Taste Test: Coffee Shop Specialties

This month’s Taste Test is dedicated to all my fellow coffee addicts out there. You know who you are—slinking into the office, stumbling to the coffeepot, trying not to make eye contact with anyone until you’ve had your first cup.

This month’s Taste Test is dedicated to all my fellow coffee addicts out there. You know who you are—slinking into the office, stumbling to the coffeepot, trying not to make eye contact with anyone until you’ve had your first cup. We’ve all been there. And to prove there’s no judgment here, we’re giving you five fantastic reasons to skip the usual stops in favor of local alternatives, all more than capable of delivering your caffeine fix in the most delicious ways imaginable.

Cultured Coffee

309 Cleveland Ave. NW, Canton
7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Now in its second year as part of the established downtown coffee scene, Cultured Coffee has made a name for itself with delicious coffee, a cool industrial vibe, playful branding complete with mustache and monocle and a calendar of entertainment including live music, open mic nights and poetry readings. The storefront location, while entirely renovated by owner Heath Hamlin, delivers the down-to-earth character required for any true urban coffee house. Gig posters for local bands cover a bulletin board, and an artistically adorned hand-drawn chalkboard graces the sidewalk out front.

Serving fresh roasted beans from Coffee Tree Roasters in Pittsburgh, beans arrive fresh and ready for brewing at the shop. Stopping into Cultured Coffee for a caramel latte has become a bit of a Saturday splurge and/or summertime pre-farmers’ market ritual for us. It’s absolutely delicious and not overloaded with ultra-sugary caramel, unlike so many of its mega-chain competitors. Cultured Coffee’s hours are accommodating, and like all true coffee houses, start early and end late (open till 11 p.m. daily).

Carpe Diem

1215 Market Ave. N, Canton
7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to noon Saturday
Belden Village Mall
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

tast_carpeWhen mega-brand Caribou Coffee vacated its kiosk in Belden Village Mall, supporters of Canton were stoked to see a second location of Carpe Diem step in. The menu (at both locations) is packed with creative signature drinks, such as Love Potion No. 9, made with Ghirardelli White Chocolate and Cinnamon, or the White Chocolate Raspberry Latte. If you’re up for a colder option, try the Nutella Frappe, basically a coffee lover’s milkshake, enhanced with hazelnut cocoa goodness. If plain old brewed coffee is more your style, Carpe Diem has loads of options there too, ranging from Dark Italian Roast to Bananas Foster, and even more exotic flavors such as Blueberry Crumble, available in whole beans to take home for $12.50 per pound.

In addition to downright delicious Joe, it has tasty packaged lunches from local health food cafe BAM, including wraps, sandwiches, Fiesta Rice and yogurt parfaits at the downtown location. The Belden Village store stocks BAM’s Powerbombs, too. Its java is so well-liked, it recently has taken on new life—as the star ingredient of the robust and fragrant Carpe Noctem Coffee Porter, one of the impressive craft beers available at Canton Brewing Co.’s newly opened Speakeasy.


137 Walnut Ave. NE, Canton
7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday
5854 Fulton Dr. NW, Canton
7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday

taste_muggsHome of award-winning coffee and baristas alike, Muggswigz Coffee & Tea, a downtown Canton coffee lover’s staple, branched “uptown” in 2013 with a new location in Lake Cable. Though brewing still is done from the downtown store, baked goods and house-made syrups all are prepared on premises in Jackson. While the vibe is decidedly less funky (meant in the best way possible), Jackson Muggs still feels like Muggwigz with its intoxicating aroma, counter full of sweets and a full house (even on a Tuesday) of folks either congregating or nose deep in their laptops. Pop art-style graphic paintings from local artist Rachel Jernigan adorn the walls, adding a color splash to the mostly subdued space.

Signature drinks at Muggs abound (Fluffer Nutter Latte, anyone?), but my all-time favorite is the Purple Picker Upper, a scrumptious mocha enhanced with its house-made lavender syrup and topped with whipped cream for a unique liquid treat with just the right degree of sweetness. At Muggs, the coffee is so fresh that beans roasted more than 10 days prior already have landed in the 50 percent off bin. Homemade baked goods arranged on glass dome-topped cake plates at the counter surely will tempt you, and most always include at least one gluten-free option. Among the delicious (and gluten-free) on the evening of my visit was a carrot cupcake and peanut-butter chocolate chip cookie that both were positively indulgent.

GG’s Coffee House Cafe

1310 North Main St., North Canton
8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday

taste_pumpkinBrand-new to the java scene in North Canton is GG’s Coffee House Cafe, occupying the former cozy BAM spot at 1310 N. Main Street. Boasting not only a full and diverse coffee menu, using beans from Caruso’s Coffee in Brecksville, GG’s has an eclectic list of specialty drinks that you can watch being prepared (usually by one of the owners) at its open barista bar. I opted for the Pumpkin Spice latte, because who says it has to be October to have pumpkin?

But that’s not all; GG’s has your breakfast and lunch cravings covered too. Scratch-made soups, as well as homemade sourdough bread (made by the brother-in-law of the two sisters who own the place) grace the menu. The site is the second endeavor for the Gruber sisters, who opened their Malvern location two years ago. All of GG’s meats come from a local Waynesburg farm, and cheese comes from the Minerva Dairy. Apart from all of this responsibility, you will love the vibe and feel compelled to support the place. I immediately felt part of their world and happy to have them in the community. Hours for now are limited to weekdays , but rumor has it, it will be expanding to weekends in May.

Uptown Joe

117 E Main St., Louisville
6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

taste_joesFinally, another newbie is Uptown Joe, surely a welcome sight for coffee shop-deprived Louisville residents. Its charming downtown storefront location is small, but welcoming, with a back room of couches, games, books and even a handy copy of About magazine. From a somewhat predictable menu, I opted for the White Chocolate Mocha with Almond Milk, which delivered nice flavors.

For the more purist coffee enthusiasts, pour-overs and French press are available as an alternative to traditional brewed batches. Having been open only a very short while, as expected, the staff is still getting some kinks worked out. Sweets were a bit scarce on our visit and drinks were served in a to-go cup, but we trust these small obstacles will be addressed soon.