By: Melissa Serro | Photography: Lauren Leising
Athens is a city home to companies that brew coffee locally and have mastered the art of the trade in order to provide coffee that is as fresh as possible. It does not take long to hear the popular rumors of caffeine-ridden espresso shots used to aid in all-night study sessions or quaint coffee lounges nestled between the rustic brick buildings in the downtown area that lie just behind Broad Street. As a coffee enthusiast tiring of the Starbucks variety, venturing out on a Saturday afternoon will result in coffee houses and drinks that are unique strictly to Athens.
Jittery Joe’s, 1480 Baxter St.
To start off a coffee tour, a stop at arguably the most widely popularized, strictly Athens coffee brewer is a must. Jittery Joe’s dedicates itself to making quality coffee available for the city of Athens and has left its trademark throughout the city’s landscape. As a favorite among UGA students, this local coffee hub has a reputation for concocting some of the most highly caffeinated drinks in the area.
Jittery Joe’s menu offers two distinct drinks that an employee would endorse for a student rushing in at 10 p.m. for a night spent in the library with their head shoved between the covers of a textbook.
To begin, let’s look at the “Crackaccino.” It has four shots of espresso and offers a boost of energy without any added flavorings or drip coffee. For those not familiar with technical coffee terms, drip coffee refers to the typical brewing method where water passes through the coffee grains collecting the essential oils.
The other option, which has one less espresso shot but provides more caffeine, is the “Shot In the Dark.” What this drink lacks in espresso shot, it makes up for in a customers’ ability to customize for their particular coffee-drinking desires.
“I’d really recommend the ‘Shot In the Dark’ for people who like the taste of plain coffee,” says Sydney, a Jittery Joe’s barista. This drink, also known as a Red Eye - a term used for a shot of espresso accompanied by a medium roast coffee - can have either a medium roast blend mixed in for added caffeine or a darker roast that mellows out the bitter taste of the espresso shot.
“Regulars come in after their bar shifts at 6:30 in the morning and get a double shot of espresso,” Sydney says. “You can tell who they are because they look hard-working.”
Customers can also add flavorings of their choosing to this drink, ranging from popular flavors like vanilla to more unique options like butter pecan. With a medium roast and butter pecan syrup, the drink offers a nutty bite. As far as taste goes, the “Shot in the Dark” really is suited to people who enjoy a bitter taste to their coffee.
Walker’s Pub and Coffee, 128 College Ave.
With a right turn from Jittery Joe’s, Walker’s Pub and Coffee is just a straight walk up College Avenue. Even though Walker’s does not specialize specifically in coffee, it deserves an honorable mention nonetheless. The pub’s entrance is disguised through a narrow green hallway with antique mirrors plastered along its length. On the right, the bar and café tables sit nestled amongst the brick walls exhibiting the colorful artwork of painters.
The atmosphere is fun and laidback, and the service is the same. Because of the location, most of the coffee drinks are alcoholic but can be ordered without any alcohol for customers under the legal drinking age.
Lauren Leising, a freshman at UGA, is a fan of Walker’s due to the afternoons she and her friends frequent there. When asked why she preferred Walker’s drinks, Leising replied, “I don’t like strong coffee, but I enjoy flavored coffee. I recommend the raspberry latté because it’s very mild in taste and good for someone who likes a gentler coffee.”
In comparison to Jittery Joe’s caffeine-ridden drinks, this drink is not for anyone looking for a quick energy boost or who prefers black coffee. The creamy latté comes out with a foamy top and offers enough of a mellow coffee jitteriness from the sugary-sweet raspberry syrup that it would be better suited for recovering after a long night.
Iron Works, 295 E. Dougherty St.
Iron Works is new to Athens as of this past October, but has succeeded in making a name for itself for local Athenians. Finding Iron Works might be hard for first-timers since this coffee lounge is located inside the Graduate Hotel’s main lobby.
A long line of windows framed by the brick building honors the history of the location. Passing through the door, there is an instant feeling of coziness. The carpet resembles the mix-and-match patches of a quilt, while the room décor resembles the dream finds of any antique collector. The coffee bar is situated in the corner, with pastries and buns showcased inside glass stands and domes.
“The homemade pastries change regularly,” says Amanda Caskey, Graduate Athens representative. “The café makes their own special mocha base for coffee drinks and their signature hot chocolate.” This signature base, freshly homemade with vanilla and bittersweet chocolate, gives the coffee a creamy chocolate flavor. The base used in making Iron Work’s mochas results in the drink having a very mild coffee taste, the flavor resembling something closer to hot chocolate.
The mochas are presented in a cute white porcelain mug atop a plate with chocolate shreds floating on the surface and topped off with a dollop of whipped cream. Iron Work’s mocha really is the dream cup of coffee for people who do not usually drink coffee at all. For the rest of us, it is a unique spin on a popular café item.
Regardless of the choice of venue, what visitors and locals alike can be sure of is that the city is equipped with enough specialty brewers and one-of-a-kind lounges that the preferences of any coffee enthusiast can be accommodated. Athens’ rich diversity is reflected in the different interpretations of the café experience and what it takes to really provide customers with the best-brewed coffee. With this many possibilities, Athenians have the whole world of coffee just in their hands.