It was a chilly, gray January morning when we piled in the car to make the 45 minute drive south to Monroe. We were fortunate that traffic on I-275 was light and although it was cold-there was no snow or freezing rain to contend with.
We were all a bit tired still, recovering from the hectic holiday schedule and the pace of the school year- concerts, plays, homework, grading papers, lesson planning and we were eager to get away to do something a bit different.
So, off we were to Monroe, an historic city, with a wonderful cafe-Agua Dulce Cafe, located at 17 1st Street, right in the heart of downtown. Nestled across from the Monroe Press and near historic buildings converted to office space, Agua Dulce is a warm, welcoming cafe with amazing beverages and pastries.
My daughter and I had been here once before, on a break between games at one of her soccer tournaments. We nestled into one of the few seats available, enjoyed our beverages, and worked on homework.
Our return visit was even better than I remembered. The large glass window with the Agua Dulce Cafe sign painted, is reminiscent of the classic store front cafe's in North Boston or Lincoln Park in Chicago.
Entering the long, narrow cafe is to enter a cozy coffee and tea lovers paradise. There are a half dozen or so tables in the front sitting area, the silver coffee dispensers rest on a lovely antique serving table. One wall is devoted to neatly displayed coffee and tea mugs, presses, pots and other supplies available for purchase.
The counter is at the far end of the cafe where you will be tempted by delicious pastries baked at the shop. We purchased and shared a blueberry lemon scone which was moist and flavorful and a fruit bar that was amazing-moist, sweet, yet not overpowering.
We were fortunate to have one of the owners as our barista and she patiently helped us with our beverage selection. Jenny ordered a macchiato, one of her favorite beverages at a national chain. Our barista educated us on the Agua Dulce macchiato, which is the traditional style, made with only a small amount of espresso and a large amount of foam. Jenny concurred that this was not exactly what she was hoping for and our barista suggested a latte, which Jenny enjoyed tremendously.
Our daughter had tea, always served loose, and our barista showed us how to use their tea dispenser. It was an ingenious device, which I have never seen before. The loose tea is placed in the container with hot water to steep. Once the timer goes off, the tea is steeped perfectly and you put the container on top of your cup and the tea pours into you cup, leaving the leaves in the container. Very cool!
My coffee was delicious-robust and nutty, with no bitter aftertaste and our son was all smiles with his hot chocolate.
I also had the opportunity to learn more about the coffee that they roast themselves- as French Town Roasters. Although I enjoy coffee, I am certainly no expert, so I am really appreciative for the recommendation of the Organic Costa Rican, which I am enjoying right now as I reflect on our wonderful trip to Agua Dulce Cafe and the welcoming owners.
Just a note, the cafe has limited seating, so you may need to enjoy your beverages and snacks to go, if they are very busy. Or better yet, take a walk to the Raisin River, get a few photos by the statue of General George Custer, then come back and settle into a table and savor!
Enjoy- and Travel Local!
Family Questions for Discussion
1. How is coffee produced?
2. How does the geography of the country where the bean is produced affect the taste?
3. What did Ben Franklin think of hot chocolate?
4. What is the difference between Organic and Fair Trade?
5. What are the health benefits of drinking tea?
6. French Town Roasters-what does the term "French Town" mean?
7. What does "Agua Dulce" mean? What language is it from?
8. Why are there so many different flavors of tea and types of coffee drinks-what does this tell us about our taste buds?
9. Have you been in a small, neighborhood cafe like Agua Dulce in your travels? If so, where?
10. What else does this inspire you to "dream, learn, do?"
Written by Jim Miller