Date of Visit: Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.
My hometown of Grand Rapids just keeps getting cooler and cooler. Why does this always happen after you leave somewhere? Following a breakfast at nearby Trillium Haven in Grand Rapids, we were in the mood for a little more coffee. We had noticed on Trillium’s menu that they served Rowster coffee, and when we asked our server about it she told us the roaster was just down the road. Very fitting for Trillium’s locally-driven menu.
We found Rowster’s corner storefront down Wealthy Street, a budding, brick-lined district that’s quickly filling in with new shops, bakeries, a theatre, and restaurants. Rowster has taken up a solid place in the neighborhood; their decor is a mix of old building wood floors and plus angular metallic accents.
The whole space has a very casual, open feel to it. There’s nothing of the tightly organized coffee shop tables with plugs for every laptop. Instead, there’s a high counter in the window, a short one overlooking the actual roaster (a clear centerpiece of the space), then a long bench against the right wall with polished wood stumps for tables. There’s no menu scrolled in chalk on the wall – you simply amble up to the counter and a barista asks what you’d like. If you’re not well versed in coffee shop menus, you might be at a loss for words. Or you just have to be bold enough to ask, “What do you serve?” The answer is that they serve the coffee roaster basics: shots of espresso, cappuccino, machiato, pour-over brews, and the like.
While you wait, you can browse the extensive shelves of bagged coffee, the brewing equipment that’s for sale, the small line-up of baked goods, or the charming collection of glasses holds spoons, sugar, stir sticks.
Coffee beans are available by the pound as well.
Their branding is pretty solid. I’m told this is called a propaganda-style: bold, square lettering, stars, patriotic coloring. It’s everywhere: the mugs, the coffee bags, the wall, the outdoor signage.
Except for their to-go cups, it would seem.
My wife and I ordered just a couple drinks. She had a cappuccino and dubbed it very good, while I tried a pour-over of their daily roast. They use a Chemex pour-over, which is one of the best methods for highlighting a coffee’s flavor profile. I forget the exact origin of the beans they brewed for me, but the result was – like every pour-over I’ve had – a rich array of flavors, foremost of which was a dark cherry or blueberry. I love the reminder that my cup of coffee originated as a berry.
Although Rowster is a younger company, they’ve established a solid brand and identity, and the busy space shows that the customers are finding them. Coffee and coffee education is at the forefront of their game, as you can see from the equipment and the highlight of their roaster in the dead center of the space. I’ve only experienced Rowster at one restaurant and at their store, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in more places around the city, and the region, soon.