The Union Coffee Shop on State Street is a slower-paced alternative to the hustle and bustle of The Woods Coffee or Starbucks. The Union started as a part of the Daisy Cafe on Magnolia, eventually becoming its own shop and opening up a second location on N. State Street. The location on State Street is primarily focused on coffee rather than lunch but does serve small bites like scones and muffins.
After the initial 9 a.m. rush, crowds can be hit or miss, barista Kasey Overland said.
The Union attracts a diverse crowd of local merchants, out-of-towners, students and staff from The Bellingham Herald. During the school year, students often take advantage of the Wi-Fi and outlets in the upstairs loft area, Overland said.
“We get a lot of people that come in for our single origins,” he said. “We brew a cup at a time, and they are a little pricier than our regular coffee — real coffee enthusiasts get those.”
Overland has worked in coffee for 12 years and spent time slinging drinks at both Seattle and Los Angeles’ busiest Starbucks. He’s working on perfecting his latte art and enjoys the moments he gets to interact with his customers.
The Union hosts Latte Art Throwdowns that attract baristas from all over the Pacific Northwest. Overland’s opponent during the first round of the tournament was from Vancouver.
“She poured, with a single pour, a tree with a lake and a swan,” he said. “That’s forever in my head. I’m going to figure that out.”
Tony’s Coffee espresso go into the cups at Union, one of three shops in the county that’s allowed to serve it, Overland said. Tony’s also supplied Union a $1,500 grinder that was used in the World Barista Championships.
“Not only is it right across the street [from my work], but the vibe is really chill. They are very friendly, and they make good coffee.”
Customers favorite drinks depend largely on the time of day, Overland said. The morning coffee drinkers usually go for drip and as the day progresses drinks get fancier, he said.
“All the people from the tattoo shops love super sweet, weird drinks,” he said.
The Union does attempt to appeal to those seeking stranger, unique blends of coffee.
“We ordered some coffee that was literally smuggled out of Yemen,” he said. “It was delicious, but a lot of our customer base is so young and just getting into coffee culture that trying to explain how cool and significant it was just wasn’t working out,” he said.
The Black Drop Coffee House at 300 W. Champion St. looks like your typical coffee shop from the outside, but inside you’ll find blue walls, a purple ceiling, a lot of art and an even more eccentric drink menu.
A 12-ounce latte is $3 at Black Drop, but the specialty drinks are about a dollar more. All its baked goods are made in-house, and among the muffins, scones and cookies you’ll find a few vegan and gluten-free options.
When asked what his favorite drink is, customer Dan Joiner said he likes the Fat Elvis, referencing the drink that is described as a peanut butter banana mocha.
“I don’t get it very much, but I just like the name and the fact that Elvis actually liked some kind of crazy combination of peanut butter and bananas,” Joiner said.
“My favorites are the Bees Knees or the Level 10 Fireball, depending on how sweet or how spicy you are feeling and how much intensive work you have to do during the day,” said Maia Newell-Large, a barista and one of the early morning bakers at Black Drop.
The Bees Knees is a rose, vanilla and honey latte and the Level 10 Fireball is a chipotle mocha.
“If it’s just a rainy Wednesday afternoon, it’s all about the Bees Knees,” Newell-Large said.
There is Wi-Fi, which makes Black Drop a great contender for your new caffeine-fueled study spot.
Black Drop is a pretty small space. Cozy, yes, but that comes at a small cost. It does get pretty loud, and you might have to wait a little bit for your order. However, the friendly staff and the great drinks make up for any inconvenience that might cause you.
Avellino is a cozy coffeehouse located at 1329 Railroad Ave. in downtown Bellingham. It has been serving food, coffee and cold drinks for almost 15 years and are known for its relaxing and chill vibe.
Customer Nicholas Roberg gets food and coffee from Avellino about five days a week.
“Not only is it right across the street [from my work], but the vibe is really chill. They are very friendly, and they make good coffee,” Roberg said.
Roberg typically orders a “quad shot in the dark” and biscuits and gravy.
Avellino offers a variety of hot and cold drinks ranging from about $2-$5. The price of a 12-ounce latte is $3.86. They also offer a large selection of breakfast foods including eggs, sausage, breakfast burritos and pastries.
Barista Erika Olson has been working at Avellino for a little over a year. Her favorite drink to make for herself is a hemp milk americano misto with three shots of espresso.
Avellino offers gluten-free food options as well as replacement dairy products.
“Our gluten-free items are super popular; they are always the first to go,” Olson said. “Also, I’m not going to brag, but our cinnamon rolls are the bee’s knees.”
One special thing that Avellino does is a ginger blast, which is a drink with lemon juice, cayenne, ginger and honey. The ginger blast is known to help “kick your cold,” which is perfect for staying healthy for the start of school. Ginger blasts can be taken as a shot, made into a tea or a club soda. Avellino also offers free Wi-Fi and a 25 cents discount for students.
Tucked away at 1435 Railroad Ave. across from the downtown bus station sits Caffe Adagio. The coffee shop offers a cozy atmosphere with plenty of seating and good espresso.
The price of a 12-ounce latte costs $3.19 here, and it offers various dairy alternatives for your coffee, although at an added cost.
Paul Manthe, a customer at Caffe Adagio, said his favorite drink is the double short americano.
Caffe Adagio also offers lunch entrees of soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as pastries provided by Mount Bakery.
A bookshelf located near the counter offers various genres of used books for sale, giving customers something to look at while they wait for their coffee.
With a lot of seating options, many are situated along the windows of the café, offering a view of downtown. Plush chairs and a couch in the corner near a fireplace are also available if customers want to get more comfortable.
The warm, relaxing environment of Caffe Adagio in combination with its espresso and baked goods makes it a great spot for getting away to study — yes, there’s free Wi-Fi — or just grabbing coffee with a friend.