When I made the decision to move to Salt Lake City, my honest first thought was…. Mormons. I knew the location of the city offered great benefits for the outdoor enthusiast, but how was I going to get a good cup of coffee? Fortunately, I have been pleasantly surprised by the cafes and coffee culture in Salt Lake City. As such, I didn’t just want to write this article about the coffee in Salt Lake from my perspective, but rather from the perspective of the baristas, roasters, founders, and owners; the people that make great coffee in a place you might not expect. What follows is a list five of the very best cafes in Salt Lake City, with quotes and background information sourced from the folks who make these places special.
Publik Coffee got its start roasting coffee in late 2013 and opened its first location in Park City March 2014, about 30 miles from SLC. This year they recently opened a new solar-powered location in a renovated warehouse that was a printing press for decades. The location is close to downtown Salt Lake and includes their new roastery. They are using a Diedrich IR-12 and a Diedrich afterburner. The interior is an industrial mix of wood, concrete and brick with use of upcycled materials. The space is beautiful, featuring multiple conference rooms, and a sizable space for events. Coming this fall, they will open another SLC location in the prominent neighborhood The Avenues.
When I asked the owner, Matt Bourgeois, why he decided to open a coffee house, he explained: “I was fascinated by the fact that you see everybody in coffee houses and by everybody, I mean all walks of life doing all sorts of things; working, studying, first dates, last dates, etc. It all happens in a coffee shop. They are anchors of communities. Nobody is excluded and I loved the collision of community that happens.” Publik, he explained, is the Dutch word meaning “community”.
What should you order there? During the hot summer months in SLC, Publik has a killer cold brew. Their menu also has several offerings of gourmet toast. I recommend the toast with avocado and sea salt with a glass of cold brew, no cream needed.
Nobrow Coffee Werks
Nobrow is the type of place you go when you want to really know about your coffee and how it…werks. The staff here is passionate about coffee, and have extensive knowledge about every coffee on their shelves, from roasters like Commonwealth, Intelligentsia, Ritual, Sightglass—the list goes on. Clearly this place takes their coffee seriously, and their retail display is highly tasteful.
Nobrow is located in the up-and-coming Central Ninth area, in a shared building also occupied by Atlas Architects. When I spoke with the founder, Joe Evans, I asked him what he loves about coffee. “Initially, long before I'd discovered the better coffees and back when terrible coffee was abundant in Salt Lake, what I fell in love with was the culture of the coffee shop,” said Evans. “When I was young, I wasn't much of a coffee drinker, but spent a lot of time skipping class and reading in coffee shops. I grew to love the random conversations and the people who frequented the same shops as me.”
After he set out determined to work in coffee shops, and began to discover how good coffee can be, Evans decided to open his own place. “I set out to create a spot that offered the best coffee I could prepare by the most dedicated baristas, yet had that comfortable and relaxed atmosphere that I loved,” he continued. “I viewed Nobrow almost as an extension of my own living room.”
Nobrow is also now partnered with Blue Copper (a local SLC micro roaster) for their espresso and single origins. “My personal favorite is a washed Sidama from the Dereje Station in Dere Kockowa Ethiopia,” said Blue Copper roaster Patrick Andrews. “It’s such a vibrant coffee, with notes of lemon, orange candy, black tea, cane sugar, and this super sweet spiced cider.” Blue Copper is currently building their wholesale and retail program, and they can always be found somewhere around town serving pour-overs from their mobile station.
Alchemy Coffee currently has two locations in Salt Lake, their flagship store located near Sugarhouse and a location on Capitol Hill. They are also coming soon to Ogden’s Jefferson-Historic Trolley District (30 miles north of SLC). They plan to do all of their roasting on-site at the new location for their wholesale and retail programs, and will actually be the first to roast on-site in downtown Ogden.
Alchemy is an instrument for community, art, and theatre. When I asked the owner, Jason Briggs, how Alchemy coffee got its start, he told me the shop began as “artists trying to be business people and create community.” Later in our interview, Mr. Briggs referred to the shop as his “Magik Lovechild.”
But on to the coffee. They currently use Salt Lake Roasting Co. for their beans, but soon will be roasting their own–a trend I've noticed happening at a few coffee bars around town. If you do find yourself visiting Alchemy, I highly recommend trying their flat white, a drink with Antipodean origins that you don't see too often in American coffee bars.
Salt Lake Roasting Co.
Salt Lake Roasting Co. wants you to simply enjoy your coffee.
They have a very cozy downtown location with the most inviting atmosphere to curl up in and read a book while enjoying a hot cup of coffee—like you're in a movie, or, well, at home. The coffee is freshly roasted in-house, and the pastries are made fresh daily by their pastry chef who has been with them for 30 years.
John Bolton, the owner, initially was interested in wine, which incidentally guided him towards his passion for coffee. He mentored under Alfred Peet, from whom he learned to cup coffee, then took every chance he could to cup with leading professionals in the coffee world. He has since been to more than 28 countries of origin, opened his first café in 1981, sources his own green coffee, roasts his own coffee for his cafes, operates two downtown café locations, and might be the nicest guy I have ever interviewed.
Bolton roasts on a 30 kilo Gothot, and likes to describe his approach to roasting as an artistic experience rather than scientific. Instead of using all the “bells and whistles” on more technical roasters, he uses his senses to achieve the perfect roasts.
Why should you visit Salt Lake Roasting Co.? Because you have never felt more welcome anywhere. John Bolton has made his coffee shops an extension of himself.
The Rose Establishment
There are warm smells of fresh baked goods, fresh coffee in French presses, coffee being ground for espresso, milk being steamed, a wall of quality teas, and people everywhere. I love The Rose Establishment not only for the coffee, but for the coffee shop atmosphere, an industrial-meets-classic diner feel.
I asked the owner, Erica O’Brien, what the baristas recommend to drink or eat, basically what’s good there, and I loved her honest answer. “I never know how to answer that question. The truth just sounds lazy or arrogant…um…everything. Really, everything we have on our menu came about slowly and organically–out of necessity, and at times accidentally.” But if you can't order everything, I can't more highly recommend an almond milk latte made with Four Barrel espresso, and a warm rosemary scone.
Throughout my research for this feature, I noticed a common theme: Salt Lake City coffee bars pride themselves on community. The cafes might look and feel different–some are starkly modern, others homey and comfortable–but every cafe profiled in this feature is delivering on experiences that inspire a sense of community, driven by the people who frequent their shops, and the energy here positively buzzes because of it. SLC is a special place to be a coffee lover, and with so many new projects and expansions on the horizon, I can't wait to see where the city's coffee scene goes next.
Tarra Culbertson is a first time Sprudge contributor based out of Salt Lake City.