On a cold, dreary morning in October I woke before dawn and prepared myself for the pilgrimage I would soon make. My traveling companion, Annabella and I were headed up to Indianapolis to take part in the third annual Caffeine Crawl–a driving tour of the city’s best coffee spots, samples included. The morning would include six stops and just as many caffeinated beverages.
We began at Julian Coffee Roasters in Zionsville. The local roasting operation had a variety of their blends on tap. Annabella and I decided it would be best to pace ourselves, so we gravitated toward the upsettingly good pumpkin chai tea made by local company Joy Chai. As we nursed our tea, we were lead through the storefront and into the roasting room, where barrels of green coffee beans were waiting to be roasted. The aroma in that room was what I assume heaven smells like. After discussing proper cold brew concentrate ratios (roughly 3:1), the group got refills before gearing up for the next stop on the tour.
Bites by Confectioneiress was just down the street and served Julian coffee. The mood in the store was luxe and indulgent with gleaming glass domes covering cake pops and French macarons. I’d imagine Carmel moms would love to stop by after dropping their kids off at baby yoga. The almost-too-curated feel of the space was offset by the down to Earth vibes of the staff, and the fact that they had some killer coffee. First up was a hops-filled iced coffee, then a new dessert they were tentatively calling a deconstructed Snickers (So much nougat!). They sampled one of their signature drinks, which was a coffee mint julep. It was a fresh combination of mint and coffee over crushed iced, garnished with a little mint leaf. Just as the caffeine buzz was starting to hit me, the staff passed around a cup of rum-barrel coffee—coffee that had soaked in a barrel previously used to age rum. With a splash of milk, the coffee took on the richness of the rum without being overpowered by it. This brew will haunt me for eternity.
I’d like to take a moment to relay my physiological and emotional state. At this point (four drinks in), I was feeling like the funniest person that ever lived. Annabella and I could barely sit still as we struggled to keep our composure among the group of serious coffee drinkers. It was at this time that I had a small identity crisis. There is a distinct difference between those who drink coffee and those who identify as coffee enthusiasts. The difference between people who buy a can of Folgers and call it a day, and those who grind their own beans. Many members of the group were asking highly informed questions about roasting processes, and the sentiment of the day was that of a steadfast reverence to the almighty bean. Was this who I wanted to become? A coffee snob? An enthusiast? I reflected on this for a moment. Perhaps there was a time before the Crawl when I could have changed my path—stepped away from the warm, yet addictive glow of the caffeine shrine. But today, it was already within me. I was of the coffee and the coffee was of me. It was too late to turn back. And so I journeyed on.
The next stop was a demonstration down the street by Brew The Way. It was a short walk and an even shorter run! The founder of Brew The Way, Tim Stiffler-Dean, gave a talk on the importance of coffee in his life and how the beverage can be used to start important conversations and connections. I took a moment to consider my own fondness for coffee as a way to break the ice with new friends. It’s so accessible, self-determining, low-risk. The perfect entry way into relationships of all kinds.
But, I digress.
After several different brewing processes were presented, we were ready to journey into downtown Indy to stop by the 16th street staple, Thirsty Scholar. I was somewhat familiar with this spot as it is a favorite among my friends for being open past 9 (Where else does the under 21 crowd hang out?) and serving really splendid tea. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with a cup of iced chai blended with coconut and coffee concentrate. It was called the Ladykiller for its high caffeine content, and despite its problematic name, it was delicious.
The rain had begun to pick up again so the group hurried down the block to Tinker Coffee—another local roaster. At this small operation, we were offered a speed-round version of cupping—or taste-testing different blends of coffees. The process is generally used as a way for the roasters to decide which kinds of beans they will buy. Tinker offers cupping lessons for anyone interested in learning more about the process and developing their palate. We ended the day at Foundry Provisions, a hip café with Herron students’ artwork on the walls. Since we had already consumed an irresponsible amount of coffee for the day, Annabella and I skipped out on the sample and instead took a tiny cup of squash soup to try to balance out our blood sugars.
As we headed back down to Bloomington, Annabella and I felt the inevitable crash lurking in the back of our heads. Sure enough, it came. That night, I felt nauseous, exhausted and incredibly wired. But thanks to the Caffeine Crawl, the high was definitely worth the low.