Caffeine Quest: Journey to the Lesser Known Coffee Houses of OKC and Beyond (Part One)

Once upon a time…

The other day, the closest Starbucks to me—which still quite a distance, mind you—decided that they were going to start closing shop at 2:30 p.m., well before the internal lust for an ice cold Venti Mocha Frappuccino (with nonfat milk and no cream, natch) takes hold of my tired body sometime in the late afternoon.

For the many coffee consumers that live in the NW 23rd and Penn area, we sadly know there is nowhere near us that specifically dedicates themselves to a warm cup of Joe and the variations thereof except for possibly 7-Eleven, God bless ‘em. So I had to pack a bag and travel elsewhere in the city for a caffeine fix, aided by my former neighbor Amy who has been looking for a new place to imbibe some morning mud herself.

Taking off in her furniture-loaded automobile—the broken rear-hatch that keeps a large painting trapped in the backseat forevermore—my one rule was to avoid the better-known java joints like Coffee Slingers and Elemental Coffee for lesser-known places that are typically ignored in favor of the big guys…all for me to ask “Do you have something that’s like a Mocha Frapp, brah?”

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Vintage Coffee (5001 N. Western Ave.)

The bohemian Vintage Coffee, located in what is probably an old church, has a quant flower child feel that reminded me of my former favorite coffeehouse in my former home of Fort Collins, Colorado; called the Alley Kat, it was a shop that was also built from the ground up with nothing more than some rock crystal deodorant and a few bags of sustainably-grown coffee grounds.

As well they should be, Vintage Coffee is not allowing visitors currently due to Covid-19, although you wouldn’t know by the unlocked doors that I mistaken walked through. Faux pas hopefully forgiven, Vintage offers the Frapp-esque Greek Coffee, which besides coffee includes milk, cream and what I assume are mocha chips over a bed of ice, for around $8.00.

With a heavy taste and a heavier after-taste, this is a powerful drink for serious coffee-fanatics that need a serious dose to keep those eyes up all morning and then some. But, still, let’s be honest: $8.00 is a rather steep price, especially when the Starbucks equivalent is only around $5 bucks.

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Culture Coffee (1029 NE 6th)

Stationed in the gorgeously gentrified area of the so-called Innovation District near some gratuitously priced apartments, Culture Coffee is a socially conscious brew-house that immediately establishes a mildly retro-futuristic feel with its bare white walls lined with a few pieces of art featuring famous Black leaders.

Packed with many good-looking people working diligently on their Chromebooks, when I asked for their Frapp substitute, the closest approximation to what I was craving was the Iced Mocha Espresso ($4.75) with nonfat milk and no cream, served so fast I didn’t even know it was sitting there, waiting for me.

Like a nourishing drip from my mother’s breast, it was diligently sweet without being overpowering, a perfect mixture of coffee and milk with a bitterly chocolaty coda that made me shiver in delight. The reason why I set out on this entire sojourn, this ice dream of well-partitioned flavor makes Culture Coffee a place to loudly cheer “Huzzah!” in caffeinated victory.

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Aspen Coffee Co. (180 W. 15th St., Ste. 140)

A well-meaning company hailing from Stillwater, Aspen Coffee is making its wood-heavy mark in Edmond and, judging from the fullness of the place, doing quite well. With a frontage that reminds me of a chain dental office, Aspen featured the closet approximation to a Frapp with the margarita-machine made Granita ($4.25), featuring the crushed-ice consistency of a blurry snowball that I’ve been seeking.

The taste, though not as fulfilling as the additive Starbucks drink I loved, is a decent enough alternative that will work as a replacement beverage should I ever find myself in Edmond around the late afternoon which, sadly, is very rare.

Still, from a small bucket on the counter, the young man working the register offered me a free day old cherry pastry without any cajoling. The pastry was a win unto itself, earning a higher recommendation than the drink.

To be continued…

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.