I hate Starbucks. I think it is the McDonalds of coffee establishments. It is the Aristocrat vodka of caffeinated beverages. Unless it is heavily blended with artery clogging caramels, or topped with a mask of whipped cream, it just tastes like scalded bitter milk.
Ever since I visited Australia, I have admittedly become kind of coffee snob. It has taken me a long time to find a nook in Richmond that has comparable coffee to a place like Melbourne. Not that I am some kind of coffee expert, but for an entire year I had not been able to find a corner of Richmond not touched with the corporate take over of that evil siren Starbucks. After much exploration, there are four boutique espresso bars that I have found that make truly good espresso.
These noteable places are Black Hand Coffee, The Urban Farmhouse, and Globe Hopper. I frequent those establishments quite often, and will definitely be doing reviews on them as well. Each of those serves a specific purpose though, either being close to work, downtown, or is in the museum district. So to get down to bidness, this review is on Lamplighter Roasting Company, my neighborhood coffee shoppe (say that out loud in a rhyming way).
Lamplighter is indeed the headquarters for anyone with a handlebar mustache, stencil tattoo, or quirky pair of non-prescription lensed glasses. I do not mean this as a knock at all, the establishment draws the real Richmonders in, has a sense of community, and is great for people watching. All of the employees are are incredibly nice, knowledgeable, and wonderfully welcoming.
The owner, Noelle Archibald, hails from Richmond, but spent a great deal of time in Portland, Oregon, where she clearly learned a lot about coffee. She, the other co-owners, and husband Zach, are also slowly expanding to satellite projects like the Lamp Post, Kickstand, with rumors for a new cafe in Church Hill called Tricycle Gardens, and potentially a bakery on 25th street. Again the latter have been dubbed “in the works” or could just be coffee gossip. The atmosphere definitely has a west coast feel, and even though this joint is just six blocks from my apartment, I always feel like I am in a different state when I am there.
They serve cold beverages in different types of glassware: mason jars, jam jars, and high balls (oh my)! Coffee and hot teas come in various sized and styled adorable tea cups and clay mugs. I always feel like I am witnessing some kind of Mad Hatter tea party when I see big groups gathering, cluttering their table with dozens of odd plates, pots, and cups. Besides picnic tables they have vintage desks and chairs for patrons to perch on. This place is the real deal. Tall Bike Coffee is their roasting company, which supplies all the beans for the cafe and is sold on site.
Lamplighter/Tall Bike Roasting Company strives to use mostly fair-trade, organic, shade grown, bird friendly, rain forest alliance, certified brokers as well as beans from the Femenino co-op. However, they do also buy from small farmers who do not have the ability to get these high profile certifications. Having read a lot about some of the federally approved standards of organic certification, I commend Lamplighter for thinking outside the box and trying to help small growers who may not have the means to get federally certified yet.
The espresso is incredibly fresh and additively strong. I generally get an 8oz latte which is perfectly silky, rich, and has that can’t-put-your-finger-on-it almost buttery taste you can only get with carefully frothed organic milk. In the past, when still ordering from Starsucks, I would have to order multiple shots, specifically detail they go light on the milk, and demand a tiny cup to ensure the proportions are right, but here they have the ratio down to a science. This tiny little mug is like a years supply of adderall and is basically my liquid motivator to be productive at work. There are daily specials and delightful concoctions like “The Brown Sugar Baby”, which is a shot of espresso poured over brown sugar, topped with a dollop of cream, and served with a side of sugar babies. That is probably my favorite late afternoon pick me up in the world!
The food is simple, affordable, and hits the spot. Lamplighter offers a lot of vegan and vegetarian choices, as well as fresh pastries the size of my head from area bakers. I have been on a slight vegan kick lately, so this morning I had “The Brichta”, Twin Oaks soy chorizo, scrambled with hummus and layered with avocado. This was dank. I did not miss the eggs at all, and the vegan chorizo tasted like a healthier version of the real thing. Spicy, crunchy, and came with a baby clementine-how adorbs is that?
If you are in the fan and looking to catch a caffeine buzz. Hit up Lamplighter on Addison and Canal- it will make you rethink ordering from big box cafes forever!