Bull Run vs. Kopplin's in a battle for the best cup of coffee
The Twin Cities is a coffee shop mecca with literally hundreds of places to grab a mugful. Nonetheless, local connoisseurs know there are only two real contenders in the battle of the bean: Bull Run Coffee Bar in Minneapolis and Kopplin's in St. Paul. As summer wanes, it's time to pay both shops a visit and try an individually brewed cup straight from their famed $11K Clover machines.
Which city can claim coffee supremacy? Read on to find out.
Bull Run Coffee Bar: Tucked in the Rustica bakery at 3224 West Lake Street, Bull Run Coffee Bar has an unfortunate mini-mall location and a parking lot view, despite its slavish dedication to good brews. Inside the decor is clean and spare, and the espresso bar provides some ringside seating for the more coffee-inclined guests. The day we were there, five varieties of coffee were available, listed on a menu by the register. We chose the eight-ounce sizes of the Kikai Peaberry from Kenya for $3 and the Toarco from Sulawesi, Indonesia, priced at $2.25.
The coffee came in black, round mugs, served hot but not overly so. The smell of each was intoxicating, and the slightly murky appearance was appropriate to the Clover brewing method. The Kikai had a floral taste that stayed on the roof of the mouth, while the Toarco had a rich earthiness that was very smooth. The attentive barista provided just the right combo of information and conversation as we sat at the bar.
Kopplin's front window at 490 Hamline Avenue looks across the street to the green fields of Cretin-Derham Hall (Joe Mauer's alma mater). Furnished with small tables and a couch, the relaxed vibe welcomes even solo sippers to stay a while. Our visit found four varietals by the cup, as indicated by cards hanging on the shop wall. We selected the tasting size, which is available only in-house, paying $2 apiece for the Kenya Nyeri Kiamabara and the non-coop Ethiopia Yergicheffe.
The steaming liquid was served in white, square-lipped coffee cups at the perfect temperature. The Kenya had a gentle depth and the Yirgacheffe a citrusy sweetness that matched the baristas' descriptions to a T. While we were there, owner Andrew Kopplin greeted customers, imparted tidbits of coffee knowledge, and enjoyed his own shot of espresso.
The winner: Both stores have a chill, impeccably trained staff and turn out a serious cup. For the sheer pleasure of the experience, Kopplin's has the most inviting atmosphere. But for the cup of coffee alone, Bull Run Coffee Bar wins by the tiniest of margins. Kopplin's East African varietals were on point in their flavor notes, but BR's Toarco blew us away with its combination of depth and balance. Also, the Minneapolis shop had one more type of single brew coffee available. In it only for the java? We suggest Bull Run Coffee Bar.
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