Sue's Coffee Shop in St. Clair is a family-owned store. <span class='image-credits'>Jeri Packer</span>

Where St. Clair County wakes up to smell the coffee

Coffee and beer choices alike are expanding in St. Clair County. So are coffee and beer “snobs.” There are five unique, homegrown coffee klatches in St. Clair County not part of the big box types.
This week, we at The Keel focused on a young entrepreneur who took over a popular coffee shop in Port Huron. The Raven Cafe has since become part of the fabric of this Blue Water community in northern St. Clair County. We highlighted a few of the local craft beer establishments in an earlier issue and we will do the same this week on our favorite coffee spots. Coffee and beer choices alike are expanding. Craft micro-breweries, like coffee shops, are springing up everywhere. So are coffee and beer “snobs.”

There are five main, homegrown coffee klatshes in St. Clair County, not part of the big box types like Starbucks and Tim Horton's. Three of them are in Port Huron. The population of the county seat is about 29,000 compared to Marine City and Algonac’s roughly 4,000 residents. The city of St. Clair has 5,000 souls. That explains why Port Huron has three coffee shops to Marine City and St. Clair's one. The three Port Huron coffee houses are within a block or two of each other, but Kate Voss of Kate’s Downtown coffee shop says there is no competition between them. The Exquisite Corpse is an art gallery, the Raven Cafe is an eclectic, young, hip place and I’m more of a Cape Cod from the west side of the state,” she says.

Kate's Downtown

Kate’s Downtown, located at 231 Huron Ave. gets their roasted beans from a local supplier in Lexington. A bad cup of coffee can taste burnt or acidic, depending how the beans are kept, stored and roasted, says Voss. One favorite hot drink she serves besides coffee is their chai latte.
“It’s like thanksgiving in a cup,” she says. Add a hit of espresso and it can be doubled up into a good morning, afternoon or evening pick me up, as well.

The Raven Cafe

The Raven Cafe on 932 Military St. in Port Huron has a signature coffee called Dead Man’s Reach, which the cafe goes through like hotcakes. The idea behind the name is that it is so strong, it wakes you up, even from the dead, says Jody Parmann, marketing director of the Raven. Her husband, Sadaat Hossain, owns the shop and is one die hard coffee drinker. He especially likes a concoction called “The Black Eye,” a drink with eight shots of espresso, and no cream or sugar. The menu lists many kinds of flavored lattes made with milk, espresso  and syrups, like the Almond Joy Latte with real coconut sprinkled on the top. 

Exquisite Corpse

The Exquisite Corpse Coffeehouse is tucked away at 906 Military St.The coffee shop is also home for the Gold Rodent Gallery, a collection of work showcasing interesting art forms and techniques.Owner Patti says they roast all their beans in-house for a fresh cup of coffee every time. Customers can choose coffee from 12 different regions. Barista Justin Comer demonstrates how they roast the beans right in the shop. "We get only green beans and roast them here so they are fresh as can be,” he says. He puts them into a container that delivers forced air at a specific temperature to bring the bean to a full roast, he explains. They then wait to grind it until the bean is just right, around 24 hours later, he says.

Sue's Coffeehouse

Going south along M-29, also called "river road" by the locals, you can find Sue’s Coffeehouse at 201 N. Riverside Ave. in St. Clair. Their coffee is a mixture of high quality Guatemalan, Colombian, and Brazilian beans roasted daily and ground fresh, says owner Sue Hool. She will soon celebrate her 10th anniversary at the shop. She says the secret to a great drink is precision, temperature and freshness. From steaming the milk for a latte, grinding the beans, tamping the ground coffee -- each step must be done meticulously to get the beverage just right.

Roasted's With Perks

The customers at Roasted’s With Perks at 218 S. Water St. in Marine City tend to favor the full dark roast Colombian coffee, says co-owner Anne Thueme. Thueme and Stacy Edwards opened the store four years ago. The shop sits in the heart of the city’s downtown district, directly across from the St. Clair River. Anne Thueme and Stacy Edwards partnered to open the place together. Their lattes are made from a perfect grind of coffee beans, Thueme says, somewhere between fine and coarse.

Details like maintaining  just the right water temperature to brew the coffee, and the right heat for steaming the milk can make a huge difference, too, she says. After these protocols are followed, then the coffee and flavoring are “married” before adding the steamed milk. The coffee shop advertises “Death Wish” in the front window for only the most serious coffee drinkers. It has 200 percent more punch than the strongest coffee, Thueme says. Look for Roasted With Perks coffee at the coffee bar during intermissions at the Riverbank Theatre in Marine City, as well.

So, wake up and smell the coffee St. Clair County -- at your favorite cafe or go a little crazy and explore new tastes at one you’ve never tried this fall.
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