If you’re headed to Stowe, Vermont, about halfway there from the highway, after you’ve passed Ben & Jerry’s and then this guy…..
….. you’ll see what at first glance looks to be a big red barn. You’re going to want to stop there, because it’s the home of one of the best specialty coffee places you’ll find just about anywhere.
Welcome to Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea, home to a large roastery, coffee school, and coffee and tea bar.
Drive around to the coffee bar, and the second you walk in the door you’ll know you’ve found someplace special. To your left is a small, curated selection of beautiful coffee and tea accessories that are all of very high quality and cover almost every home coffee making method.
There’s a lot that you’ll find on the Fellow Products website. Oh, look, it’s Fellow’s new star, the Ode coffee grinder. Have a hankering for a beautifully designed electric kettle that can heat water to an exact temperature and maintain it? Yup, they have the to-die-for Stagg EKG. Or maybe a stovetop kettle instead? There’s the Clyde. Yes, that countertop vacuum canister is the Atmos. There’s also high-end products like Kinto travel mugs and tumblers, a variety of pourover drippers and filters, French presses, glass specialty tea pots and steepers, and the Technivorm Mochamaster KBTS, a stunning drip coffee machine from the Netherlands. And yes, you can find some store-branded swag if you’re only in the mood for a tee or a hat.
Turn back straight ahead and you’re looking down the long counter of the café. There’s a couple of Modbar machines set into the counter, and a large work area for the baristas to put together your drinks and give you time to consider a baked treat or two.
The overall impression is that you’re in a very large space that is very tastefully decorated in a way that pays homage to its home region without falling into homespun farm kitsch. Some may find the blend of polished cement floor, dark reclaimed wood beams and wainscot, industrial styled pendant lights, and light wooden countertops played out, but I thought it was so well executed that I couldn’t quibble. You get the sense that there was a lot of money involved in setting this place up, and that they are very serious about their products.
Oh, then there’s the coffee. In a word, fantastic. On my first visit I had my macchiato made with the Yemen Haraaz single origin coffee. It was priced at a premium, and it was worth the upcharge. Such a well-balanced, lush, smooth coffee that worked perfectly as espresso. On my second visit I had the regular espresso blend, and while it wasn’t on par with the Haraaz, it was a very fine, quality cup. Yes, these folks definitely know what they’re doing.
What a gem this place is. I suppose the only thing that fell short to me was that it wasn’t the most welcoming place. They were concerned in keeping the number of people in the cafe to a COVID-mandated minimum, which I applaud, but the manner in which one of the baristas enforced this was not very friendly – and also led, on a rainy day, to the small foyer outside the main room being crowded, which was completely counter to any idea of social distancing. My second visit was toward the end of the day when they were in their last hour of service, and the same barista seemed less than thrilled to have me in the shop, particularly when I asked if I could take some pictures.
Would that keep me away? No way. The coffee’s just too damned good, and a few more trips might weaken my resolve so I’ll buy some beautiful gear and swag. Next time I’m back in the Green Mountain State I’ll bypass Ben & Jerry, zip past the majestic scrap metal eagle, and make my way back to this magical red barn.
Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea Co.
11 Cabin Ln, Waterbury Center, VT