Coffee & Where To Find It

Coffee is one of my favorite things in the world.  While I am not physically addicted to caffeine and can go days or weeks without it I am psychologically addicted to the stuff.  Coffee stirs something inside of me that makes me creative, that allows me to express myself, and fuels the work too hard and sleep too little lifestyle that I have always embraced.  Here is a breakdown of my favorite coffee shops not including any bakeries, juicebars, and breweries pouring cold brew nitro that I frequent for my coffee fix.

Onyx Tonics
Onyx is hands down my favorite coffee shop, and one of the best places to visit in Burlington.  They routinely offer 2-3 options for coffee and espresso from various micro roasters and put craft into each cup.  The space is beautiful and relies on minimalist decor, pop art decoration, and a surprisingly wonderful teal color scheme.  The staff is awesome, always funny and chipper when engaging their regulars and newcomers alike.  If you sit there for long you can also hear them talk a little bit of shit about people who have just left, which as someone who works with the public gives them authenticity, even if it means that they probably talk shit about me once I leave.  There is a lot of traffic going through there, so it isn’t the best place to read, but I do get a lot of work done there.  You will pay a higher premium for coffee at Onyx, but it is worth it.  Between the hand selected beans and brewing each cup through the siphon system you will get great coffee from good people in a fun environment.  They also do ice cream, I hear its great but I haven’t tried it.

  • Favorite: Any coffee hand made on the siphon

Williston Coffee Shop
This is my favorite coffee shop to write in.  It is brightly lit and relatively quiet, there are even outside tables for the summer weather.  The staff is super friendly and always give me a great deal if I bring my travel mug.  The coffee isn’t out of this world, it is normally a selection from Brio kept in warming carafes, but it is always hot and plentiful.  The best part about the shop is the bakery which cranks out flaky croissants and delicious cookies served at a number of other coffee shops.  Their sandwiches look very good, but I generally stick with either pastry or salad (also very good) whenever I am there.   If I have any serious stream of consciousness writing to do this is my go to spot, something about unlimited coffee refills and a nice croissant allow me to bash out 1,500 words without breaking a sweat

  • Favorite: Croissant

Scout (3 Locations)
Scout has 3 different cafes with 3 different personalities.  The Winooski (aka Victory Circle) location is the original, a nice place with a very Portlandia feel.  You can get handmade ice cream to go with your chemex for 2 (which they get disturbed when you order just for yourself).  They enjoy adding a dramatic flair for some of their drinks, like if you order the smoked maple latte a barista (probably wearing a beanie and sporting artsy tattoos) will top it with a marshmallow and broulee it before handing it over to you at one of the hand me down diner tables.  I really enjoy sitting in the window nook looking out over the Winooski Speedway, or sitting in the back and smelling the coffee being roasted by Vivid Coffee with shares the space.  The Old North End (aka ONE) location also serves ice cream, but has a lot more room.  There are a number of simple communal tables and a ton of natural light.  This is a working man’s coffee shop and you won’t have to put up with the annoying banter that most of Burlington’s coffee shops have to offer.  In fact I can’t recall hearing anybody speak more than to order, this is a get shit done place.  The Scout Innovation Center (aka Inno) is located in a multipurpose office building and serves as more of a lunch room and coffee kiosk than a real coffee shop.  I rarely see other people reading or writing there, it is more office workers passing through on their breaks.  The benefit is that this place has a full menu and you don’t have to pay for parking.

  • Favorites: Victory Circle- Chemex for 2, ONE- Latte, Inno- Salad with beets and goat cheese

Shelburne Coffee and Wine Shop
This place used to be special to me, since it was one of the landmarks that I picked out as a kid.  Whenever we were coming to Burlington we would pass by this shop and the fire hydrant art piece across the street and I would get excited knowing that we were almost there.  That being said they make good coffee too.  I don’t stop in that frequently, and when I do it is mostly just to get an espresso and read the paper before catching a ferry.  I have never bought wine here, but I should someday now that I am a grownup.

  • Favorite: Double shot espresso

Speeder and Earl’s (2 Locations)
Speeder and Earl’s was my first introduction to Burlington coffee.  When I first moved here there was an extremely cute and bubbly barista at the Church Street location who I had a crush on.  Unfortunately she never fell madly in love with me, and I never even learned her name.  Young love dies hard.  The Church street location doesn’t have much indoor seating space so I rarely go there in the winter, but during the summer the outdoor seating is prime for people watching.  I could sit there all day sipping on cold brew and watching the cross section of humanity that is Burlington in the summer.  The Pine street location is a wonderful place to read, it is warm and cozy with plenty of people getting work done and chatting.  Every time I am in there I seem to run into friends and get pulled into a fun conversation, it is a treat.

  • Favorites: Church Street- Cold brew iced coffee, Pine Street- Clockwork Orange Latte

It’s and art gallery, and a coffee shop, and a building lobby, and it makes much better coffee than it deserves to.  They are the only place in Burlington that I have found serves Counter Culture coffee, which is always very good.  The coffee bar is rarely used and seems to take up more space than it needs to, but it makes an impressive sight.  I do feel like the staff doesn’t appreciate that pour over is offered since every time there is a sigh when I want something that doesn’t mean a quick shot of espresso or a cup out of the pot, but I understand that.  My one gripe is about the seating arrangement since things are scattered around an art gallery.  I have a fear of sitting on a cube that I think is supposed to be a chair that actually turns out to be a piece of modern art.

  • Favorite: Pour over

Muddy Waters
I really don’t know how I feel about Muddy’s.  It is a nice enough place with a decent coffee/tea/beer/juice/kombucha selection and a mix of students/tourists/hippies, but I have never felt at home there.  I have attended several writing groups and gone on a few dates there, but something just doesn’t seem right.  Maybe because it doesn’t have wifi and is more of a gathering place than a work/read space, I really can’t get comfortable there.  It is also always crowded with the eclectic mix of people described above, I feel too old, too young, to corporate, and not enough of a sellout at the same time.

  • Favorite: Fiddlehead IPA or Mexican Hot Chocolate

Uncommon Grounds
I am not a fan of this place, not based on the coffee, but based on the crowds.   It is always crowded and there is a tremendous wait for coffee and tables.  They do have a great tea selection which is nice, but it is a hassle to enjoy it.  Places like this were the best thing that coffee had to offer for 15 or 20 years, but have since been out shined by newcomers, which is kind of a shame.  It is a venerable standby in a crowded market, but based on the crowds and the wait they are doing ok, so I don’t feel bad about taking my business elsewhere most of the time.

  • Favorite: Irish Breakfast Tea (Does not actually contain whiskey, which based on the name it should)

Radio Bean:
I hate Radio Bean as a coffee shop.  Sure it is a nice bar, and a great performance space, and the restaurant next door is awesome, but if doesn’t do anything special for coffee and too counterculture (the movement, not the coffee brand) for its own good.  Unless you are lounging around reading books of obscure poetry you will be treated poorly by staff and patrons alike.  After several bad experiences I won’t go back during daylight.

  • Favorite: Chicken and Waffles from the restaurant that shares the space.

Starbucks (3 stores and a Barnes and Noble)
Is it snobbish of me to look down my nose at Starbucks people while they look down their noses at Dunkin people?  I used to drink a lot of espresso and got used to burnt beans, but now I have seen the light and there is no going back, snobbish or not.

  • Favorite: I still love the damn Gingerbread Latte

Nomad Coffee (Currently Essex, but anywhere they damn please)
Its a food truck, but with coffee.  I normally judge a cafe by the quality of the coffee (roaster, options, specialty drinks), the quality of the experience (staff, fellow customers), and the space (seating, light, noise).  In that case, the coffee is good but the truck limits the options, the staff is nice but I have never seen any other customers, and the space has no seating options and gets cold in the winter and warm in the summer, there is plenty of natural light.  I like the idea of the place as a coffee enthusiast, but as someone who enjoys working in coffee shops it leaves a lot to be desired.

  • Favorite: Large Coffee (preferably Brio)


Outside Chittenden County

  • Vermont Coffee Company, Middlebury: Factory store with great take home coffee deals, decent food, and communal tables, my go to place when visiting Midd.
  • Espresso Bueno, Barre: Good espresso drinks, decent tea selection, fabulous staff, turns into a bar at night, and hosts multiple comedy shows each month, what isn’t to like?
  • PK Coffee, Stowe: Right next to the Alchemist brewery, CounterCulture coffee on pour over, and a very nice maple latte, its a great place to fuel up for a beer adventure.
  • The Coffee Exchange, Rutland: I have never had coffee here since whenever I can get Stewarts coffee I do so, but they have a very good tea selection and support local music and comedy so they make the list.

This is not an exhaustive list, and there are plenty of places that I have yet to try or have not been to often enough to pass judgement.  Vermont has become a hotbed of coffee activity, with multiple roasters and fancy coffee shops popping up all over, even in tiny out of the way towns.  Hopefully this culture will continue to grow and I will continue to be very awake all the time.

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