Cream in coffee, disliked by some purists but favored by many consumers, is a sort of accent to a robust beverage. A little splash can make a cup full of brew more palatable and cool it to a drinkable temperature. Likewise, a little bit of coffee culture can add a bit of panache and convenience to a retail environment. Grocery and department stores have discovered that with their ubiquitous in-house chain coffee operations. For a small, independent design shop, however, something a little more stylish is in order. That’s the role played by Kream Coffee.
Kream occupies a corner of a space it shares with For the People, a retailer devoted to contemporary furnishings, art, and gifts, as well as the office of Wendell Burnette architects. The three businesses coexist in the heart of Uptown, just two blocks north of the Central / Camelback light rail station. Although For the People includes posh Pashley bicycles in its wide assortment of merchandise, there’s no bike rack on site. Thankfully, one is found right next door at Practical Art, another retailer, like For the People, doing its best to keep Uptown interesting.
There’s a walk-up window that opens at 7 in the morning. Until the store opens, it’s the only way to experience Kream. At 10 AM (noon on Sundays), the doors are unlocked and Kream can be experienced in a more leisurely fashion indoors. A single barista staffs a small workspace, preparing drinks and serving snacks that can be enjoyed at a three-person counter of at a small table. A succinct menu on an overhead board describes the straightforward mix of coffee and espresso drinks, and the day’s pastry selections are displayed at the counter.
Kream procures its coffee from a variety of roasters, some local and some not, and offers both its house blend and single origin versions of many drinks. Espresso, cappuccino, lattes, and americanos are all served, as is a less common drink, the Gibraltar, essentially a less milky cappuccino served in a glass tumbler. It’s often offered off-menu at coffee shops but provided more overtly at Kream. Tea is limited to cascara, which is brewed with the skins of coffee cherries, the fruit containing the coffee beans, and matcha latte served hot or cold.
Too small for even a toaster oven, much less a full kitchen, Kream serves a changing assortment of baked goods produced off-site and delivered to the shop by local boutique suppliers. A light, vertical zucchini muffin comes from Le Dinersaur, originally a delivery sandwich service and now a pastry purveyor as well. Other choices come from Picket Fence Pastries. Almond croissants, miniature chocolate bundt cakes, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies have all been among the most recent offerings at Kream’s small counter.
The pastry is all first-rate, largely because the purveyors are chosen as deliberately as the coffee roasters. Before or after coffee and a snack, it’s worthwhile to browse the architecture books at the back of For the People or look at the toys in another corner of the store. It’s easy to spend a lot of money in the retail area, but it’s equally possible to simply look around while spending a smaller sum on food beverage at the counter up front. If coffee in a large, chain retail environment works, it’s little surprise it can fit in the independent Uptown scene as well.
Update: Since the publication of this review, Kream Coffee has made arrangements for indoor seating during all hours of operation.
5102 N. Central Ave., Phoenix AZ 85012
Central / Camelback Station