Warm up with West Tennessee’s Best in Coffee & Dessert
Rhythm with blues; bluffs with views – some things just go together, don’t they? Like coffee and dessert. There’s no questioning West Tennessee’s loyalty to the Sweet-Tea South, but with all due respect, this region can craft some coffee – strong enough to make our signature sweets taste even sweeter. Try these perfect pairings when you’re in town:
Where to go: Muddy’s Bake Shop
Why: Kat Gordon and her team at Muddy’s care enough to bake like your grandmother did. They don’t get caught up in making stuff that looks prettier than it tastes, and while you may discover some items in their case you didn’t grow up with (i.e., honey rosemary cookies), you’ll recognize all the classics (i.e., strawberry rhubarb pie). Bonus: The pocket-sized, pastel bakery is cute as a confection, and provides a nice selection of children’s books. We like to nibble (er, inhale) and read each time we visit.
Perfect pairing: If Muddy’s is the object of Memphis’ bakery affection, J. Brooks is its coffee crush. And the two have much in common: They’re both Memphis-made, craft operations – and they’ve collaborated on a private-label roast of a light-medium persuasion called Gnome Sweet Gnome, available by the cup or bag at Muddy’s. J. Brooks’ roastmaster, John Pitman, takes his with Prozac (that’s Muddy’s chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting for the uninitiated); Kat calls a steamy cup of Gnome with Muddy’s Nancy’s Boy pie (a coconut chess variety) “heaven.”
Now hear this: Muddy’s is a from-scratch bakery with a big following. Lines can form and items can sell out during peak craving periods. Go ahead and queue up with the locals – they’ll remind you that it’s worth it.
Buzz, buzz: You can purchase J. Brooks coffee at other specialty eateries and grocers around Memphis and even online. But I like to stock up at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market. Held Saturday mornings year ’round, this is the place to buy whole or ground beans and order a cup of John’s Spirit of Memphis (a slightly sweet, medium roast) or Onyx (for bolder tastes) to accompany you on your walk around the market. Bonus: New customers who spend at least $5 at the market get a free cup of J. Brooks!
In Dyersburg or Jackson
Where to go: Green Frog Coffee Co.
Why: Bless Timm Johnson for creating a family-friendly coffee shop. “Everybody can come in and find something they like,” he explains, before revealing his secret: ice cream. And not just any ice cream, but homemade ice cream, rich with real ingredients and double-butterfat, that manages to be one of the cheapest scoops around ($1.75). “I don’t fear Starbucks,” Timm tells me.
Perfect pairing: Timm handcrafts his Dirty Snowman ice cream from childhood memories (of making “snow cream” with his mom), premium white chocolate, toffee nut syrup and espresso pulled right in the shop. In Green Frog’s 18-flavor rotation, it’s the most popular. The shop has adapted it as a hot coffee drink, too.
Now hear this: Guess who supplies Green Frog’s coffee? McCarter Coffee Company in Millington, Tennessee!
Buzz, buzz: You can visit Green Frog in two locations – one in Timm’s native Jackson; the other in his current hometown of Dyersburg. In Jackson, look for Green Frog inside the town’s tallest building: the New Southern, a restored 1927 beauty on the National Register of Historic Places.
What’s your perfect pairing of coffee and dessert in Tennessee?