What to do in New Orleans: A Series Pt. 12 – Coffeehouse Culture


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There is so much going on in NOLA this weekend (of 08/17/18) that it can seem nearly impossible to decide what to do. This is the twelfth edition of a weekly series in which we here at Big Easy Magazine give suggestions on fun ways to spend a day, evening or afternoon in our beloved city. So let’s begin! What’s a good way to spend a weekend in New Orleans, or more specifically, what’s a great way to use your time this weekend (that of August 17th) in the city of New Orleans? No matter what your plans are, stop in, morning, afternoon or evening at one of New Orleans local coffee houses.

With the weather in the upper 80s with frequent thunderstorms, it’s the perfect kind of weekend to explore New Orleans’ coffeehouse culture.  There are more coffee houses in this city then I could list in this brief piece so I’ll focus on a few that are in line with Big Easy Magazine’s values.  In other words, the following list will be of establishments, that much like our publication, are unapologetically progressive and uniquely New Orleans.  In order to make this list of suggestions, said coffee houses must pay their employees a fair wage, have a positive work environment and contribute to the unique culture of our city.

First on our list is Cherry Espresso Bar.  With locations at 4877 Laurel Street and 1581 Magazine Street Suite 2, this coffee company is a wonderful, woman-led company that not only pays its employees well (Baristas start at $9 an hour), but also actively encourages tipping and maintains a positive work environment.  You’ll find it impossible not to tip when you see the beautiful latte art and the unique architecture (especially at the Laurel street location).  The talented baristas and delicious, locally roasted coffee at Cherry Espresso are reason enough to stop by one of their locations.  The unique architecture and ambiance of the Laurel street location truly make this a one of a kind New Orleans coffee experience.  And for those who don’t love coffee, there are delicious food and tea options as well!

Our next stop on our coffee culture tour is Stumptown Coffee Roasters.  Located at 610 Carondelet street, Stumptown is tucked into the Ace hotel, although it is also its own stand alone business.  This company is not based locally but has its headquarters in Portland, Oregon.  Despite their roots not being local, Stumptown still makes the list because of the values they hold in conjunction with the unique architecture and atmosphere of their New Orleans location.  The Ace Hotel is uniquely New Orleans and has a fantastic pool that is worth checking out!  The interior of Stumptown Coffee on Carondelet is not only beautiful and unique, it is also quirky in a way that is central to our city.  This shop boasts some of the best coffee in the nation (and some of the most talented baristas to boot). The biggest reason they make our list of must visit coffee houses is due to how they treat their employees.  Baristas are paid $15 an hour and have access to health insurance through the job.  This tops even the most “progressive” national chains (looking at you, Starbucks).  You will see and taste the result of the pay and benefits in the performance of the baristas as well as the quality of the coffee.  High pay begets high performance.

There are many other coffee houses that are worth your time that pay their people well and maintain a positive work culture.  For the sake of the length of this piece I will only address one more.  The last coffee house I want to address is perhaps the most unique in our city.  Located at 5110 Danneel street, the Neutral Ground Coffee House is one of the south’s oldest independently operated coffee houses.  This delightful shop is not only distinctive in its interior look and atmosphere, but also in how it is run and the hours it holds.  Open from 7pm to Midnight every night, the Neutral Ground is a live music venue.  With different acts each night, ranging from local musicians who play monthly sets to traveling musicians playing a one time show, this coffee house is truly an iconic New Orleans community gathering place.  Operating as a co-op and a nonprofit, this establishment has reasonable prices, a wide selection of treats and a live music calendar that is well worth your attention!  Don’t forget to tip!  This coffee house runs on volunteer baristas (most working only one night per week).  Those who do volunteer their barista talents here do so out of love for the establishment, the live, local, always free music each night, and the community that has grown up around this place.  But it doesn’t hurt to bring home some tips as well!  Any money earned by the establishment goes back into keeping the place running and keeping the music free!

Whatever you end up doing this weekend, no matter which local coffeehouse you decide to visit, don’t forget to keep on drinking water! Be kind! Be New Orleans! Take the time to check out a few of our recent articles, like this piece on the Coffee Industry in our city, this recently featured poem, or this response to 45’s recent disparaging comments about the free press! If you have thoughts on this piece, be sure to comment, or if you just have thoughts on living and working in this city that you want to share, feel free to contribute to our blog! Lastly, don’t forget to check out the events section on our website for many other good ideas on how to get the most out of your weekend.

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