(I originally wrote this post for madisonmagazine.com)
As a student with a full schedule, I, like many, have often found myself turning to caffeine for fuel. If I don’t have time to brew a cup before I’m out the door, the mid-afternoon latte purchase is often inevitable. Luckily, the Madison area is laden with a plethora of shops so you or I never have to go far to get our fix. But as my caffeine reliance morphed into an addiction, I decided to make an effort to spend the required three to four dollars at shops that are conscious of where their beans and other ingredients come from, and how they’re giving back to the community. These three coffee shops, all of which serve one hundred percent fair trade coffee from Madison’s Just Coffee, are great places to start.
New Kid on the Block
The newest addition to coffee shops on State Street, Redamte Coffee House is on a mission to “bring redemption to business, culture, and purpose through a socially responsible and community–focused coffee shop.” When owner Mitchell George spent time working with Faith Orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti, last year, he was inspired to find a way for Madison residents to make an impact with their dollars without having to change their routines. Redamte was his answer, and the business was well received when it opened October 1. Because nearly fifty percent of Redamte’s staff members are volunteers, the business is able to make regular donations to Faith Orphanage through events like Thirsty Thursdays, in which one gallon of clean water is donated to the orphanage for every purchased coffee drink. In addition to supporting Faith Orphanage, Redamte created a food menu that highlights local and seasonal ingredients, like the garden veggie grilled cheese, which includes seasonal veggies, cheese from Farmer John’s and bread from Madison Sourdough. The coffee shop regularly hosts local musicians for in-house performances and open mic nights on the first and third Wednesdays of every month.
449 State St., 576-0199, redamte.com
This small coffee shop on Monona Drive is big on gelato. Co-owners Renee Raspiller and Shari Olsonhave been making gelato since they opened Java Cat in 2005. “We were the first business in Madison to make gelato on-site,” explains Raspiller. “It was a big draw at the time, and still is.” The most popular flavors are cake batter and coffee crunch, made with Just Coffee’s brew. In addition to Just Coffee beverages, Java Cat offers fair-trade certified Rishi Tea and a full menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and pastries, most of which are baked in-house. They host live music every Saturday that highlights the talent of anyone ranging from high schoolers to professors who live in the neighborhood. Don’t miss out on the laid-back, community vibe of Java Cat, and of course, the cat-themed decor.
3198 Monona Dr., Monona, 223-5553, javacatmadison.com
Ericka Hotchkiss and her family opened Tuvalu in Verona when they noticed the city lacked a sufficient community gathering space. When Tuvalu opened in 2007, the space quickly became one that serves the community, but also features local food, local musicians, and local art. Tuvalu sources much of the food for their extensive menu locally, including bread from Clasen’s and cheeses from Cedar Grove and Organic Valley. The handmade soups are popular, as well as Tuvalu’s tuna melt, which includes tomato and cheddar, grilled on cracked whole wheat bread. Tuvalu hosts local musicians Friday and Saturday nights, and has an open mic night the fourth Friday of every month. The attached gallery is a highlight, featuring local and global fair trade art, everything ranging from jewelry to pottery and paintings. Tuvalu’s homey space makes it a tempting place to curl up with a book for a few hours, and the comfy vintage furniture makes it hard to leave.
300 South Main St., Verona, 845-6800, tuvalucoffeehouse.com