Among a sea of pumpkin spice Starbucks, Beyond The Swamp recently decided to take a caffeinated tour around Gainesville to explore unique local coffee shops. As it turns out, there were more than we expected, and if we tried to visit them all in one day, we were worried all the caffeine would have kept us awake through New Year’s Eve.
607 W University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601
Saturday and Sunday 10am-11pm
Karma Cream has been part of the Gainesville coffee scene since 2009, and if you are looking for some coffee, or a baked treat, with no harsh chemicals or preservatives, this is the place for you. Karma Cream also offers organic ice cream, baked goods, sandwiches, and even organic beer!
Their organic coffee is fair-trade certified and roasted locally by Sweetwater Coffee Roasters. Karma Cream has espressos, lattés, drip coffees, and hot chocolate, and customers can add flavored syrups like pumpkin spice, Irish cream and frosted mint to their coffees to add a little seasonal variety. They also have regular (whole, 2%) and organic milk (soy, coconut) if you need a little cream in your coffee too.
I tried the plain hot latté. The baristas did an amazing job, and it was so pretty that I almost didn’t want to drink it. On their condiments bar, they had the typical extras for your coffee like sugar, milk, and cinnamon or nutmeg garnishes. But, they also had agave nectar syrup which is something I have never seen on a coffee condiment bar before. I put a few drops in my latté and it was delicious.
Coffee goes great with a sweet treat. Karma Cream serves organic cookies, brownies, doughnuts, and cupcakes baked from scratch every day. While sitting in the shop you can smell the sweet aroma all day long because they only bake their desserts in small batches, so the smell of sugary treats is there to greet you whenever you stop in to enjoy a dessert and coffee.
If a baked good isn’t what you are looking for, you can try one of the twenty-four ice cream flavors. Half of the flavors include dairy and the other half are vegan, but they are all, yep you guessed it – organic. You can throw in some toppings made in-house to create a tasty milkshake, or add them on top of your ice cream for a simple sundae.
Maude’s Classic Café
101 SE 2nd Pl, Gainesville, FL 32601
9am-11pm Saturday and Sunday
Maude’s opened in 1995 and has been a Gainesville gem ever since. The relaxing ambiance is very inviting for students to spend hours studying, teachers who want a quiet place to work and grade, or anyone who just wants to enjoy a flavorful cup of coffee.
Maude’s offers a large menu with a variety of flavored and unflavored coffee, espresso, “hot specialties,” iced coffee, and frozen coffee. If you have a sweet tooth you can add a rock candy stirrer, an ice cream scoop, or both! Maude’s also carries fair-trade organic coffee from Sweetwater Coffee Roasters.
We tried a pumpkin spice brain freezer and a hot café mocha with peppermint. The brain freezer was different from an average coffee with a consistency that resembled a Frappuccino but a flavor that reminded me of a milkshake.
Maude’s has a unique atmosphere that is inviting and intimate. Multiple people sit with computers studying in dark corner booths under the beautiful artwork. Over the speakers, guests can listen to a blend of Indie, Afro-Cuban, and swing music playing softly in the background. Outside, there is an open patio where (if you ask) you can play board games with friends or enjoy a coffee with your dog. At night the patio lights turn on and it is an incredible view of downtown Gainesville– one you would have to see to believe.
Maude’s hosts a variety of evening events. Fierce drag shows seem to be the most popular but they also have trivia nights, live music, and more. The events feature “Maude’s Side Car Bar” with drink specials throughout the night that are a little stronger than a cup of coffee.
48 SW 2nd St, Gainesville, FL 32601
Ten years ago, downtown Gainesville had very few coffee shops. Volta wanted to bring a new vibe to downtown. The owner’s goal was to provide a “specialty coffee scene.”
Volta makes lattés, teas, espressos, and drip coffees with baristas who add vanilla, cinnamon, and mocha flavor enhancers made from scratch every day that can be added to any drink. The base for these flavors starts with real chocolate. So yes – you are drinking liquid chocolate, and it is unbelievable. Cinnamon and vanilla enhancers provide the sweeter blends while the mocha flavor is created from dark chocolate to give it a bold flavor.
We tried a cinnamon latté and an iced café mocha. The difference in flavors satisfies even the pickiest taste buds. The cinnamon latte was very smooth and creamy and the café mocha was rich and strong.
Not only does Volta add real chocolate to their coffees, but they also have a wall of high-quality chocolate bars for purchase. But these aren’t the kind of chocolate bars you would find at any store, these chocolates are hand crafted around the world. While there are a few American made chocolates, the majority come from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, and other international locations. Some of the chocolate is quite exotic with fruits, espresso beans, nuts, and even chili powder. The reason for all the chocolate is because the owner’s wife isn’t a fan of coffee but does enjoy chocolate, so he thought he would combine their favorites to make the perfect pair. They travel around the world tasting chocolate and espresso deciding which ones are perfect for their shop. The chocolates are rotated four times a year from different places. We tried a chocolate bar from Guatemala and it was intense, to say the least.
This isn’t your typical order your coffee and rush out kind of coffee shop; the relaxing ambiance invites you to unwind while you savor your cup of coffee. Artwork from local artists dangle from the ceiling, a wall of events hangs under an enormous “Volta” sign, and soft piano music plays over the speaker. Overall, the shop is very modern and hip but provides a tranquil atmosphere. Outside there are a few red seats with matching red tables where you can laugh and talk with friends while getting a nice view of Gainesville.
Karma Cream, Maude’s, and Volta were a nice break from going to another Starbucks and allowed us to enjoy the local flavor of downtown Gainesville. The coffees and food we tried offered different flavors for any mood and each was unique in its own way.
If you are as crazy as we are, you can try all three in a single day! They are just steps away from each other, and after all the caffeine and treats, we were glad for the opportunity to do a little walking.
Check back for part two of our Gainesville coffee adventures. We just need a little break from all the coffee.