The Coffee and Tea Exchange

coffee and tea
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Open since 1975, The Coffee and Tea Exchange is a coffee and tea drinker’s paradise. Inside, large wooden barrels of whole bean coffee are lined up through the center of the store. The top of each barrel is labeled by flavor and collaged with cut out pictures from magazines. The selection is phenomenal — decaf chocolate mint, Irish cream, strudel cake, and espressos, just to name a few. There’s even a special blend created by the shop’s founder, Steve, plus, a handful of fair trade and direct trade options. Being the no frills place it is, most of the coffee ranges from $11 to $13 per pound and is available for purchase in 1/4 lb, 1/2 lb, and per-pound increments.

Loose tea rests in large glass containers on shelves behind the cashier. Black, oolong, herbal, grey, and white tea options are plentiful and all available by the ounce, pound, 1/2 lb, or 1/4 lb. The store also carries an overwhelming amount of coffee and tea accessories including pots, cups, strainers, and even milk chocolate espresso beans and other edible treats. They also have fresh spices and herbs such as cumin, nutmeg, and Cajun seasoning.

As far as the staff goes, to say they are knowledgeable is an understatement. As a person who likes to drink coffee but knows nothing about it, the woman working was more than happy to help me out. Unsure of what I was looking for, I asked for a blend similar to Seattle-based Tulley’s coffee. “It’s a little lighter than Starbucks,” I said. She immediately nodded, walked out from behind the register, and opened up a wooden barrel of French Roast. Scooping up some French Roast beans, she instructed me to smell the coffee. It smelled delicious and, on sale for $8.95 per pound, I decided to purchase some. While buying the coffee whole bean is an option, the woman happily ground the beans for me. When I got home, I noticed that the brown bag my coffee came in had brewing and storage tips on the back as well as tea brewing and storage tips on the side. Before purchasing my French Roast, I never knew you are supposed to freeze coffee for long-term storage.

Need your caffeine fix asap? The store has a full coffee bar that includes a rotating variety of blends. While the sidewalk outside was currently obstructed because of construction when I visited, the store did just open an outdoor patio in mid July. Hoping the city completes their construction before winter, the patio would be a perfect place to enjoy an iced drink and people watch on Broadway.

Weekly sales are listed on their website and, if for some reason you can’t make it to the store, they take orders online and by mail. Their prices, selection, and the staff’s knowledge make a visit to the Coffee and Tea Exchange worth the trip, even if you don’t live in the neighborhood.

The Essentials:
Location: 3311 N. Broadway
Phone: 773.528.2241

Erin Nederbo

About Erin Nederbo

Erin is a current writing major at Columbia College and a native of Chicago's Jefferson Park. Surrounded by Cubbie blue, she is often hassled by friends for being a White Sox fan. During winter, she keeps warm by eating Italian beef, dreaming of 16 inch softball, and reading Sandra Cisneros. Her creative writing can be found in Hair Trigger 33 Magazine.

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