The coffee is hot in Asheville

The Blue Ridge city is brewing up something other than beer

Mollie Young
Beer is not thing only thing brewing in Asheville these days. | Mollie Young

ASHEVILLE — There is no question that Asheville is the epicenter of the craft beer movement in North Carolina, but beer is not thing only thing brewing across the mountain town these days.

The third wave of coffee is in full effect in western North Carolina with local movers like Biltmore Coffee and Mountain Air Roasting supplying fair-trade beans to the region’s thriving and unique coffee shops.

High Five Coffee on Rankin near College Street brews Counter Culture — the Durham-based superstar roaster that now has 13 trainers in major cities across the country, including Asheville, designed to “foster coffee education.”

“There is a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of education in our consumer base about coffee — just like there is in the beer industry,” says Devin Walsh, owner of Mountain Mojo on the Old Charlotte Highway near Fairview.

Mojo exclusively serves Penny Cup Coffee Co., which prides itself on being a small-batch operation focused on quality, sustainability and, of course, taste. Penny Cup also operates three self-operated cafes in west, east and downtown Asheville.

Walsh, who purchased the shop in July, left a position as an academic department chair for professional brewing science at South College — switching gears from the beer to beans.

“There are certainly strong parallels between the two cultures — the craft beer industry and the fair-trade coffee industry — but the two don’t really meet.” said Walsh, sweeping coffee cake crumbs from the shop’s side patio into a yellow bush of black-eyed Susans.

“So it is interesting for me to see how they are running on parallel tracks, but they haven’t intersected quiet yet.”

But maybe they have. Mountain Mojo — like so many other cafes in the Asheville area — is looking to add a few local brews on tap soon.

At Trade and Lore on Wall Street, customers can choose from a mocha or a pale ale — encouraging you to enjoy your brew, hot or cold, under a string of Edison lightbulbs on a quiet cobblestone street.

Izzy’s Coffee Den, a local favorite, also offers drips and a curated beer and wine selection at their Lexington and Haywood locations.

And while the coffee is robust, so is the vibe. World Coffee Cafe on Battery Park Avenue places you and your joe at the bottom floor of a 1920s flatiron building.

Just down the block, the Battery Park Book Exchange marries coffee with literature and bubbles, serving lattes and champagne between a seemingly endless stack of books. Purchase a take on the Civil War, find yourself a nook and you’ll be transported back to the old-world South.

Double D’s is hard to miss, serving macchiato and desserts inside a red double decker bus on the corner of Biltmore and Aston in downtown. Well-Bred Cafe in Biltmore Village competes well with three glass containers stacked with sweets, including a gigantic “mountain eclair”

And while there is no shortage of choice on where or how you take your coffee in Asheville, the local shops still seem to run a bit on mountain time — where having your daily cup is best served with an oatmeal cookie and a newspaper.