Am I addicted to coffee? I like to call it passionate. Here I am, no coffee, constantly thinking of it…My body already going through sleepy spells and body aches – Am I REALLY addicted to caffeine, NOT coffee?? Constantly fiddling and knocking things over like a helpless drunk, going cold turkey is NOT how to pull yourself off of the coffee habit. Actually, I don’t intend to stop at all, I JUST ACCIDENTALLY LEFT MY COFFEE HOME, and I REFUSE to drink “office coffee.” So for the next hour and a half I will just keep up with the random arm scratches, neck twitches, back spasms, and completely crazy daydreams that remind me I’ve slipped into a work coma until I make it to my front door, and the hero’s theme music begins to play. Yes I will sprint to my kitchen cupboards (read below), rip the package of coffee open, and relentlessly chew those coffee beans! Yes I said chew, no time for brewing.
I am not addicted…I am passionately crazy about coffee.
In quest of chicory coffee, history’s infamous coffee substitute, I set out to find South Tampa’s Nola Café. I had never tasted chicory coffee before (or at least knowingly), and was surprised that my café au lait didn’t taste any different than it should have. Historically, when coffee became unavailable, when prices were much to high for our ancestors’ pocketbooks, or when lawmakers thought coffee was an evil influence on the soul, chicory was used as a substitute to get the same taste without the addictive caffeine and at a much lower cost. As time went on New Orleans continued the tradition of chicory coffee, and Nola Café carries that tradition of a graceful combination of chicory and coffee, right here in Tampa, Florida.
Here’s my rating on a scale of 1 to 10:
Coffee: 10 – Made to perfection. Slightly toasty taste.
Style: 9 – Coffeehouse with NOALANS (New Orleans) flair. Beads, masks, chicory coffee…Mardi Gras at Nola Café!
Atmosphere: 8 – Friendly, immediate service. Sounds of Billie Holiday and Joss Stone fill the air. Customers began filling the café to enjoy a late afternoon meal and a cup of coffee.
Cleanliness: 10 – Just in time for spring cleaning!
Prices: 10 – Low to moderate
Nola Café captures the true essence of culture, art, and great coffee. Put it on your local weekend travel guide, and let your out of town friends know what a great coffeehouse it is for their “Things to do in Tampa” lists . Oh yeah, I heard the Oyster Po’Boy is smashing!
In the cozy Davis Island community, you’ll find a quaint dog-friendly café called Java & Cream. The first thing I noticed upon entering the shop was their daily special plastered on a rendition of a steaming coffee mug. Topping the list: Tanzanian Peaberry. I was originally determined to taste only their regular brewed coffee and finish with a shot of espresso, but knowing the friendly and fruity characteristics of a peaberry, I jumped at it. Realizing their menu touted that their coffee beans are roasted fresh, I asked if they roast their beans on-site. Unfortunately, they don’t; they get it from a local roastery – “a guy named Roger.” I ordered two 12oz Tanzanian Peaberries; leave one with room for cream and sugar (my sidekick’s), one filled to the brim (mine).
Here are my ratings on a scale of 1 to 10:
Coffee: 6 – Light honey throughout and through to the aftertaste. Peach aroma; however, I think it may have been sitting on the burner a while, which may have distorted its true taste.
Style: 5 – Your average cute-n-cozy café. It is adorned by the pending warm summer breeze and set amongst a row of shoppes and restaurants. Large sidewalks under a covered area make it a great location, even on a rainy day.
Atmosphere: 9 – This café is perfect for both families and friends, or even the lonesome individual looking for somewhere to go on a quiet Saturday afternoon. Don’t forget your pup!
Prices: 10 – Low-priced goodies from an assortment of ice cream and fresh roasted coffee to a variety of sandwiches and wraps.
I was a bit more pleased with the atmosphere than with the coffee, but my recommendation: if you’re in Davis Island, stop by for a visit.
Just steps away from Java & Cream is Kuba Cigars. Doused with immaculate art, the four walls of Kuba Cigars feature a large walk in humidor, a lounge area, and an elegant list of fine wine. The dynamics of the shop combines a “love for cigars” with weekly entertainment, wine, and a “tidy list of popular beers.” If you’re looking for a good smoke somewhere other than Ybor, visit this shop someday soon.
So as promised, my big “Kaffa Exploration” day has come along. First stop: Breakfast at Nicko’s.
Seating: The Infamous Elvis Booth, of course
So I walk in, and I am greeted by Stephanie. After a while I ask the question that’s been burning inside of me for quite some time: “Who is your coffee by?” And Stephanie replies: “Joffrey’s” I could hardly believe my ears – “REALLY?? REALLY??” For so long I’ve shunned Joffrey’s coffee, loved by others; however not my cup-o-café. I must admit, AND remain unbiased, that I enjoyed it, as I always do at Nicko’s. Stephanie calmed my hyped up repetitive one-worded questions with “We always brew our own, and it always stays so fresh.” Glad to know that! So here’s what I think (on a scale of 1-10):
Coffee: 8 – Genuinely good coffee. Cinnamon-toasted spice flavor.
Style: 9 – Nicko’s has such an artistic flair, partly because the restaurant itself has been around for some time. Preserved almost in its original form, it has created its own little niche and has come into its own with true retro charm.
Atmosphere: 10 – Service with a smile. Relationships formed with the customers as overhead sounds of Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” fill the air.
Cleanliness: We’ll give it an 8 – Only because it’s a bit dated. But we like it that way.
Food: 9 – Has an elegant variety of Greek and American food. From breakfast to burgers to salads to sandwiches. What I ate? Classic ham, egg, cheese, and bacon omelet with a side toast and home fries (I’m from down south; I should have also gotten a side of grits, lol). What my sidekick ate? Greek Omelet filled with onions, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and mushrooms with a side of cuban toast. His rating: 24, and he’s an incredible chef!
Prices: 10 – Low to moderately priced good cookin’
Tucked away in historical Seminole Heights, Nicko’s has become a neighborhood favorite. The diner is filled with happy faces and warmed bellies-from first timers to regular patrons, and from take out customers to the usual fella who comes to sit at the counter and stay a while just to enjoy a friendly conversation over a cuppa Joe. And with all of life’s modern conveniences, wouldn’t we all love it if they started accepting a little plastic? I vote NO. Charm changes for no one: CASH ONLY.
So tomorrow morning, I set out on my “Kaffa Exploration,” in a quest to find good coffee in Sunny Tampa Bay. First, since I absolutely love food, we are headed to breakfast at Nicko’s, a Greek diner in the heart of Seminole Heights. It’s stuck in the 50s; however it’s a beautiful expression of art-or so I interpret it to be. They even have a booth dedicated to Elvis, where he once sat while visiting Tampa and where I manage to sit every single time I go. And if I don’t get my beloved booth, I whine like a baby…
While I have absolutely no idea where their coffee comes from it’s always something amazing; maybe it’s just the retro feel – it all feels quite right so the coffee MUST be right, right?
Anyways, from Nicko’s we are headed to Java and Cream in South Tampa, then on to Nola Café to sample one of history’s infamous substitutions and early traditions…Chicory coffee. I must admit, I’ve never tasted it. But I will let you know…
And so our journey begins…