Coffee Talk

. December 1, 2014.
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The best beans and top spots of Washtenaw County

By Will Morrison and David Wang

Now that the trees have dropped their leaves and the weather has cooled, it’s time to reach for a warm beverage to keep the chill at bay. And with darkness coming an hour earlier, you may also need more than your daily dose of caffeine to keep S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder) from setting in. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite coffee shops in Washtenaw County. Whether you’re looking for a elephantine dose of caffeine, or just a sunny, warm (indoor) place to sit, we’ve got you covered.
 

Songbird Café

2707 Plymouth Rd., Ann Arbor, MI
(734) 761-1555
thesongbirdcafeannarbor.com

Tucked in a nondescript strip mall, stepping into Songbird is like entering a different world. Benches upholstered with coffee bags and tasteful decorations give a modern farmhouse feel. The brunch crowd is strong on a Sunday, and there’s a nice buzz in the air. It is a big space with a variety of seating arrangements, from cushy chairs to big tables. Wifi is off on the weekends until 3:00pm, but it is undoubtedly an excellent study spot. Songbird offers a selection of baked goods and all the standard coffee options in addition to specialty drinks. The Rosemary Seasalt latte introduces a fabulous, unique flavor profile—worth trying at least once.

Mighty Good Coffee

217 N Main St, Ann Arbor
(734) 222-4514
www.mightygoodcoffee.com

Much more than a spot to grab-and-go on your northern exit from A2, Mighty Good coffee is so good that over 20 area restaurants and businesses have partnered with them—including Mani Osteria, The Ravens Club, and the aforementioned Songbird Cafe. Away from the din of their Seattle-made Slayer espresso machine, the spacious annex, with small tables and communal seating, is a go-to workplace (strong wifi signal) for Northenders and Kerrytown residents looking to avoid the Sweetwaters hustle. From their drip to their craft coffees, the baristas, with the intensity of laboratory postdocs pouring solutions into erlenmeyer flasks, get the most out of their ethically sourced beans.

 

Roo's Roast

1155 Rosewood St., Ann Arbor, MI
(734) 222-9202
www.roosroast.com

Roo’s Roast refers to its beans as “Free Speech Coffee,” which is a good indication of the type of coffee shop it is. In fact, signs of the distinctive personality litter the parking lot even before you enter the café. Roo’s is an intensely local company, frequenting area farmer’s markets and distributing its beans to stores and other cafes. The space is small, but there is an impressive number of seats available. The morning crowd tends to be grab and go, but it’s also a nice place to sit down with a laptop. They offer a variety of daily roasts, which you can choose to run through the espresso machine or a pourover cone.

 

Joe and Rosie Coffee and Tea

8074 Main Street, Dexter, MI
(734) 253-2344
www.joeandrosie.com

On the corner of Main and Broad in Dexter, Joe and Rosie Coffee and Tea is a great spot to grab a cuppa or a bite to eat. A popular cyclist pit stop, we rode in from Ann Arbor on a crisp Saturday afternoon and found plentiful bike parking. It’s a cozy café, with several tables and a number of wall outlets, making it equally suitable for laptop work or a casual lunch. An impressive teapot collection of all shapes, sizes, and colors adds character while the local art on display creates a warm atmosphere. The drip coffee was flavorful and clearly a step above your average black coffee, but the star of the afternoon was the Honey Lavender Latte—easy on the honey and subtle with the lavender.

 

Lab

505 E Liberty St #300, Ann Arbor, MI
(734) 827-2233
www.labannarbor.com

Lab is an all-in-one wonder on Liberty, offering specialty coffee as well as frozen yogurt and craft beer. It is rarely empty, with a solid mix of students and professionals. Seating options include a sunny bar by the window, a communal bar in the middle, tables in the back, and a smattering of chairs in the front. Aesop Rock filled the space, and activity from neighboring Tomukun adds to the lively atmosphere. It’s a place to go to be energized and
 

Ground Floor Cafe

327 Braun Ct., Ann Arbor, MI
www.brauncourt.com

A recent addition to the Ann Arbor coffee scene, Ground Floor Café at Braun Court already impresses with its fantastic pourovers, rivaling any coffee shop in the area. The beans are provided by Rowster in Grand Rapids, and Ground Floor knows what to do with them. Much like its bar neighbor upstairs, it has plenty of character. It’s a hip spot, with indie music that Shazaam might not even recognize, and a disco ball to boot. Solid wifi and plenty of tables make Ground Floor a good place to park with a laptop or just hang out with an old friend.
 

Foggy Bottom

7065 Dexter Ann Arbor Rd., Dexter, MI
(734) 424-9630
www.foggybottomcoffee.com

Foggy Bottom transports you from a sprawling strip mall to a world of mountaineering, giant chess, and colorful furniture. With a fireplace prominently displayed near the front, one gets the sense that this could be a lodge at a down-to-earth ski resort. Aside from the clear alpine theme, the first thing that hits is that this café is large, deceptively so. It houses a library near the back, with an eclectic selection to suit any taste. In addition to a solid selection of food, Foggy Bottom offers up a big drink list, all made from their in-house roasted coffee. Of particular note, the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Mocha is a sweet experience that you won’t find elsewhere.
 

Ugly Mug Café and Roastery

317 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti, MI
(734) 484-4684
www.uglymugypsi.com

Part junk shop, part art installation, and part refurbished warehouse, the Ugly Mug’s name says it all: it’s an eclectic Ypsilanti hodgepodge that you can’t help but love. Grab a seat and take a moment to admire your surroundings. A chalk sketch of a skeleton in a suit admiring a suit being tailored by another skeleton. Wire art depicting nubile torsos in a crucifixion scene. Did we mention they sell coffee? Try the Sumatran espresso or your choice of made-to-order drip coffees. All coffee is roasted in-house, and if you like what you drink, you can buy beans to take home. Don’t leave without investigating the large side patio – even though the trees have shed their leaves, you can plot your return in the Spring.
 

Comet Coffee

16 Nickels Arcade, Ann Arbor, MI
(734) 222-0579

Tucked away among the shops of the Nickels Arcade, Comet is Ann Arbor’s specialty coffee gem. The front door is flanked by two small counters and a couple of tables. Walk inside the compact shop and you’ll find yourself greeted with the intoxicating smell of freshly pulled espresso. Take one step forward and you’re in line to order. Check out the day’s menu and choose a drip coffee from some of the country’s best specialty roasters like Ritual, George Howell, Counter Culture, and Parallel. Peruse their selection of home brewing devices while waiting for your drink and absorb the hip tunes floating up to the high ceiling. Have a seat, enjoy the first half of your coffee, take a moment to contemplate life, and then head back out into the world.
 

Zou Zou's Café

101 Main Street, Chelsea, MI
(734) 433-4226
www.zouzoucafe.com

Looking for an escape? Head over to downtown Chelsea and grab a cup of coffee and an afternoon sandwich at Zou Zou. If you visit on a weekend, you’ll be joined by cyclists stopping for a break during their afternoon ride or people just back from a hike in the Pinkney Waterloo recreation area. The café’s high ceilings, large windows, and whimsical artwork create an inviting atmosphere, and its menu of sandwiches, pastries, desserts, and crepes make for a full belly. To avoid a food coma and to complete your French experience, make sure to grab a latte and a seat by the widow.
 

Espresso Royale

www.espressoroyale.com

With locations in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan – including seven locations in Ann Arbor and East Lansing, Espresso Royale feels like a college town’s consummate coffee shop. The buzz inside Ann Arbor’s Main Street and South U locations was palpable, fueled by a constant flow of college Espresso Royale is a go-to for those whose productivity peaks with copious white noise generated by constant hustle and bustle and for downtown pedestrians looking for a quick caffeine fix. The menu is anchored by coffee shop staples – including a wide selection of teas – but its selection of espresso drinks and flavored lattes allude to its roots as a traditional Italian-style espresso bar. Try a hazelnut latte for a reminiscent taste of fall.
 

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