Good coffee and High Country adventure are a match made in heaven. In Watauga County, you don’t need to look far to find the perfect roast and a cheerful space to consult the trail map. Tucked away in a back alley of Downtown Boone, Espresso News seems to have struck the balance between small town friendliness and hipster counterculture—the latter picture complete with bearded, denim-clad baristas and an entire wall stacked high with vinyl records. Not to mention the steady stream of skinny-jean-sporting and thrift-store-sweater-wearing regulars who hang out on the outdoor patio.
The café’s interior has a distinctly community-forged vibe: the hammered metal countertops are handmade by the owner, Wijin Park, and framed photos of baristas past and present hang above a rack of locally designed T-shirts. However, don’t be misled by the laid back and comfortable atmosphere: Espresso News offers an array of organic, fair-trade coffees, which rival that of any pretentious Seattle coffee house. The beans are slow roasted in small batches each day, infusing the café with a rich, warm aroma, and every cup has an artfully maintained and distinct flavor profile.
“Our owner is a coffee connoisseur, with a sophisticated pallet,” says Barista Gabe de Paz. “He knows how to roast really good coffees. We have beans from all over the world.”
The baker arrives each morning at 5 AM to create the day’s offerings of creative pastries, which might include blackberry sour cream pound cake and double strawberry poppy seed muffins. Doors open weekday at 7:30 am (weekends at 8) to a line of regulars and bleary-eyed college students heading to class at the nearby campus of Appalachian State University.
“It’s a little tucked away spot that students come to love. There’s a quiet study area upstairs. It’s a good place to read a book or meet up for a group projects,” says Gabe. “A lot of students consider this place their home away from home.”
Espresso News is also popular amongst outdoor enthusiasts. It shares a pocket-sized parking lot with Footsloggers, the local gear shop whose employees are eager to share their favorite local climbing spot or running trail.
Fuel up for your day of exploration in the expansive Appalachian wilderness by stopping in for an iced latte, or a protein packed “Hulk” Smoothie made with bananas, peanut butter, and Spirulina. If you’re feeling indulgent, regulars recommend the White Mocha Breve.
In the evening, Espresso News transforms into cozy wine and beer bar where you can unwind with a bowl of creamy potato-leek soup and an IPA from Appalachian Mountain Brewing Company. The café stays open until midnight to accommodate college students needing a late-night caffeine fix and kayakers returning from an after work run down the Watauga River.
ASU student Molly Kotch describes Espresso News as an eclectic and friendly spot that has earned customers loyalty through chatty, knowledgeable baristas and a consistently good cup of coffee. “I come here every day. If I’m not studying, then I’m getting my latte before going out hiking.”
With such an abundance of adventure awaiting in the remote and scenic mountains that swallow the town…better make it a triple shot!