Common Grounds

 Local coffee shops offer tranquility and charm 

Words by Jamie Brian | Photos by Jacqueline Stofsick

Coffee has become a staple to get us through the busy shuffle of everyday life. Where we drink our coffee has become just as important as what we order. These shops have their own flair, and their relaxed atmospheres act as a haven from schedules and deadlines.

Bent Tree Coffee Roasters

Bent Tree Coffee Roasters in Kent offers the simplicity of a hot cup of coffee without the mystery of wondering how it was made. Baristas grind the coffee beans before you in a way that is honest and intimate.

An elegant silver roaster arches up to the ceiling like branches of a tree. Bags of coffee beans with the Bent Tree turtle coffee cup logo line the counter. On one side of the room is an inviting, natural wood table for those who wish to kick back with a coffee mug in hand.

But the main focus of Bent Tree is the coffee itself. They serve fair trade and organic coffee, the country of origin labeled on the bag.

Its signature coffee is the Ethiopian Gedeo, a lighter roast with a distinct fruity flavor. The Black Squirrel Blend, a dark roast with a rich chocolate flavor and nutty undertones, is also popular.

Bent Tree roasts its beans in-house. The length of time the beans spend in the roaster helps to determine the flavor. They start with raw green coffee beans, and the beans are roasted until the sugars start to caramelize. With a light roast, more of the bean’s acid is left, so it has a brighter, fruitier flavor. As the roast darkens, more of the natural flavors are roasted, so it has a dark chocolate, smoky taste.

Bent Tree also features French-press style coffee—coffee immersed in water for a bold taste—and pour over coffee, a cleaner type of extraction for a smooth taste.

It’s a place for a serious coffee drinker to have control over their cup.

Corner Cup Coffeehouse

Corner Cup Coffeehouse in Stow is the kind of coffee shop that tricks visitors into believing they’re not in a coffee shop at all. It almost feels like sitting in the family living room, complete with a brick fireplace, homey leather couches and cozy study corners.

Owning a coffee shop has been Heather Ciranna’s dream since she was 16 years old. She left a two-decade long corporate career to open Corner Cup Coffeehouse three years ago. She simplified her life and returned to the basics, wanting to become more involved in her hometown.

The hanging blue metal letters “BE” are perhaps the centerpiece of the room, and they align with the owner Ciranna’s mission: “I wanted a place where humanity can connect.”

Ciranna tries to tie her shop to the community by serving muffins from local businesses. She has collaborated with 2 Girls Cafe and Bakery to create the Corner Cup Mocha Blondie brownie, a blend of white chocolate, caramel and cold brew that sends the taste buds reeling.

Corner Cup also features music and art by local residents. The current Artist of the Month wall displays vibrant watercolor paintings in pastel colors. Once a month, the casual space transforms into an acoustic stage as local musicians fill the room with music.

Ciranna’s shop is known for its Corner Cup mocha and nitro coffee. The Corner Cup mocha has an espresso base and is blended with white chocolate and caramel for a smooth, sweet flavor.

Corner Cup’s nitro coffee is crafted from Ethiopian coffee beans that are lightly roasted and highly caffeinated. The beans are brewed for 24 hours and cut with water, then served out of a draft-style keg and pumped or infused with nitrogen gas. The nitrogen changes the drink’s color from light to dark as it bubbles to a cascading foam. Nitro has a bold flavor and smooth, creamy texture that is a good alternative for the coffee drinker who wants a sweet drink without the added calories of artificial flavors and sugars.

The shop also offers nitro non-alcoholic cocktails in lavender and chamomile, made from these plants’ flowers. Cold brew coffee is infused with nitrogen and then served over ice in a cocktail glass. The lavender cocktail is aromatic with a subtle, sweet flavor that complements the coffee, and the chamomile cocktail has a taste similar to honey.

Corner Cup Coffeehouse has come a long way since Ciranna first envisioned it in high school. It’s now bustling with new projects and recipes.

Morning Owl

Morning Owl Coffeehouse in Munroe Falls blends the old and the new to create a unique kind of charm. “Different Names for the Same Thing” by Death Cab for Cutie drifts through a speaker and meshes with the whirring of a coffee grinder. A rustic red bookshelf in the corner of the room houses Ohio honey and syrup in mason jars while a stack of board games beckons curious visitors. The latest edition to the motley assortment of furniture is a stately white fireplace stacked with vases of cattails. Vintage windowpanes have been repurposed as a home for the hand-drawn menu.

“Would you like a light or dark roast?” owner Joseph Hickin asks a customer. “You can smell all of them if you’d like.”

And so begins a visit to Morning Owl, which features locally roasted coffees. Every cup is brewed to order. Hickin only buys enough coffee for one week to make sure that the array of flavors is constantly changing.

Its most popular coffee is the Black Walnut, a nutty and smooth roast enriched by the natural flavor of walnut.

Morning Owl has created its own twist on the mocha by grinding chocolate and placing it in a French press with coffee. The coffee brews as the chocolate melts, making for a tasty, caffeinated treat. Customers can add flavors like caramel, hazelnut and peanut butter.

Danelle Hickin, co-owner and wife, makes the soups, sandwiches and pastries, specializing in muffins and scones. The blueberry blackberry scone surprises the senses with a sweet honey glaze, and the orange cream scone is another best seller.

For the local sweet tooth, Morning Owl also serves coffee floats: ice cream with cold brewed coffee. Unique flavors include s’mores, cinnamon bun and banana split.

Besides the assortment of roasts and homestyle food, Hickin describes Morning Owl as “a place to sit and listen.” Thursdays are live music nights, and the lineup has included everything from kazoo to violin players.

The laid back atmosphere allows for easy conversation while enjoying a freshly brewed coffee.