by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & used to consider drive-thru coffee joints a somewhat embarrassing symptom of the sprawling car culture of greater Spokane County. Coffee was this leisurely, urbane thing that had been made crass and rushed and tawdry. So I was a little ashamed, every so often, when my father would swing into a coffee kiosk to get a latte. Then, one day in his work truck, stopping us off for a random cup of caffeine, he asked the barista if her coffee was fair trade. She said it was, so he ordered an Americano.
My dad is the farthest thing from an activist, but he has a strong sense of morality. He heard about fair trade at Bahama Joe's, a drive-thru in Cheney. "I thought they were talking about NAFTA or something," he says, but then they explained it. He now tries to steer his work truck toward places he knows sell fair trade coffee.
I guess the point is that coffee, even from a kiosk, changes people.
And people honestly care about coffee as a result. But sometimes, the coffee's just terrible, and people are creatures of habit, which means we tend to wallow in our own filth(y tasting coffee). We'd like to help break you out of any possible coffee kiosk rut, so we went out in search of quality coffee around the county. This is what we found.
BAHAMA JOE'S | 115 W Betz Rd., Cheney
16 oz. latte: $2.50
Coffee Roaster: Doma * Fair Trade: Mostly * White coffee: Yes
Cups: festive paper * Heat sleeve: dimpled cardboard
Baked goods: muffins, bagels, pastries, sweets from Sweetwater Bakery
Joe's recently switched to Doma coffee from Thomas Hammer, meaning they're no longer fair trade certified, but Doma says they honestly try to be as fair about their trading as possible (and organic, sustainable). While Joe's brewing isn't quite as robust (read: coffee-flavored) as Cheney's non-drive-thru student hangout, Kafka, they pour a good shot that jives well both Americano and done up all frilly with flavors.
CAFFE PERFEZIONE | 10510 E Sprague
16 oz latte: $2.50
Coffee Roaster: Espresso Vivace * Fair Trade: No * White Coffee: No
Cups: "thigh grabbable" foam * Heat sleeve: integrated into cup
Baked goods: Rocket Bakery pastries; Sweetwater Bakery bagels, etc.
There's nothing better than a teenage barista who's angry that you're alive. Ours clearly hated us and didn't understand that when Marty Demarest said, "four shots of espresso in a cup," he just wanted four shots of espresso in, you know, a cup. Though I've had a lot of crappy coffee in my life, I'd still call my latte insipid; Marty was terrified that the nice, soft, cool-to-the-touch foam cups were leaking Styrofoam taste into his shots. I think he might have been right.
Baked goods: Scones from Hearthbread; Sweetwater bagels, muffins and cookies
Though the Passion of the Christ poster in the window's a bit off-putting, the service is really pretty wonderful. The nicely appointed roundabout offers access to both drive-thru windows, though (free tip!) the far side is often totally empty. Their caramel lattes (a personal litmus test) are nicely balanced between the sweet of the caramel and the bitter of the espresso.
DUTCH BROTHERS | 402 W. 2nd Ave.
16 oz latte: $2.75
Coffee Roaster: Dutch Brothers
Fair Trade: No * White coffee: No
Heat sleeve: they just double up the cups
Baked goods: in-house baking, selections from Sweetwater Bakery
The caramel latte was lightly sweet and fairly full on the coffee flavor, though several serious commute-related problems exist. 1) Coffee is ultra hot. 2) Rather than heat sleeves, they just tossed a second cup over the first. Burnt fingers abounded. 3) The lids were incredibly awkward to drink from. That's 0-3 in the ease of not-killing-oneself-on-the-freeway category.
LEONARDO'S | 10208 N. Division St.
16 oz. latte: $2.50
Coffee Roaster: Cravens * Fair Trade: Yes White coffee: No
Heat sleeve: dimpled cardboard
Baked goods: generous selection from Sweetwater Bakery
Across Division from Whitworth, this is the bombest kiosk coffee I tried. There's a real earthiness to the roast that I find exemplary. It took a bit long, though. I watched no less than three shots get dumped out in the course of preparing the coffee, which is actually a good thing. Letting a shot stagnate is bad news, freshness is key, and that mentality might be what pushed their coffee to the top of the heap.
STARBUCKS | 1802 W Francis Ave.
16 oz. latte: $3
Coffee Roaster: Starbucks
Fair Trade: Kinda * White coffee: No
Cups: Starbucks' standard paper
Heat sleeve: dimpled cardboard
Baked goods: Starbucks' own muffins, breads, sandwiches, pastries, sweets, etc.
Since Starbucks is identical everywhere, we've all been there and we know exactly -- exactly -- what to expect from their coffee, so let's talk about their trade practices. They're the world's largest purchaser of fair trade coffee, but fair trade coffee only makes up a fraction of the total coffee they purchase in a year. They've got a world to conquer, and you can't do it buying fair trade exclusively. There aren't enough equitable labor farms in the developing world for that. A passing grade, then, but barely.