Charlotte’s Newest Coffee Palace Is Ready For You

Yes, it’s a coffee house, but the food will wake you up, too, when Charlotte’s newest food space opens Thursday.

Owner Todd Huber plans for Undercurrent Coffee, 2012 Commonwealth Ave., to be both a coffee house, small restaurant and “coffee education lab,” with involvement from the likes of Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp as director of operations. Huber, Mnatsakanyan-Sapp and culinary consultant Courtney Blake were all on hand Tuesday for a preview. (Chef Dwayne Howard will actually be the person running the kitchen once they’re fully open.)

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Here’s an example of the coffee education: On Tuesday, Mnatsakanyan-Sapp was serving “1 + 1,” a small pure of espresso (this one Peruvian) and serving it side by side with a latte, so you could taste it with and without milk to experience how milk changes the coffee.

Since the menu is focused on vegetarian and vegan (there’s one meat dish, the Bacon Bomblette, an breakfast sandwich for $4), there’s also an emphasis on non-dairy milks, such as turmeric and coconut cream Golden Milk, which turns up in drinks and on the menu as a yogurt bowl topped with buckwheat, pecans and strawberries ( $6).

The coffee comes from Onyx Coffee Lab in Arkansas, which works directly with coffee farmers in South and Central America. Since a warming climate is driving coffee farming to higher elevations, one of the Onyx projects involves helping farmers switch to growing cocoa beans at lower elevations. You’ll find two kinds of chocolate bars at Undercurrent that are a part of that project.

On the menu, expect a short list of breakfast offerings, from $4 to $6.50, three toasts (avocado, peanut butter and banana and chevre with strawberry) for $7, and two salad bowls, The Farmer’s Tan ( Anson Mills Sea Island red peas and Carolina Gold rice grits, navy bean and lemon hummus, kale, avocado and pickled onions), for $14, and Benne’s Bowl (warm roasted broccolini, carrots, crimini mushrooms, wheat berries, mizuna, miso-benne vinagrette, peanuts and cilantro) for $13.50.

Blake says the menu is designed to be low in meat and high in locally sourced ingredients while still being filling.

“People can come a few times before they even realize its vegetarian.”

For the education part, expect public coffee cuppings, brewing workshops and barista-certification courses.

Undercurrent opens officially at 7 a.m. Thursday. Hours after that: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays. You’ll find it across from the original Common Market.

By Kathleen Purvis, The Charlotte Observer

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