Words and Photographs by Rebecca Frankel
You may have passed by Alchemy Coffee, a coffee and pastry cart, on your way to classes near the Singleton Center and Pollak Building.
Alchemy Coffee has perfectly brewed vegan coffee down to an exact science. They have been so prosperous that on August 25th, 2014 they opened up a snazzy new shop on West Broad St. called “The Lab.” It is right next to Richmond Book Shop and inside the new VCUarts Depot.
The weather was dreary and rainy when I stepped foot into Alchemy Coffee’s new shop, and I was in desperate need of a caffeine pick-me-up.
The interior looks like a secret science lab inside an 1800’s wood cabin. There are wood counters with industrial metal chairs and flowers in beaker vases. There are a few cool, old-timey science tools hanging around the shop, including a large Yama Tower.
They sell the same pastries as the Alchemy cart on campus, but are able to have a bigger variety in the store. The display case had fruit tarts, scones, muffins, chocolate cookies and savory quiches. Pastry prices range from $2.00 to $3.00.
The Lab features the same coffees as the cart with espresso, drip, pour over, and cold brew coffee. Coffee prices are from $2.50 to $4.25, depending on what you order and the size. They also offer tea, chai lattes and hot cocoa.
They had several different coffee grinds to choose from, each offering various different flavors.
I first ordered the Ethiopia Harrar coffee in an espresso latte. It was sweet, and had notes of blueberry and milk chocolate. There was a lovely heart illustrated in cream on the foam, which I happily ruined as I sipped on the hot coffee. On a chilly rainy day, that coffee was just what I needed.
With my espresso latte I had a strawberry ricotta cheese tart, which was good, but nothing special. There were only a few thin slices of strawberries on top of the tart, so it was mostly sweet ricotta cheese.
Next, I decided to try an iced coffee using the Sipacapa coffee grinds.
When I got the coffee, it was black. I asked the gentleman working at the counter if it would ruin the coffee if I added cream, because I never drink my coffee black. He replied that they wouldn’t be offended if I added cream, but he highly suggested against it, since the quality of their coffee is so high.
I decided to take a chance and listen to the man’s advice. I took a cautious sip of my black iced coffee and to my pleasant surprise, it wasn’t intolerably bitter. There was a lot of flavor to the coffee; it tasted like dark chocolate, raspberries, and lavender. Simply put, in that moment my opinion of black coffee was forever altered.
The employees here are true coffee connoisseurs. Without being prompted, the gentleman working that day enthusiastically gave me a lesson on their various brewing methods.
In making the iced coffee, Alchemy uses the Japanese method of brewing a concentration of specially selected coffee directly onto ice. The ice shocks the coffee, bringing out a lot of its natural flavor. Melting ice contributes to the total water volume without weakening the final brew.
Alchemy also offers Cold Brew Iced Coffee, in which the coffee is steeped for fourteen hours. Paul, a barista at The Lab, stated, “[Cold Brew] It’s the best way to get the most flavor profiles out of your coffee. If you brew it correctly, coffee should never be bitter.” He told me trying their iced coffee would be eye-opening, and he was right!
Checking out Alchemy Coffee’s “The Lab” between classes is definitely worth the time and money. Once you have a taste of their coffee, you’ll never want Starbucks again