A cup of coffee can be a work of art when a barista sketches a delicate pattern of steamed milk on the surface of a latte. This aromatic image is created for caffeine-craving customers at the 42 stops on the Arkansas Main Street Coffee Trail.
Branching across much of the state, the trail was devised by Main Street Arkansas, part of the Division of Arkansas Heritage in the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
“We wanted to highlight the growing number of coffee shops in our downtown districts,” says Greg Phillips, director of Main Street Arkansas. “These small business owners have a passion for their work. They are always excited to showcase their product, and we love to share their talents with the public.”
To gain a spot on the coffee trail, a shop has to meet three criteria. It has to be located in a Main Street District, though not necessarily on Main Street. It has to be locally owned and/or operated. And coffee has to be one of its primary products. The trail list is available at arkansasheritage.com/arkansas-preservation/programs/main-street-arkansas/coffee-trail. More members may be added, Phillips says.
The Main Street Coffee Trail aims to spotlight standout emporiums in communities as small as Calico Rock (population 1,500) and Eureka Springs (just above 2,000).
Judging from the Main Street Arkansas list, the epicenter of Natural State coffee consumption seems to be Eureka Springs. The Carroll County tourist town boasts six Coffee Trail members on the list of 42.
One of Eureka Springs’ six spots slipped a pun into its name: Bean Me Up Coffee. Playful monikers elsewhere include Rise & Grind Coffee Co. in Searcy, Pour Jon’s in Siloam Springs, Grounded Cafe in Jonesboro Rock.
A New Testament verse is embedded in HeBrews 11&1, a shop in Hope. The name alludes to Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Being part of the Coffee Trail can be more than just an honorific, according to Maryann Lee, proprietor of Indigo Blue Coffeehouse, on Barraque Street in downtown Pine Bluff. “Being selected as a member has been great for my business,” Lee says. “It has increased my exposure throughout Arkansas. A good portion of my business comes from visitors traveling through our city, and they often find me by searching for coffee places in our area. It means a great deal to be linked to the Coffee Trail. It validates the worth of Indigo Blue.”
Like a number of properties on the trail, Lee’s coffeehouse has historical and civic links to its town. As she explains, “My building was constructed in 1883 by an early settler and business owner in Pine Bluff. It was abandoned before being restored in 2016.
“In addition to selling brewed coffees, Indigo Blue is community-minded. We host events such as jazz night, poetry night with open mic, art exhibits, book signings and community forums. Our customers describe the atmosphere here as ‘warm and inviting.’ That is what I hoped customers would feel.”
Big Cuppa, in downtown Morrilton, is another Coffee Trail member in a longstanding setting, as described by co-owner Jaim Krutz: “Our building is one of the oldest commercial structures off our main street, Broadway. We purchased it for the purpose of restoration and community connection. Main Street Arkansas describes part of its mission as ‘strengthening and preserving historic downtowns throughout the state.’
“That is a mission that Big Cuppa believes in and has fulfilled. Our hope was to inspire others to do the same, and it is working. Several other old buildings have been restored since we opened, and other businesses have been created.”
Like some other shops on the trail, Big Cuppa roasts its own coffee beans and displays one of its roasters. Its signature drink is the MoTown, “named after the affectionate name we have for Morrilton. It is a breve latte made with espresso, cinnamon, brown sugar and steamed cream.”
Krutz notes that Morrilton is also part of a winery trail and a brewery trail, “but not everyone enjoys wine or beer, so some visitors love being shown to the coffee shops in downtown locations.”
One challenge for customers at many of the Main Street Arkansas Coffee Trail stops is deciding among the dazzling quantity of available beverage mutations. Typical is the menu hanging above the counter at Coffee Records, on Main Street in Malvern.
Listed under “Coffee,” with some helpful hints, are Americano (double shot of water), Cafe Latte (espresso with milk), Doppio (double shot of espresso), Drip Coffee, Red Eye (drip coffee with espresso) and Cold Brew Coffee.
The “Sweet Coffee” category includes: Cafe Mocha, Caramel Latte, Honeynut Latte, Vanilla Latte, White Mocha, Sugar-Free Mocha and Skinny Vanilla Latte (sugar-free vanilla, almond milk).
Among “Blended” offerings are Caramel Frappe, Cookies ‘n’ Cream Frappe, Mocha Frappe, Frozen Hot Chocolate and White Chocolate Frappe.
There is also a “Not Coffee” list: Chai Latte, Dirty Vanilla Chai, Matcha Latte (green tea), Vanilla Matcha Latte and Hot Chocolate, plus nine kinds of Herbal Tea.
Coffee culture was so much simpler back when options at the downtown cafe where regulars gathered in the morning ended after “black,” “cream,” “sugar,” “cream and sugar” and “decaf.” But the Main Street Arkansas Coffee Trail makes the case that variety is the spice of life.8
Espresso-ly for you!
Some of the stops on the Arkansas Main Street Coffee Trail:
Java Primo Coffee House Café & More
Samantha’s Bakery & Café
Blytheville Book Company
Printing Press Café
A Cup of Joe Coffee Shop
Eureka Springs Coffee, Breakfast and Burgers
Mud Street Café
Eureka Daily Roast
The Recovery Room Coffeehouse & Bistro
True Grit Grounds
Magnolia Coffee House
The Caffeinated Cow
Café on Broadway
Alley Cats Coffee Bar