112 North Green Street, Chicago, IL, 60607
Life moves fast. We see something we want. We go get that thing. We forgot what it was that introduced us to that thing. Then we remember it was some news. But we threw out that thing. So we try to remember what it was that thing said.
The thing of it is, we need to slow down.
Downtown, let’s go downtown. And slow down at Sawada Coffee.
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“The Black Camo Latte is absolutely fantastic! The matcha has a nice, roasted taste that blends perfectly with the coffee. It looks so dark but the flavors are absolutely smooth.”
It didn’t matter that we no longer had the Japanese news article that introduced us to Sawada Coffee. We got that thing. By the end of this post, you will know what that thing is, and you will go out and get that thing at Sawada Coffee.
Lisa, my mom and I ventured downtown on a Saturday morning, our itinerary full, with our first stop highlighted by the short city walk west from the train stations to Fulton Market District on Green Street. We found Sawada Coffee quite easily. Just look for the cool signage against the black building, marked by a lively urban art covered door, and frequented by happy visitors coming and going. Let’s go.
Stepping through the door and walking up a few steps, we entered Hiroshi Sawada’s first coffee experience in the USA. Apparently, we learned from talking to the baristas, that he opened a second location in NYC. We were honored to experience this opportunity to try Hiroshi Sawada’s coffee styles. Hiroshi Sawada is an internationally acclaimed barista, winner of the Latte Art World Championship. Although he is not usually behind the counter, his presence is strong—one sip will infuse you with his ethos and creativity.
Looking at the menu, we were excited by the choices, not because there were so many—there didn’t need to be—but because that whatever we chose, it would be beyond our expectations and shatter the glass ceiling of our previous definitions. Sawada Coffee is not a chain. These are not coffees handed out through drive thru windows. You know what I mean. It’s the rest of the way that we will come to understand soon enough.
My mom was absolutely set on trying the Matcha Latte. She is Japanese and she doesn’t go downtown very often. This was definitely an extra special important trip. Despite all that weight, I wasn’t worried. She also added a Blueberry Muffin. It was early, so we needed some go fuel to get going.
Lisa was keenly interested in the Black Camo Latte. I wondered if she thought it meant she would get to shoot something. You can always shotgun your coffee, but not this one. The Triple Chocolate doughnut from Doughnut Vault was calling her. By name.
I wanted something different. I was never much a fan of Peppermint no-no and Pumpkin Spice everything. This was the season to truly be myself. I wanted to high five myself for going downtown to slow down, something unthinkable, but attainable at Sawada Coffee—like enlightenment—when we expanded our coffee horizons and looked east to Hiroshi Sawada and his High Five Mocha. Oh, and a Pistachio doughnut. Yeah, that.
This was the season to truly be myself.
We sat down by the window, facing Green Street and all the activity of the neighborhood. I didn’t know the lay of the land but by the looks of it this appeared to be the center of activity. After taking a series of quick snaps, we raised our cups. Lisa was first to take a sip, “The Black Camo Latte is absolutely fantastic! The matcha has a nice, roasted taste that blends perfectly with the coffee. It looks so dark but the flavors are absolutely smooth.” Not needing any encouragement, she pressed on to try the Triple Chocolate doughnut, “The Triple Chocolate doughnut has a nice, light glaze, and not too sweet. The doughnut has a little bit of crispiness on the edges that makes it fun to eat!” All of this was a lot to digest but we got the gist. My mom and I were expecting big things now at this point.
All of a sudden my mom got very quiet. It must have been like when everyone entered the great room to see the Shogun. I couldn’t tell if my mom or the Matcha Latte was the Shogun. She admired the pristine coffee art, raised her cup and took a sip. We waited. My mom made the universal everything’s-ok-and-you-can-come-out-now sound of “Mmm!” I had to encourage her for a little more specificity, so she complied with “The Matcha Latte has a very fresh matcha taste with a nice coffee flavor in the background. The matcha quality is very good. Everything is so smooth!” The Blueberry Muffin had to be a piece of cake now. The proof would be in the pudding. My mom took a deep breath and a big bite. Japanese style, she covered her mouth with a napkin; and, American style, she talked while she was eating (but only because I encouraged it). My mom said, “The Blueberry muffin is big and crunchy, but inside it’s very soft and tender. The blueberries are very plump!”
“The Matcha Latte has a very fresh matcha taste with a nice coffee flavor in the background. The matcha quality is very good. Everything is so smooth!”
In all the excitement, I almost forgot that I had my own coffee and doughnut to taste and enjoy. The aura of Hiroshi Sawada’s coffees are almost enough to satisfy! Almost. My appetite reawakened, I lifted my High Five Mocha and admired the orange zest flakes, floating on the mellow coffee art like gold flecks at sunset. I took a deep sip and wished I had a picture of my face when the full flavor rushed through my senses. The very light, chocolatey mocha flavor paired with the coffee and orange zest made for an amazing light show in my mouth. The flavors were like colors flashing through my mind as I sensed them separately and in different combinations. Just amazing! The Pistachio doughnut was next. It was so soft, light, and embodied everything that is delicious about pistachio sweets, just a hint of pistachio with the bottom note of sweetness to tie it all together. I got that thing, let me tell you. And I will tell you.
Ah, that thing. Maybe it’s Japanese enlightenment or American freedom or both, but it’s probably a different experience for everyone. Maybe it’s like when you have a cold and then you feel your head “POP!” For me, it was:
- Shed my fear (to go into the city just for a cup of coffee)
- Open my mind (that I could connect with something downtown, so alien to me)
- Slow down (in the city, of all places)
- Expand my coffee horizon (Hiroshi Sawada redefined coffee for me with his pairings of matcha or orange zest)
- There is potential for bad, but also good, in every opportunity
We shall return to Sawada Coffee soon. We need not fear winter. With our minds opened, we will again slow down, expand our coffee horizons further, with friends—lots of friends—as we enjoy coffee from Hiroshi Sawada and doughnuts from Doughnut Vault.
And feel our heads “POP!” We need that, again and again.
Before you make the trip downtown to Sawada Coffee, plan your visit and take the first step of your journey at Sawada Coffee – Chicago
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