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Huntsville’s Craft Coffee Trail offers a caffeinated tour through the city

*Gold Sprint 256 517 8733 Text Victor Burlingame on way 205-792-5857; 2515 9th Ave SW Huntsville Al 35805; trophies

If they didn’t know better, visitors to Huntsville might think that NASA’s rockets were powered by caffeine. How else to explain the galaxy of coffee shops in the city?

As you sip your way along the Craft Coffee Trail, you’ll find yourself in cafés inspired by bicycles, cupcakes, and even the Apollo space program. One shop resides in a modified shipping container and another in a former school classroom.

“You don’t get a homogenized experience,” says Chad Emerson of Downtown Huntsville, which sponsors the trail. “It’s not starving artists selling coffee, it’s people who could do anything they wanted to do.”

The coffee stops reflect modern-day Huntsville: They’re kind of nerdy with a touch of hipness, but above all friendly.  “They’re a third place between work and home,” says Victor Burlingame, owner of Gold Sprint coffee shop, where you can also pump up your bike tires or stop for a craft beer.

Those up to the caffeine challenge can score a trail mug by visiting all the stops and collecting stamps on a coffee trail card, which you can pick up at any participating java joint. But even if you’re not ready to grind though a latte marathon, the trail offers an unexpected perk: a tour through a city renowned for its ingenuity.

So, start your espresso engines. There’s a barista ready to take your order. Here are highlights of the trail.

Gold Sprint

Gold Sprint’s green tea matcha.

The Buzz: This bicycle café enlivens a former garage in the up-and-coming Lowe Mill District. Bikes hanging on walls and shelves full of donated karate trophies provide a cheerful, eclectic vibe. Inside, there’s a choice of high-top tables or couches. The garage doors open to a patio. Since opening in 2019, it has quickly become a Huntsville institution.

Gold Sprint Customers

Preferred Pour: The nitro-infused latte with coconut milk is great, but the green tea matcha shines with house-made vanilla syrup and a lavender tincture supplied by a local herbalist.

Bites: The limited menu includes bagels; breakfast burritos; and a bacon, egg, and cheddar croissant.

Offbeat Coffee Studio

Offbeat Coffee Studio

The Buzz: Pick up some vinyl along with a venti at this combination coffee shop and record store. Offbeat feels right at home tucked away in Campus 805, a former middle school reborn as an entertainment district with breweries, restaurants, and even an ax-throwing studio. Given Alabama’s first Slayer manual espresso machine and the comfortable seating, you won’t mind being sent to what was once a classroom in the Detention Hall.

Offbeat Coffee Studio

Preferred Pour: Two words … cereal milk! Sweeten up your latte with milk flavored with Cocoa Puffs, Froot Loops, or another nostalgic breakfast treat. The result is a fun, sweet sip that tastes better than you’d expect.

Bites: Enjoy the bagel sandwiches.

Pizzelle’s Confections

The Buzz: A longtime favorite at the bustling Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment facility, Pizzelle’s proves that not all masterpieces are painted on canvas. Take your pick from house-made truffles and other delectable sweets paired with coffee or drinking chocolate. It’s a welcome place to take a break from browsing the 100-plus studios in the former cotton mill.

Preferred Pour: The Shot in the Dark is what hot chocolate wishes to be when it grows up. Unlike mocha, which is coffee flavored by chocolate, this is melted chocolate cut with a shot of espresso. The drink is topped with house-made marshmallows in a choice of flavors (go with cinnamon), then crowned with whipped cream, which, believe it or not, helps lighten the drink.

Bites: Whether it’s truffles, tortes, cakes, or the namesake pizzella, a traditional Italian cookie, your sweet tooth will be happy here.

Olde Towne Coffee

Old Towne Coffee

The Buzz: If the TV show Friends had been set in Huntsville instead of New York City, this would have been Central Perk. The city’s oldest full-service coffee shop welcomes a colorful parade of regulars, from the customer with a pet duck to the chess pair that faces off every afternoon to the young woman sitting sideways with her feet over the armrest as she works on her screenplay. You come for the atmosphere as much as for the coffee.

Preferred Pour: Choices abound here. The shop has 2 on-site roasters that process 15 different types of beans. Sweeten your drink with the “complicated syrup” at the creamer table. There’s simply nothing simple about this place.

Bites: Sandwiches and breakfast items like bacon, egg, and Swiss on a croissant keep customers fueled up.

The Moon Bakeshop

The Moon Bakeshop

The Buzz: The Moon Bakeshop seamlessly combines small-batch pastries with specialty lattes. Decor nods to NASA with atomic-style light fixtures and Apollo-era posters, but it keeps things homey with Oriental carpets on the polished concrete floor.

Preferred Pour: The emphasis is on high-quality beans and traditional offerings, from straight-up coffee to lattes, cappuccinos, and cortados.

Bites: Food is not an afterthought here. Feast on fresh sandwiches and croissants—the house-baked chocolate croissant is a flaky, crunchy, buttery delight. On weekends, dig into the hot cinnamon rolls.

Honest Coffee Roasters

The Buzz: This high-energy joint with white brick walls and polished concrete floors bustles with everyone from moms pushing strollers to attorneys grabbing a cup between depositions. Laptop-friendly seating areas are generous with plugs and USB ports and are favored by students who type away next to informal business meetings and Bible study groups.

Preferred Pour: Bootlegger, a latte with house-made bourbon caramel sauce, served hot or iced. Its sister store in Franklin, Tennessee, roasts the beans.

Bites: You’ll find an extensive menu with acai bowls, breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and salads. Vegans can top their locally made bagel with “lox” made from flavored, smoked carrots.

Piper and Leaf Tea Company, Constitution Park

Piper and Leaf Tea Company

The Buzz: Even on a coffee trail, there’s room for tea. This specialty business with multiple locations knows it’s in the South and offers 32-ounce mason jars of iced tea blended with local herbs, fruit, and other produce.

Preferred Pour: Ninety percent of customers come for iced tea, but there’s also hot tea and coffee. You’ll probably want to buy one of the custom jars, which come with a straw-friendly lid, for $10. Your first tea is included and after that, refills run $5.

Bites: Don’t overlook the scones. The feta and spinach scone pairs effortlessly with any beverage.

* * * * *

The following two shops aren’t officially part of the Craft Coffee Trail, but are still worth a stop:

The Kaffeeklatsch

The Buzz: If you smell coffee around downtown Huntsville, it’s not your imagination. This coffee company has been roasting beans since 1977, selling the beans to both walk-in customers and wholesale customers. There’s no seating. You’re here to refuel with beans or a to-go cup of coffee.

Preferred Pour: While Kaffeeklatsch is a retail bean business, the owners understand sometimes you need a hot cup of joe, so folks can also buy a cup of coffee. 

Bites: Take your pick of biscotti, shortbread, or other packaged sweets. Everything here is high quality.

The Greenroom at The Camp

The Buzz: Located about 6 miles west of downtown, this shop constructed from recycled shipping containers is worth the trip. It’s an anchor at The Camp, a collection of food trucks permanently parked outside REI that comes alive on weekends with a seasonal farmers market, live music, and special events. Take in the view from The Greenroom’s second-story balcony furnished with outdoor tables and couches. You can also sit around a firepit, or play large-block tic-tac-toe at tables made from telephone-wire spindles.

Preferred Pour: It’s all about the beans at The Greenroom, which serves Alchemy coffee. Any espresso drink shines, especially the cappuccino.

Bites: At The Greenroom, you’ll find locally made bagels and pastries at the counter. For more food options, step outside to order street tacos, dumplings, ramen, and more from surrounding food trucks. If you’re traveling with your pup, sniff out the jar of free dog biscuits.

Freelance writer Larry Bleiberg is a fan of everything caffeine, but these days he’s been favoring matcha lattes.

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