Coffee in St. Joseph

September 24, 2019

Written by Rachel McCoy | Photography by Alysa Ramsay


DEFINITION: Delightful; highly pleasing; enjoyable.

When it’s time for a coffee fix, St. Joseph’s options range from the eclectic to the trendy to the fast and familiar. The coffee culture in St. Joseph continues to expand and thrive, fueled by historic roasters, young entrepreneurs and locals who want to open the doors to a comfortable piece of the city’s relaxed vibe. Across every corner of town, you’ll find ways to satisfy your caffeine (or non-caffeine) needs in a way that suits your style. In fact, there’s such an “uncommon” list of options that the following guide may help you in your search.

What’s Different (And, You Know, Uncommon.)

Mokaska Coffee is a 120-year old tradition in St. Joseph that’s putting its own spin on coffee, without losing touch with its roots. Owned and operated by local Andrew Montee, the shop opened in 2016 in downtown St. Joseph. Its name reflects the 1884 Mokaska Manufacturing Co., which was one of the first real forces in coffee roasting, packaging and importing. In fact, the 1880s Mokaska milling machine was an early pioneer in processing and roasting green coffee beans, creating a quality and flavor customers across the nation wanted shipped to their door.

Fast forward to present day. Montee is really into this local quality thing.

“It’s all about our coffee. We only source specialty grade beans, which is the highest tier of coffees. Everything is roasted in small batches, without flavoring or additives. We also think it’s pretty neat that we’ve dedicated ourselves to being open as much as we can. You can get a pick-me-up in the morning and a craft cocktail after work,” he adds.

Mokaska’s recent downtown relocation to 705 Edmond offers a lot of natural light, room for live music, and a large and rustic patio for outdoor events. “We’re happy to have an all-ages, family-friendly environment during the day and transition to a more adult oriented setting in the evening. You can’t find that everywhere,” says Montee.

Montee calls himself a coffee purist and loves the Ethiopian roast and straight-up espresso, but the menu includes several custom coffee beverages, such as the lavender honey latte, and regional beers and ciders on tap. It’s a mix that brings in a familiar crowd, an element Montee genuinely appreciates. “One of the most enjoyable aspects of being an entrepreneur in St. Joseph is the dedicated group of regular customers who support our business. I love getting through a whole day knowing everyone who comes in the door, taking a few minutes here and there to chat about our lives,” he adds.

Like other downtown and locally-owned businesses, Montee is committed to being part of the larger picture for St. Joseph. “While we will always be a coffee shop, we would love to be seen as a center for activity that contributes positively to our community. We’re constantly looking to schedule live music, political events, artist showcases and performances of any kind. We’re willing to take risks or do something just for the fun of it.”

Across town, Muddy Mo Coffee Company offers another local spin on unique coffee drinks. The shop is named after the Missouri River that flows along the west side of St. Joseph. Owner Michelle Pritchard grew up in St. Joseph, and managed a bookstore and coffee shop in Iowa for several years before returning to the area. The menu includes signature coffee drinks, like the Black and Gold, the Mud Flat and the Muddy Mo., among others.

“We love meeting new people. We have awesome cold brew coffee, and that’s our most popular drink. As part of the St. Joseph coffee scene, some of our specials and discounts are specifically for MWSU students, faculty and alumni,” says Pritchard.

If neighborly friendliness is a theme among St. Joseph coffee shops, then Hazel’s Coffee Company is right there at the table with a smiling mug of uncommon hospitality. As one of the first customer-focused coffee shops in the city, Hazel’s has continued a tradition of roasting its beans in-house. You could say that Hazel’s was “coffee cool” before coffee ever became so cool. Dozens of flavors (like Highlander Grog, Crème Brulee) and roast styles fill the shelves, and home delivery of roasted beans is generating positive reviews. The bright and perky (pun intended) seating areas naturally foster conversations, studying or a board game night. If coffee isn’t what the day calls for, Hazel’s has a long list of teas, chai, sodas and more. Hazel’s has a location on the east side of town near Frederick and Woodbine and a downtown spot inside the American Electric Lofts.

St. Joseph Coffee That’s Fast and Familiar.

Sometimes your coffee needs to arrive in your hand in the eight minutes between place A and place B. And while you really like trying new handcrafted options, you just know you need a cup of Joe — now. St. Joseph has nearly every national name in coffee, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Scooter’s, Starbucks, Caribou Coffee (two locations), Human Bean and Panera.

The Caribou Coffee location on the Belt Highway near Hy-Vee has a fun mix of cozy seats and quick coffee service, if you’ve got time for a little of both or a quick business meeting.

For a drive-up only experience, St. Joseph is one of the 80 or so Human Bean locations. This Oregon-based franchise acts more like a local coffeehouse – think super enthusiastic team, local cause-related specials, comical tip jar and carside walk-up service when the line is long. The menu ranges from specialty coffees, granitas, frozen hot chocolates, smoothies and several types of non-dairy milk. Kids enjoy the yellow cone-shaped cup, and every item comes with the signature chocolate covered coffee bean hanging out on top.

Sit a Spell. Kick Back. Read a Book. Enjoy the Ambiance.

Cozy and quirky, full of local art, books and unique things – Café Pony Espresso is all about community. The coffee menu features several house-made syrups, and includes drinks like the Yin Yang, the Strawberry Blonde and the Voodoo Potion. A list of smoothies, like Caffeine Monkey, Mean Green and Peach Pie allow you to get your caffeine alongside some fruits or vegetables.

“The sense of community in St. Joseph is really incredible, and it’s fun to be part of that atmosphere,” says Sydney Moore, owner. “We love being part of such a developing neighborhood. Since I recently purchased the business, I’m enjoying inviting people to come downtown to see all that we have to offer.”

The typical Pony Espresso experience involves saying hello to several walk-ins, a quick scan of local news on the couch, and a browse of the loaded community bulletin board. Part coffee shop, part restaurant and part art gallery, the walls are lined with works from a rotating list of local artists. In the back corner are books, poetry and a glass case showcasing fossils, shells, pottery and artifacts from the region and the river (compliments to Michael Norman, curator). For those who grab a seat at the coffee counter, happy minutes can be spent enjoying the Turtle Latte or Lavender Vanilla Latte with coconut milk, alongside the lunch menu. For starters.

If you find yourself heading to the Shoppes at North Village or the youth soccer fields along Riverside Road, The Porch Coffee Shop and Bookstore has a full menu of espresso and coffee drinks, alongside plenty of space for work or reflection and plenty of Christian books and music. The Porch is part of Word of Life Church, but operates as a full-functioning public coffee shop and bookstore. Expansive windows and a rolling landscape make this a definite option for staying a while for a meeting, a study group or just some alone time. The menu is straightforward, classic coffeehouse – but the view and the setting goes a little beyond the “classic.”

Another St. Joseph coffee shop that invites some reflection and a unique view is Pronto Café. Located in the historic Geiger mansion along Frederick Avenue, Pronto has a full coffee menu surrounded by interesting photos and stories of famous St. Joseph residents. Fresh-brewed coffee, espresso drinks and regional tea can be served on the brick patio out front. Or while people-watching at the window-lined, bar style seating. Or at the relaxed living room styled space. Or the basic center tables, perfect for a meeting or a coffee date.

Pronto’s location is convenient as a walking or bicycling destination from the nearby paved Parkway trails at Corby Pond or the sidewalks along historic Ashland Avenue and Noyes Boulevard. If you get hungry while you’re enjoying any of those activities, there’s a menu of salads, sandwiches and sweet treats. Note: A second Pronto Café location is available at East Hills Shopping Center for added energy and clarity while you’re finding your new favorite things in the mall.

And who doesn’t want a mini-trip to Paris for a cappuccino once in a while? Find it at Brioche, a French bakery in downtown St. Joseph. For coffee and fresh crepes, surrounded by eclectic and whimsical French-inspired décor, Brioche is an open door. Or a passport, if you use your imagination.

Now go pull up a chair at one of our local coffee shops and get yourself some caffeine. Which pretty much means you’re our new neighbor and friend, no matter where you’re from.


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