Destination Coffee: Music City roots

Coffee tour from my July travels

Destination Coffee: a weekly feature on American Nomad brewing up the best cups of coffee, tea and treats from grounds to cafes.

In July I had the opportunity to travel to Nashville for a weeklong business trip. The heart of rhythm, Music City stays in tune with amazing local coffee shops throughout the historic city neighborhoods. I am a Belmont University alum (school of music greats like Brad Paisley and Trisha Yearwood)…During my five years in Nashville I frequented Nashville coffee shops – which helped me study late night prepping for exams or helping give me a kick of caffeine in the studio recording demos.

I thought I’d feature a few of my favorite Nashville coffee shops in this weeks edition of Destination Coffee.

Nashville is ‘grounded’ in coffee…Maxwell Coffee as founded in Nashville in 1892 by wholesale grocer Joel Owsley Cheek. It was named after the historic Maxwell House Hotel, which at the time was their first major customer. The Maxwell House was also a symbol of hotel luxury – great marketing to enjoy the finest coffee at home for a good price.

The legend of ‘good to the last drop’ is now myth with various stories, but in essence President Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed a cup of Maxwell House coffee and said ‘it was good to the last drop.’ Maxwell House was the highest selling coffee brand until the 1980s.

If you are interested in history, you can visit Maxwell Coffee founder’s estate, Cheekwood, which is now a world class garden and art museum.

It starts at Bongo Java:

*roasted in house

In 1993, Bongo brewed it’s first cup of delicious java just across from Belmont University. Located in a century year old home with a large front porch, Bongo is a second home for many students from nearby colleges (Vandy, Belmont and Lipscomb) who enjoy conversation, good music (Bongo has an after hours music schedule) and study breaks.

Bongo has a welcoming atmosphere and a perfect breakfast and lunch menu to compliment your coffee.

While I enjoy all of their locally roasted Bongo blends, I am actually partial to their Chai Tea Latte. It is the perfect blend of spice, cream and tea.

And as a person of faith, I do love the story of the ‘Nun bun’ – one morning, Bongo staff noticed that one of the cinnamon buns they baked looked like Mother Teresa. The nun bun became internationally famous as a ‘miracle in baking.’ I understand it is a bit publicity, but I do know God works in mysterious ways and why not a ‘nun bun’? You can read the nun bun history here.

Bongo Java is a must stop on the Nashville coffee trail…if you can’t make the ‘espresso’ to Music City in the coming months – fear not! You can order their beans online. They have their own subscription service

Bongo Java website….

You can also check out their sister coffee shop FIDO in the Belcourt area near Vandy/Belmont (21st Avenue). It has a different vibe – but same delicious obsession for java.

The Frothy Monkey:

*roasted in house

Located in the hip 12th Avenue South Neighborhood, the original Frothy Monkey is continues to serve up top flight coffee for any java palette.

When I lived in Nashville from 2004-2009, I was only two blocks from Frothy and would often walk to the shop to get coffee. Back then 12th Avenue was cool and had a few restaurants, but pretty low key and felt like part of the neighborhood.

On my last visit I was a bit shocked how much the area has grown. It is helmed by Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James empire and lots of restaurants and several other coffee shops (we’ll get to in a moment).

Frothy continues to retain it’s charm and inviting presence though…Located in a funky bunaglow – like, Bongo you feel as though you are being invited into your coffee home. Frothy has a great breakfast/lunch menu. You can sit down for a meal or just come in for the coffee.

On my last trip I stuck with a caffe latte, but truthfully you cannot go wrong with any of Frothy’s coffee or menu items.

They also own nearby BurgerUp – a great place for premium burgers.

Frothy has expanded its footprint in Nashville from the old bungalow to a spot at the Nashville Zoo, Country Music Hall of Fame and more. I still prefer the cozy original best 🙂

Portland Brew:

*roasted in house

Also in the 12th Avenue South area, Portland Brew opened when I started at Belmont. We actually did our marketing project on how to get more buzz around Portland Brew and build their brand. It’s awesome to see they are still roasting and a popular brand in the area.

When I researched them for our class project (circa 2006) we learned the owners fell in love with the roasting style in Portland Oregon (Where they lived for awhile) and wanted to bring that ‘Portland Brew’ to Nashville. They were one of the first to get on the fair trade and direct from coffee growers bandwagon…

I recommend their darker roasts, but everything is amazing on the menu.

12th Avenue South is also home to a few more coffee stops, including the new White Bison. I didn’t have a chance to try it on my last trip, but it is definitely on my list for next adventure.

Good Citizen: To be fair, I’ve not stepped into the Nashville location, but I did walk by it in July. I have however had their coffee several times through my mail order coffee subscription from TRADE Coffee. I really liked the medium roast and found it to be a great morning blend to start my day off on the right foot. You can order from their website here.

Cafe Coco – not simply a coffee shop, but a gathering place for good food and late night eats as well. I remember escaping to Cafe Coco one night because I couldn’t sleep – my neighbor was practicing drums at 1 a.m. – which I guess is to be expected in Music City. They have a wonderful menu and I love their coffee.

Nashville continues to grow and there are so many new and awesome coffee shops I have on my java list for next trip. You can learn about other area favorites on the Nashville Guru blog.

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