(This was originally published in The Buffalo News Gusto online on 5/14/18 and in print on 5/17/18: http://buffalonews.com/2018/05/14/steamworks-coffee-flavors-cafe-with-quirky-details-freshly-roasted-drinks/?utm_campaign=best-of gusto&utm_medium=internal&utm_source=homepage)
On a brick street edging the Erie Canal in Lockport, the whiff of freshly roasted coffee beans infiltrates the air as you walk into Steamworks Coffee.
The cafe is brimming with quirky details — a chalkboard wall filled with scrawled signatures and doodles in funky colors, a shelf maxed out with board games, gear patterns stained into the handmade wooden tabletops, which comfortably sit four, or one sprawled out with books and a laptop.
None of those details are more striking than the steampunk-themed mural on the wall, depicting a steam-fueled village led by their mascot, a rusty-orange octopus named Octavius. Nursing a hot cup of the barista special — an orange basil tea latte, topped with subtle latte art — I felt at home in the relaxed atmosphere.
Steamworks roasts specialty coffee, so its coffee is ethically sourced from farmers throughout the world. The owners, Jonathan and Ashley Brose, a husband and wife team, describe it as “even more than fair trade,” because their coffees are either fair trade or direct trade, where they’re buying directly from the farmers.
“The specialty coffee world is very focused on helping farmers get the most for their crop. We turn around and we sell it for more because it’s a better coffee. It’s a better quality,” Brose said.
A cup of coffee is sold in a few different ways: pour-over ($3.25), pre-brew drip ($1.65-$2.25), French press ($4.50) and cold brew ($3.75). Choose from an ever-changing mix of coffee blends, all roasted in-house and labeled by country of origin.
Opt for Kenya for a medium-roast, full balanced brew with berry and lemon notes or Brazil Cerredo for a dark-roast with nutty, cocoa notes. (Fun fact: Years ago, they started out roasting beans on a popcorn machine before launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a roaster.)
For something on the sweeter side, lattes ($4) with house-made syrups are popular. The London Fog is a favorite — steamed milk, lavender earl grey syrup and a shot of espresso. Or try the Meeple latte, named after a board game character, made with real maple syrup and topped with maple sugar.
Tea lovers are not left out with the recent addition of loose-leaf tea drinks. The menu features the usual suspects — English breakfast, chamomile, mint — but also cleverly named exotic flavors like Lumberjack (black tea, juniper berries, cedar fir tips) and the ingredient-filled Betty’s Tonic (rosehips, star anise, mint, black currant, lemongrass, chamomile, lavender and vanilla).
Baked goods are supplied from local bakeries Tatercakes, Kith and Kin and Breadhive. Their selection changes frequently and you can expect a variety of bagels, banana breads, cookies, muffins and cinnamon rolls, with some gluten-free and vegan choices.
And there’s always something to do. Odds are, you might stop by on a night with live music, local folk and acoustic musicians play as often as once a week in the summer, filling the intimate space and spilling onto the sidewalk. Or you could walk in on a monthly knitting night, a hand-lettering class or a board game night (they really love board games).
Before leaving, take a look at the map in the back that’s covered in pushpins. Visitors, from near and far, placed each pin and pins fill the global map, all in the year-and-a-half Steamworks has been open.
The Lockport locks can probably take some of the credit, but visitors found a nice coffee shop nearby. A few cups of coffee in and you might start planning your next trip– hey, the coffee’s pretty strong.
51 Canal St., Lockport (727-0701)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes.