Why Saint Paul Captured Our Hearts — Coffee and Tea Edition

A series about Saint Paul, MN — Part 3 of 4 When you live in a place like Minnesota, tea and coffee are welcome weather companions. They’re delicious and versatile. They’re beverages that warm your hands as you trudge through six feet of snow and cool you down in the backyard on a hot July afternoon. We’ve reached a place as a society where the change in seasons isn’t really complete without a steaming or icy treat to accompany it, and in Minnesota especially, this shows.

Other states appreciate coffee and tea just like we do (Seattle, Washington is a good example—the birthplace of Starbucks), but Minnesota’s seen a boom in coffee and tea culture in past years. Dunn Brothers Coffee was founded in Saint Paul, MN in 1987. Caribou Coffee, your friendly neighborhood coffee shop, followed in 1992. Tea Garden appeared in 2002 with a new, exciting take on bubble tea and Thai coffee shakes. And the movement only continued to grow from there.

Today, you can’t go more than a mile in Saint Paul without finding somewhere to drink coffee or tea. Ben and I have spent time at the greatest—and the least—of these places; we love coffee and tea, and we love when we find a shop that gives them justice. You’ll find our favorites, and why we think they’re so great, below.

TeaSource

The Saint Paul TeaSource is located at 752 Cleveland Avenue South, Saint Paul 55116. It’s open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days, and prices range anywhere from $2 to $6 for a pot of tea and $4 to $30 for loose-leaf tea.

TeaSource is one of the few places we know that truly cares about tea. It’s started small—there are only three locations in the Twin Cities, one being in Saint Paul—but despite a contained workforce, its spirit has grown into something worth following. The owner, Bill Waddington, prides himself on providing amazing customer service and high quality tea. He never cuts corners and buys his tea directly from the source, without any need for a middleman. Because of this, TeaSource’s wide variety of teas is incredibly delicious, unique, and affordable.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into the Saint Paul TeaSource is the mouth-watering aroma of creamy chai spices. TeaSource offers its customers unlimited samples from their menu—which means, if you’re as impatient as we are, you can try the chai right away!

If chai isn’t really your thing, TeaSource boasts over 200+ different types of loose-leaf tea that they sell by the pot and by the bag. They carry a little something for everyone. Straight teas, flavored teas, chai, and herbals… The possibilities are endless. In three years of visiting TeaSource now, we’ve yet to try every tea. They make it hard to, considering they add new teas every few months!

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, TeaSource has “Sample Day,” which allows customers to try five different teas without having to buy an entire pot of it, and on Fridays they have their own version of Happy Hour. Honestly, they just try to make it as easy as possible for people to find a tea (or teas) they’ll love.

As if their teas weren’t enough, we also love TeaSource’s atmosphere—it’s warm and inviting, a perfect place to meet up with friends, co-workers, creative groups (we’ve seen knitters, book clubs, writing groups, and even people who get together to play card/board games), and family, among others. The staff members behind the counter are encouraging and friendly, too, and will do everything in their power to make your tea experience an excellent one.

Do you want to kick back, relax, and read a book? Chat with a long lost friend? Work on schoolwork? Hold a meeting with a client? Write a novel? Laugh with a stranger? You can do all these things at TeaSource, with the bonus of a pot of tea made with love, and that’s why TeaSource is such a great place to visit.

ninascafe

Nina’s Coffee Cafe

Nina’s Coffee Cafe is located at 165 Western Avenue North, Saint Paul 55102. It’s open everyday from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The prices for food and coffee are average, similar to other coffee shops and cafes.

We have spent many a sleepy Sunday in Nina’s Coffee Café. Nestled in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood, Nina’s Coffee Café keeps shop in the first floor of a tall, Victorian building with sweeping picture windows and gorgeous stone carvings. Cozy apartments are stacked overhead, reminiscent of artist lofts. The area gives you a very creative, communal feeling.

Inside, Nina’s details and characteristics are almost better than the coffee itself: for those who wish to lounge, there are couches and comfy chairs available, often with a game of chess or checkers—and a willing opponent—nearby. For those who are there entirely on business, tables and outlets are conveniently scattered across the shop. And finally, for those who wish to feel regal, try grabbing the loft connected to the main floor by a short staircase (there are only two chairs and a table up there though, so you may have to Minnesota-nice your way to the top for a spot).

Nina’s offers meals such as sandwiches, bakery items, coffee, and tea. Their food is average and their coffee is decent, but food and drink alone doesn’t make Nina’s special. The company does! When you visit, be on the lookout for writers (especially during National Novel Writing Month in November), artists, hipsters, students, and coffee connoisseurs, among others. And while there used to be a fun bookstore in the basement of Nina’s, they’re now remodeling in hopes to soon unveil an artist’s hangout, complete with tablets, meeting spaces, open tables to draw on, and more!

We love Nina’s because it encourages the Saint Paul community to come together and connect—through art, through communication, and through delicious coffee.

Kopplin’s Coffee

Kopplin’s Coffee is located at 2038 Marshall Avenue, Saint Paul 55104. It’s open most days from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Prices are on the higher side for coffee ($4-6 for a latte, more if you add special requests) and food because of its small location and quality goods.

Kopplin’s Coffee gets a special mention on our list because of its absolutely fantastic coffee. The location itself is nothing special, just a regular coffee shop filled with tables and chairs, but they put a lot of care in roasting, grinding, brewing, and serving a perfect cup or coffee. This care speaks volumes.

Their coffee is balanced—not too sweet, not too bitter, but with depth and flavor profiles that last long after the last drop. Their espresso shots have the foamy, caramelly crema on top that baristas often seek but cannot master. Kopplin’s gets this down consistently. The quality is always improving; those who work at Kopplin’s take their jobs seriously, and we appreciate that.

If you’re hungry, Kopplin’s offers fresh baked baguettes (with jam) and pastries, cheese plates, yogurt and granola parfaits, and other rotating snacks. The food is as good as the coffee. If you don’t mind paying premium for a high quality lunch, getting something to snack on at Kopplin’s will be worth your while.

Kopplin’s also sells local products: raw honey, homemade jam, coffee mugs, and handcrafted bowls, to name a few. These items aren’t cheap, but if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for that special someone, buying locally is always a plus.

Kopplin’s has proven time and again that quality comes first. This seems to be a rare commodity in the coffee business of late, so we highly encourage anyone who appreciates a well-crafted cup of coffee to stop by Kopplin’s and taste the difference in person!

Are you a coffee or tea drinker? Have you been to any of these Saint Paul tea and coffee shops? If you don’t live in Minnesota, what’s your favorite local shop or drink, and why? Leave us a comment below. We'd love to know!

Don’t forget to join us in the final part of our 4-part series on Saint Paul! We’ll cover the best of the best restaurants in Saint Paul, why they’re so great, and where you can find them!