Heart of gold: Pulse of coffee shop exudes pleasant vibes through charming atmosphere
Hidden behind the noisy bustle of Marshall Street, with no distinct sign or exterior to mark it but an open door, Cafe Kubal sits quietly, assured that what it has to offer will draw customers in.
What Kubal offers goes beyond what goes over the counter: an evident dedication to brewing methodology, engaging service and top quality ingredients in all its products. Cafe Kubal has a pulse: a characteristic of coffee shops that people no longer seem to expect, but one that is undeniably desirable.
The pulse isn’t fast. It’s even and cadenced. It can be felt in the quirky but warm decor that invites you to sit and stay while Al Green croons overhead. A visit to Kubal isn’t about getting in and out fast; it’s about slowing down to stop and smell its small but well-chosen tea selection.
As likely the only college student that doesn’t drink coffee, I was delighted that Kubal not only had fresh loose-leaf tea, but also that the staff offered up the Mason-jarred tea leaves for me to sniff-test before making my choice. Based on the fragrant notes, I couldn’t resist trying the Golden Yunnan ($1.85), whose leaves come from the Chinese province of Yunnan, the birthplace of tea. As I drank, I was reminded why I often refrain from adding anything to my tea. When brewed with care, teas like the Golden Yunnan, which coats each taste bud with its floral bitter-sweetness, can stand on their own.
Well, not completely alone. No teacup is complete without some complementary pastries. From behind Kubal’s wood-framed glass case, the Lemon Danish ($2.50) was irresistible. The flaky crust was rich with citrus and butter that was enhanced once you reached the sweet lemon cream in the middle.
Kubal also had two scone options that day, so we avoided the tough choice and got both: blueberry and apple cinnamon ($2.25 each). The fruits were bursting with seasonal freshness and Kubal’s scones were far from typical. The outer edges crumbled softly, but as you hit the center, the buttery treat got softer and moist — almost a mix between a cookie and a muffin. I was nervous to try the chocolate chip cookies ($2.25) because they’re not my favorite, but this one’s blocks of chocolate chunks mixed the gooey-melted chocolate perfectly with the soft dough, without being oily or squishy.
After we indulged in our treats, we decided to make our lazy Sunday afternoon a productive one and got our work done at the table while simultaneously soaking up the whimsical aesthetic that ignited curiosity and conversation. Who thought to make old luggage into display shelves? Are all the chairs cushioned with burlap sacks? Turns out one of the baristas designed and transformed the old Follett’s Book Store space using furniture from 3fifteen, the resale store that shares space with Kubal. Though there’s a large area to sit in toward the back of Kubal, the spacious area up front could have used a few more tables.
With the natural light fading from the panel of windows alongUniversity Avenue, we started to finish up our drinks. One of my dining partners shared her Chai Tea ($3.50) and I mentally kicked myself for not getting it — that is, until she pointed out most places can’t seem to get the beverage quite right. Kubal’s Chai Tea, with a full-bodied flavor that started strong and ended with a creamy finish, didn’t have that problem.
My roommate, who was feeling adventurous, grabbed one more thing to sip on before we left: the Rosemary Iced Latte ($5.94), an unusual menu item with the steepest price tag. Though rosemary has a savory flavor, the taste was sweet with an herbaceous aftertaste. The first sip was overpowering, but after letting some of the ice cubes melt, pine-like flavor melded well with the roasted coffee beans.
Having not known anything about Kubal before, it speaks volumes that after my first experience there I could sense a heartbeat within the cafe. What makes the decor so inspired and the food and drinks so flavorful is the idea that everything contributes to creating a community.
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