Posts tagged "mountain brook"

Remember Sri and Carrie’s 30-Day Yerba Mate Challenge? We asked them how it turned out …

Sri’s 30-Day Challenge Benefits:

  • Yerba Mate picked me up as an afternoon alternative to a coffee beverage
  • I could cut back on dairy, which helps with my sinus issues
  • It certainly promoted my weight loss and I was able to get over my plateau
  • It put me in a great mood and gave me something to look forward
  • Carrie was a great support in getting through this challenge

Sri’s Notes:
What a challenge it was to keep up with a routine of drinking Yerba Mate for 30 days. First, we wanted to complement the smoky, earthy taste of the plain tea … so we started experimenting with different additions. First, we tried vanilla — this seemed to be an easy alternative, and also gave us a chance to offer it sugar free. In fact, steamed milk and a little vanilla tastes great and this is how we serve it in the store. But this was too easy!!!

I just don’t like steamed dairy, but I wanted to make the straight Yerba tea palatable. We tried it with honey … it was not what I was looking for!!! But then we finally tried Yerba tea steeped with peppermint tea and served over ice. We struck gold with this and I was able to finish the full 30 days!!!

Just a reminder … If you are watching calories and want caffeine without jitters at the same time … a 12 oz sugar-free vanilla non-fat Yerba Mate Latte  is roughly around 60 calories and tastes incredible!!!

Carrie’s 30-Day Challenge Benefits:

  • Drinking Yerba helped me get back into a more regular sleep pattern
  • I lost weight this month — either because of the metabolism-boosting effects of Yerba, or because it helped me start eating more healthy foods by giving me a guilt-free treat to look forward to (Yerba tea has almost no calories, but it tastes substantial because of its smoky flavor).
  • I love drinking coffee and I love reading, but, when I sit down with a book a huge cup of coffee, the caffeine can make me a little bit jittery. Yerba Mate is the perfect drink for curling up with a great new paperback.
  • Sri helped me find new ways to keep our daily cup interesting. It’s wonderful over ice, and it’s surprisingly delicious with peppermint.
  • I’m also trying to cut back on dairy, so I was happy to discover that the Yerba Mate Latte is also great made with non-dairy almond milk.

Carrie’s Notes:
I actually really like the smoky flavor of the plain tea, but it was nice to discover different ways to drink it, too. I wanted to see if I felt any health benefits if I drank Yerba every single day, and I’m happy to say that I did — I’m not sure if they’re real or placebo, but I’m not sure if it matters because I’m feeling better and sleeping better.

I like Yerba any time of day, but it’s particularly my drink of choice in the late afternoon, when it’s a little too late in the day for me to have another jolt of strong caffeine from coffee. I find that Yerba wakes up my brain enough to get my work done without keeping me up all night, so I can drink it up to a couple of hours before bed without having a problem getting to sleep.

I read The Thorn and the Blossom while enjoying a cappuccino from Urban Standard, my other favorite Primavera shop.

By Carrie Rollwagen

The Thorn and the Blossom is a truly beautiful book. The vines and flowers on the cover perfectly set the scene for the story. Inside, pen-and-ink sketches give the reader just a hint of what the characters look like without spelling everything out. Plus, the content and format themselves are innovative: The story is told twice, from two different perspectives. Read it from Evelyn’s perspective; then flip the book over to read it from Brendan’s (or vice versa — the stories can be read in either order). This little magic trick is worked through accordion-folded paper and an extremely talented design team.

Oddly, we have the eBook to thank for creative bindings like this one. Now that publishers have to give customers a reason to choose books printed on paper over their electronic cousins, they’re more willing to take chances with paper arts and graphic design. We’re seeing this in small ways in books like The Night Circus (lots of graphic elements and fun type treatments) and in bigger ways through collections like Penguin’s deluxe clothbound editions, books that look gorgeous on your shelf in a way a Kindle never could. A paper copy of The Thorn and the Blossom gives you a tactile experience that its eBook edition can’t match.

On the other hand, intricate design and printing gimmicks can be tricky, putting even more pressure on a book to perform as a story. The content must be stronger than its packaging, and, in that respect, The Thorn and the Blossom didn’t deliver for me. It’s a tale of two star-crossed lovers whose lives are intertwined with scholarship, literature and magic (we have appearances by giants, a witch, and a heroine who literally glows with second sight). I’m a sucker for all these elements (I tore through Discovery of Witches, even though it’s not exactly high literature), but The Thorn and the Blossom never pulled me in. I just didn’t care what happened to Evelyn and Brendan. More than anything else, they annoyed me.

Of course, I have a high bar when it comes to romance and fantasy — I love them when they’re held together with a powerful story, and I hate them when they’re not. If you’re a sucker for any love story, or if a magical book never fails to cast a spell, I’d give The Thorn and the Blossom a shot. But, for me, it was a little like a disappointing relationship: perfect on paper, but the spark just wasn’t there.

Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee & Books.

A snapshot of the spices we steep with our chai then strain into honey. Too bad you can’t smell it, because the scent is heavenly!

Most people know that we bake all our own pastries (and trail mix, granola and biscotti) here at Church Street. But did you know we brew our own chai for the Chai Latte? Since this little trick was mentioned in the B Metro’s 10 Spots last week, we’ve had lots of questions about our chai blend.

Chai is popular because it’s so delicious — in America, what we call a Chai Latte refers to a blend of black tea, spices, sugar and milk. It’s caffeinated, creamy and very tasty. It’s a nice change of pace from your regular espresso-based latte, and lots of people who don’t like the taste of coffee do enjoy their chai. (In India, where this taste originated, “chai” is a more generic term that refers to black tea. But here, when people say “chai” they’re usually talking about the latte.)

We’ve been serving chai at Church Street since we opened. The only problem was, the syrup that we (and most other coffee shops) used for the base of the drink was loaded with sugar and nasty preservatives (we pretty much think all preservatives are kind of nasty and avoid them when we can). So Heather and Sri set to work on developing our own tea blend.

After much trial and error (and delicious taste testing from the staff), Heather came up with a recipe for a Chai Latte we’re proud to serve (and proud to brew — it smells so good when it’s steeping that Sri makes potpourri out of the stuff). What’s not in it? Anything artificial. What is? Here’s a list:

  • Darjeeling Tea from Two Leaves and a Bud that we brew ourselves
  • Vanilla beans
  • Honey (we use some cane sugar, too, but supplement it with honey to add a rich flavor)
  • Orange peel, zested in our kitchen
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Star anise (It’s so pretty!)
  • More fun spices

We steep all of this together, then strain it, steam it with milk and serve it to dozens of chai fans every day. Haven’t tried our Chai Latte yet? Stop in for a taste — it tastes great hot or iced.

Reading Leftovers. Eating leftovers. So meta.

Although I judge books by their covers all the time, I try not to judge readers by their choices. You might like pulpy mysteries, dramatic vampire fiction, chick-lit paperbacks or serialized sci-fi and, while it may not all be my cup of tea, I respect your choices. But every so often, a book comes along that tests my open minded aspirations — such was the case with the Left Behind series, a set of books that boiled the mystical, prophetic Christian concept of the Rapture into a series of formulaic novels that flew off the shelves “in the blink of an eye,” if you’ll pardon the pun.

So I had to smile when I heard Tom Perrotta was taking on The Rapture in his new novel — and that the title, The Leftovers, is a pretty funny twist on the uber-popular Left Behind moniker. Perrotta’s books aren’t usually spiritual. With bestsellers like Little Children and Election (they’ve been turned into movies, so you might associate them with Reese Witherspoon or Kate Winslet), he’s proven himself as a master of screwed up suburbia with an emphasis on the slightly (or not so slightly) pervy Dad Next Door.

The danger with spoofing Christian fiction is that you risk attacking religion itself, and, while there’s sometimes validity in that, it doesn’t seem like mocking the sincerely held views of millions of people is really what Perrotta is going for here. In The Leftovers, I think he strikes a good balance, mocking sectarianism without perverting spirituality.

Instead of railing against religion indiscriminately, he exposes the hypocrisy behind organizing the plans of an all-knowing, all-powerful God into a series of charts, graphs and trite dogmas. Here’s what gets speared with Perrotta’s sarcasm-laced pen: cults of personality, perversions of faith, attacking people in the name of religion, and throwing out the core of the Gospel in favor of a few chosen, out-of-context passages. But some things are sacred — namely genuine faith, true friendship and familial love.

What makes this credible fiction instead of hollow cleverness is that Perrotta puts real story behind his sarcasm. The families in the book who lose their loved ones react to their pain by retreating from each other, sometimes emotionally and sometimes physically. It’s a compelling portrait of how we as humans deal with abandonment, often by repeating the process instead of confronting it and healing from it. The genius of The Leftovers isn’t Perrotta’s portrayal of religion, or his searing wit, however great they may be. It’s the humanity that comes through in his characters, and the way their story changes the way we look at our own lives.

Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee & Books.

Buy a gift card in any amount and we’ll wrap it (as shown above) for free!

Lords a leaping? Swans a swimming? Get real. Who needs four calling birds when we have Facebook and text messages? What we really want for Christmas is coffee abrewing and books aplenty, and that’s what makes a Church Street gift card the perfect choice for all 12 days of Christmas. Our gift cards are good for anything in the store, from coffee to books to journals to beans.

  1. Teacher gifts: Now that teachers can only receive gifts that benefit the classroom, it kind of limits our giving options. Since a card to Church Street can be used for books, it’s the perfect present for your favorite educator.
  2. Stocking stuffers: Need a treat to add to your stockings? A Church Street gift card is perfect!
  3. Hostess gifts: How many bottles of wine does your host really need? Give a coffee gift card that can keep her caffeinated throughout the holiday party season.
  4. Place settings: Speaking of parties … we think a wrapped $5 gift card on top of every plate would make a great party favor, and a cute addition to your holiday decor.
  5. Coffee shopping save-the-date: Treat your teen or your best girlfriend to a shopping date, complete with a stop at Church Street for Cranberry Orange Shortbread and Gingerbread Lattes.
  6. Gift that keeps on giving: When you give a gift card, your friends and family think of you not just once, but every time they get a morning Americano or pick up a special book.
  7. Coworker gifts: Keep everyone in the office in good spirits by giving gift cards to your officemates. (As an added benefit, caffeine will make your meetings go more smoothly.)
  8. Student/study gifts: We’re open until 10 p.m. every night of the week, and we have free wi-fi for customers … the perfect recipe for studying!
  9. Neighbors: Get to know your neighbors by inviting them for coffee — or be the first to let them know there’s a coffee shop and bookstore in your neighborhood!
  10. Afterschool treats: Is Church Street within walking distance of your school? Does your student come by in the evening for tutoring? A gift card can buy traditional milk and cookies (or the not-so-traditional Mochasaurus and Treehugger) to help your child through piles of homework.
  11. Gift exchanges: Secret Santa got you down? Pick up a gift card to your favorite local coffee shop — it’s a gift that anyone can enjoy.
  12. Just in case: What happens when you get a gift from someone that you forgot to add to your list? Keep a gift card or two wrapped and in your purse or car, so you’ll always have the perfect gift ready to give.

By Carrie Rollwagen

The Family Fang is not a vampire book. (I’m not sure if it’s awesome or sad that vampire literature is so popular that I have to start that way.) It’s a novel about Caleb and Camille Fang, famous performance artists who involve their children, Annie and Buster (Child A and Child B, as they refer to the kids) in their art. The trouble is, that art is weird, disturbing and often dangerous. The bulk of the book is about Buster and Annie learning to deal with the ways their parents screwed them up.

The book is a fun, and sometimes sad, story about art and fame and growing up. The Fang dynamic is extreme, but the family and sibling relationships are real and relatable. After all, we’re all a little (or a lot) messed up by our parents, and we all look for ways to sort through which ideas are ours and which belong to Parental Unit 1 and Parental Unit 2. (Bizarrely, those are not monikers from the book … it’s how my dad sometimes referred to himself and my mother. Talk about weird families.)

The parents in the book sometimes behave pretty horrifically, but author Kevin Wilson wisely paints them neither as jesters nor as villains. Their dedication to art is extreme, but they say important things with their work (sometimes, anyway). Their obsession with creativity and social commentary borders on psychotic, but they do raise two children who become artists in their own right. And the ways Annie and Buster deal with the abuse aren’t perfect, either — and they shouldn’t be. Wilson’s story is real and honest, and it leaves us free to make our own moral conclusions, or to leave them out altogether. And you just might say, that’s the definition of art.

Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee & Books.

We’ll find your gifts AND wrap them up!

We know the holidays can be a little stressful. Okay, a lot stressful … especially when you’re not sure what to get for the people on your list. You love them, you want to get them something that says you care. But you’re too exhausted to go shopping, let alone research the right gift.

That’s where we come in. Just give us your list, complete with approximate ages and one or two ideas about the hobbies or interests of each person, and we’ll do the rest. Does your ten-year-old nephew enjoy nothing but hunting? He might like How to Survive in the Woods. Is your father-in-law obsessed with anything patriotic? Try our Illustrated 1776. Does your teenage daughter want to be a writer? Why not pair No Plot No Problem with a Moleskine Journal? You get the idea — we tell you which books will impress your friends and family the most.

Then we wrap it all up for you, free of charge.

Set up an appointment with our personal shopper, or skip the appointment and drop off your list (or send it to us at Be sure to let us know if you’d like free gift wrap, and if it’s for Christmas or Hanukkah.

We want you to enjoy your holiday season — stop by Church Street and let us help!

We top our Gingerbread Latte with homemade whipped cream and a little bit of cinnamon — sooo comforting and delicious!

By Sri Koduri

Over the last two decades, enjoying coffee has gained more and more popularity. More coffee shops, chains have come into existence than ever before. Every one of them has some offering of coffee to please your palette.

What is really sustaining the coffee business is not just brewed coffee, but the espresso-based beverages. Latte and cappuccino have become household names. However you take coffee — black, decaf, flavored, espresso, iced or blended —there’s a form of coffee drinking that will pleasure your senses.

In addition to choosing the form, you can also add flavor to your coffee, and food-inspired flavors have gained a lot of momentum. Vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, cinnamon, etc. have become the choice of customers. As much as I advocate enjoying the coffee beans for their true flavor profile, I equally enjoy flavoring them up sometimes to maximize my coffee experience.

Your barista should be able to suggest a flavor depending on what you like and enjoy. More than the regularly available flavors, I tend to enjoy the seasonal offerings. Here are my favorite picks from our line-up at Church Street!

Season’s greetings from Church Street:

  1. Gingerbread Latte (My top pick!!!)
  2. Peppermint Mocha/White Mocha (Chocolate is even more definitely decadent with a burst of mint!)
  3. Chai Latte (We make our chai latte from scratch with our special blend of spiced chai and steamed milk.)
  4. Peppermint Tea Misto (This blend of Peppermint Tea with steamed milk is becoming very popular with our customers, especially as an after-dinner treat.)

Stop by to enjoy these beverages and more and flavor up your coffee experience.

Sri is a barista extraordinaire and coffee guru at Church Street Coffee & Books.

You don’t actually need 3D glasses to read the book.

Yesterday while shelving books, I happened to mention that I was thinking of seeing Martin Scorsese’s new movie, Hugo. This statement had the effect of conversation dominoes — one after another, people from every single table in the full cafe chimed in to tell me they’d seen the movie and loved it. (A few people had already seen it more than once.)

I did see the movie last night, and our customers were right. It’s fantastic. The story itself is about the significance of art to our lives and our relationships, and the format of the movie supported that with every frame — for once, I found 3D technology magical instead of gimmicky.

So, this morning, I picked up The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the book the movie’s based on (you’ll find it in our new-and-improved Young Adult section). I loved reading it, and I appreciated the movie even more for being so true to the story and the strong visual elements in the book itself. And this book is extremely visual. It’s over 500 pages, but most of them are illustrations: really beautiful sketches that help you enter into the plot in a unique way. I enjoy this form of storytelling, and it can be especially important for children who may be struggling with reading.

As a little girl, I loved to curl up with a book, but a lot of kids aren’t as connected to language as I was. Visual learning is a different way to communicate, but it’s by no means an inferior one, but our school system is, unfortunately, set up so that many kids think they’re stupid if they’re not good readers.

A good way to combat this destructive idea is to help visual learners see reading as an adventure instead of a chore. Books like Hugo are exciting because they have the potential to help visual learners understand that books hold magic for them, too. It’s also hugely fulfilling for a child who struggles with reading to be able to get through a big, fat book like Hugo in a manageable amount of time. Since Hugo is packed with illustrations, the story moves quickly, giving children a sense of accomplishment because they’re able to finish it.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a wonderful book on its own, and it’s also a book that doesn’t suffer at all if you read it after seeing the movie. Enjoy it on your own, or share it with your favorite kids — whether they’re readers or not.

Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee and Books. Read more of her work on her blog, Shop Small, or follow her on Twitter.

Sri gets excited about giving gifts — and saving money!

Call us crazy, but we don’t think shopping should be stressful. Instead of fighting the crowds in the wee hours of the morning, think about sitting this Black Friday out. We have a better plan — spend Friday in the comfort of our café, sipping a latte and reading the latest novel from your favorite author. Then kick your holiday gifting off on Small Business Saturday instead.

Small Business Saturday is a nationwide celebration of local businesses and what we have to offer — better service, better products, and first-hand product knowledge that really comes in handy when buying gifts. This Saturday, when you spend $25 on gifts* at our shop, we’ll give you a free coffee or espresso drink as a thank you. And American Express is going one better — if you charge $25 on your card at a local shop on Saturday, they’ll give you $25 back as a credit on your account!

To take advantage of the American Express credit, just click here and sign up (it takes about 30 seconds to register). Want to take advantage of the credit, but haven’t made your list yet? Just charge a $25 Church Street gift card and spend it when you can. You can even shop at Church Street if you’re out of town — give us a call at 870-1117, have your American Express card handy, and we can ring you up over the phone.

We’re so excited for Small Business Saturday. It’s a welcome break from the holiday stress of Black Friday, and it’ll help you save money. So come to Church Street first to earn your free beverage, then do some gift shopping at some of the other great local shops in Crestline Village. We hope to see you Saturday!

* Earn your free, small coffee or espresso drink by spending at least $25 on books, journals or whole bean coffee.