Like so many of America’s smaller towns and second cities, Idaho’s capital has recently experienced a renaissance of specialty coffee shops, small roasters, and the kinds of spaces that look more San Francisco than Treasure Valley. But the city of more than 200,000 people has more than a half dozen colleges, an exceedingly welcoming view of immigrants, and far more progressive and forward-looking ideas than one may expect from an isolated mountain town. And at this moment in time, nowhere is that desire to keep up with the cutting edge of cities more obvious than the boom of coffee shops happening in Boise. In the last year, four new shops popped up to show the City of Trees just what it means to brew a great cup—even if the newspapers still compared the prices and wait times to Starbucks and Dutch Brothers when announcing the new kids in town.
Before you've even had your first sip, this former farmers-market-stand-turned-bricks-and-mortar shop (as of July 2018) has revealed the kind of attention to detail it puts into every aspect of the shop. Owner Grant Shealy started roasting coffee (sourced from Oakland’s Coffee Shrub) in his parents' garage a few years ago, before moving first to the back corner of a brewery, and now into his own 1,650-square-foot cafe.
The space, with big windows in front and a long, white counter, is muted but modern, with spare decoration, drawing the bulk of its aesthetics from the coffee and related equipment. Custom walnut-wood handles gleam from Bosco Sorrento espresso machine levers, pastries from the James-Beard-Award-nominated Janjou Patisserie sit under spotless glass-like jewels in a case, and handmade ceramicware cups from Guten Co. hold the coffee in the most stylish of ways.
Form and Function
Like Neckar, Form and Function got its start serving coffee at the Boise Farmer’s Market before moving into its own, even larger, permanent shop. The subway tile backsplash, white walls, and matching white La Marzocco Linea keep the décor clean and spare, punctuated with color only by the labels on their bagged coffee. In the loft area upstairs, a black and white mural dominates the wall space, while the oversized menu board does the same on the main floor. Coffees come in HuskeeCups, vessels stylishly made from the hull of the coffee plant.
In many ways, Form and Function and Neckar are quite similar—minimalist, design-focused, and serving expertly roasted beans—but F&F does have a broader food menu, including a few porridges and a series of toasts, and also sources coffee with a strong social justice and sustainability bent in their approach.
Caffeina Roasting Company
What if…a brewery were a roastery? That’s the thinking behind this coffee shop from Boise coffee veterans Tammy Jenkins and her daughter Lyndsey Hopkins. Walking in, it’s a distinctly different feel from hyper-modern cafes: a large map covers one wall, there’s dark wood and color (mostly blue) all around the room, and big, comfortable chairs.
Though Caffeina roasts on-site on an Ozturk, offers multiple pour-over options, and makes its own cold brew, they also offer the full slate of coffeehouse classics, plus smoothies, beer, and wine—a far cry from the minimalism of many of the other newcomers to Boise. They also offer a full menu of toasts, breakfasts, and snacks.
The mother-daughter team comes from a more “Second Wave” coffee generation, as owners of the local Coffee Studio chain, but took a new direction in this space, utilizing old brewery equipment—on which they brew their own kombucha—and whose industrial feel the shop is designed around. They also use brewery inspiration to form their specialty drink—the brew-on-brew, which is espresso poured into a local stout.
Push and Pour
Professional skater Lucas Erlebach wanted to open a skate shop in the area when he moved back up from San Francisco, but there was already a good one. So he did the next best thing: he opened a coffee shop in a low brick building—a former auto shop—serving up his favorite local coffee, Maps, from Hailey, Idaho (though the shop is close to opening its own roastery next door). The coffee aficionado figured it was a way to participate in the community, to provide space for creatives, and still have his own business. His skateboarding background is part of the display, with old decks used as decoration, along with other vintage touches—including a bright red coffee grinder.
Espresso tampers have custom handles made from old skateboards, and murals feature, among other things, a skateboarding fish, giving the place the kind of whimsical and lighthearted feel the owner intended, but within the clean, elegant aesthetic one expects from most modern specialty cafes.