group of coffee shop owners who helped lay the groundwork for Springfield’s thriving coffee culture. “I love it here,” he says. “I would swear by Springfield. You couldn’t do this in a small town. The hard work has already been done here in terms of education, and I’m so thankful to shops like Mudhouse and the Ethic for putting a stake in the ground and for changing the coffee game progressively. Each coffee shop after them has put their own take on Springfield coffee, and we’re all politely and collaboratively competitive. It’s a beautiful culture, and you couldn’t ask for a better town to do coffee in.”

THE DREAMERS

Despite the fact that Karen grew up in Tokyo and Justin grew up in Vienna, both seem right at home in Springfield. What’s more surprising is the couple seems shockingly stress-free about their business, Eurasia Coffee & Tea (445 E. Commercial St., Springfield, 417-720-1949, eurasiacoffeeandtea.com), which opened its C-Street location in 2015. In 2016, Justin and Karen Beiler opened the Culture Boutique Hotel that connects to their C-Street coffee shop. Even with rain flooding the basement at Eurasia, the couple is all smiles. “We love C-Street so much, we live on the other end,” Karen says. Before opening a coffee shop of their own, Justin was busy selling wholesale coffee nationally and spent six weeks traveling across the country and making deliveries out of a van.

In the business’s early days, he would drive down C-Street every day and watch the number of once-vacant shops return to life. “I saw all the rundown buildings, but I also saw all the potential,” he says. When the opportunity came to purchase the vacant corner building across from Askinosie Chocolate, Justin didn’t wait, and in 2011, the building was his—but so was the long list of construction work needed to bring the building up to code. “At one point you could stand up on the second floor and look down into the basement,” Justin says. “The bones were good, but there was a lot of neglect over the years.”

By 2015 the building was refurbished, and Eurasia Coffee & Tea was open for business. With a large front window that lets in plenty of natural light and an impressive espresso bar and spacious wooden booths, the coffee shop is immediately inviting, much like Justin and Karen, who dedicate 10 percent of their sales to social justice needs like slavery, education, healthcare and poverty. In the fourth quarter of 2015, that 10 percent went back to a girls’ home in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and this month, Justin and Karen are supporting a vocational center in Calcutta.

After visiting coffee and tea farms in Eurasia (the couple imports tea from Sri Lanka), Justin and Karen tailored their food menu to have international flair. The coffee menu is much the same with lattes topped with chopped pistachios and lava salt and seasonal favorites including the creamy affogato getting a pumpkin makeover. Even a true classic like the apple cider is spiced up with crystallized ginger.

Not even two years old, Eurasia Coffee is making its mark on C-Street, and Justin and Karen already have plans to start roasting coffee in-house. If Justin gets his way, the small back corner of the shop will soon be called the Roasting Arena.

SUNNY SIDE : Brick walls, hardwood floors and big windows create a warm and inviting environment at Eurasia Coffee & Tea.    

SUNNY SIDE: Brick walls, hardwood floors and big windows create a warm and inviting environment at Eurasia Coffee & Tea.

 

 

THE ROCKERS

Next time you order a “Dirty White Boy”—a song by Foreigner, and a white chocolate and cocoa latte from Classic Rock Coffee (1900 W. Sunset St., Springfield, 417-881-7625, classicrockcoffee.com)—stop and listen to the music cranked out through the overhead speakers. Each AC/DC and Led Zeppelin song you’re rocking out to is also streamed at Classic Rock Coffee shops around the world from Abuja, Nigeria, to Dhaka, Bangladesh. The shop might have started in Springfield, but it’s quickly gone global with franchises in Nigeria, Qatar, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and more stores are in the works in eight U.S. states. The shop’s key to success is its eagerness to amp it up.

From the front, Classic Rock looks like any other coffee shop until you walk inside. Guitars hang from the walls, which are painted black, and purple and orange lightbulbs cast an edgy glow over the tattooed, dyed-haired baristas pouring shots of espresso as Neil Young streams through the speakers.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really a coffee person,” says Classic Rock President Kent Morrison, who thought of the idea to pair classic rock music with the burgeoning coffee house scene. “A lot of big chains feel the same, like a library,” he says. “But in reality, people drink coffee to wake up, so the coffee shop should have energy.”

Coming up with the classic rock concept and drink names was admittedly Morrison’s favorite part, and he created a menu with names of famous songs. Customers can order Atomic Punk espresso, Cold Shot cold brew, Back in Black bold blend and Barracuda Bite medium roast, to name a few. With his concept nailed down, Morrison hired a roaster and opened the coffee shop at the corner of Sunset Street and Kansas Expressway—a seemingly odd location for a coffee shop considering the lack of foot traffic and distance from downtown. But what you can’t see from the front of the shop is the 20,000-square-foot warehouse it’s attached to. Morrison, who also owns Shake This, a protein and smoothie bar company, ships 28,000 pounds of protein powder a month. The extra space allowed Morrison and his team to add an in-house coffee roaster that can handle 50 pounds of beans at a time and 20,000 pounds each month. The 25-kilo roaster is large enough to fill the long list of orders while allowing the roasting team to adjust the temperature, airflow and roast of the bean to ensure each coffee reaches its optimal flavor profile.

Three years ago, Classic Rock Coffee began franchising. “We get four to five inquires a day from around the world,” says Brett Payne, director of franchise operations. “Most of the world understands the notion of classic rock music. For instance, in Islamabad, Pakistan, where our first franchise store was, we thought they wouldn’t know anything about classic rock, but they had a very deep understanding.”

Since franchising, Morrison and Payne have traveled the globe to check in on recently opened locations, and it’s not lost on them that their home base is in a city most people have never heard of. “We love it here,” Morrison says. “This is our home.”

MASTER CRAFTSMAN:  Barista Jonathan Mizer makes a latte at Classic Rock Coffee.

MASTER CRAFTSMAN: Barista Jonathan Mizer makes a latte at Classic Rock Coffee.

 

The Best Sips of Joe

Our local coffee shops all offer incredible drinks and have interesting backstories to boot. Read about some of the tastiest local coffee drinks here. 

THE COFFEE ETHIC
124 Park Central Square, Springfield, 417-866-6645
What to Order Here: Cappuccino
DANCING MULE
1945 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-883-5114
What to Order Here: Honey latte
BIG MOMMA’S COFFEE & ESPRESSO
217 E. Commercial St., Springfield, 417-865-9911
What to Order Here: Pumpkin King latte
MUDHOUSE
323 South Ave., Springfield, 417-832-1720
What to Order Here: A growler of iced coffee
KINGDOM COFFEE
211 S. Market Ave., Springfield, 417-350-1234
What to Order Here: A stellar seasonal drink
HEBREWS COFFEE
1604 E. Republic Road,Springfield, 417-883-6200
What to Order Here: Ask about the barista special
JOPLIN AVENUE COFFEE COMPANY
506 S. Joplin Ave., Joplin, 417-483-5558
What to Order Here: Bulletproof coffee
VINTAGE PARIS
260 Birdcage Walk, Hollister, 417-593-7952
What to Order Here: A classic latte