Bluegrass Java concocts a bevy of barista beverages, smoothies, and pastries inside of its compact, double-drive-thru coffee-stop quarters. Specialty drinks, such as mochaccinos ($3.75) and lattes ($3.60), please taste buds, and easily can be paired with fresh muffin selections ($1.50). With multitasking talents, the coffee specialists at Bluegrass Java accommodate drivers and walkers with signature "animal kingdom" drinks, named after their appearance, such as the chocolate-and-caramel-sauce Cheetah and the white-chocolate-and-caramel-sauce Giraffe. All drinks are made to order, and all orderly citizens are welcome to hitchhike along the highway of super information courtesy of Bluegrass Java's complimentary WiFi.
Nicolette Spears used to think green tea tasted like bad, stale grass-clippings. So when she began studying the importance of brewing temperature, it was a revelation. “Green tea is like a vegetable: if you burn the leaves, it tastes really bitter. That was sort of an eye-opener to me.”
Now, at Louisville Tea Company, Ms. Spears brews more than a hundred tea varieties according to strict standards, paying attention to each brew’s optimal brewing temperature, steep time, and leaf-to-water ratio. She also considers her tea’s origins: she sources Japanese green tea directly from a small tea farm in Japan, and the Kenyan Ajiri Tea employs Kenyan women and funds orphan education in West Kenya.
Additionally, Ms. Spears strives to educate newbies about tea. At the tasting bar, she brews fresh pots of the shop’s tea of the day. During the shop’s classes and tea tastings, tea experts delve not only into tea origins and flavors, but the positive effects on human health and boring water.
Helmed by Connie Young and her two daughters, Lori and Kelly, Sisters Tea Parlor Boutique transports visitors to simpler times, when taking tea was a daily ritual. Before settling at tables for afternoon tea, guests are invited to visit the boutique's dress-up vanity area and don festive hats, wraps, costume jewelry, and gloves. Traditional tea service includes scones with tart lemon curd, tea sandwiches, and a sweets tray lined with decadent desserts—plus, of course, bottomless pots of loose-leaf tea.
The owners of North End Café don't just purchase local produce: they also grow vegetables and herbs in their own garden in Simpsonville. Since April, 2003, their chefs have championed this focus on local, seasonal ingredients with a healthy approach to cooking. North End Café's menu features traditional meals from around the world, ranging from grass-fed beef burgers and flatiron steaks to grilled fish and scallops to vegetarian lasagnas, stir-fry, and cakes. For sharing, chefs build eclectic small plates such as crab cakes, fried goat-cheese ravioli, and almond-crusted brie. They also prepare a range of vegan and gluten-free dishes, taking care to avoid the pyrotechnics that result when steak and tofu touch.
To accompany these meals, bartenders pour American and international wines, and blend cocktails from fruit and old-fashioned ingredients. At the Highlands location, a brand-new tap system spouts 23 craft beers, including imperial IPAs and peppery black porters. In warmer months, the aromas of cooking and laughter of clientele also fill the Highlands location's new outdoor patio, an expansive wooden deck surrounded by leafy plants and tall, wispy trees.
The menu at Sister Bean's Coffee House offers customers a variety of flavorful gourmet coffees, with a rotation of fresh-baked delicacies rolling in daily. Purists can opt for a large portion of fresh-brewed bean juice in its plainest form ($2). However, a small white mocha—concocted from white chocolate, espresso, and steamed milk ($3.30)—is a far better way to subdue a ravaging sweet tooth, especially when paired with a hunk of cake or a tasty pastry. Regular-sized frozen chai lattes irrigate overheated palates ($3.70), and organic sencha, a delicate Japanese green tea (regular $1.85, large $2.25), is a great brew to serve when meeting the environment's ambassador.