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.
The coffee house was once a separate entity but has since been acquired by the store itself, making it accessible even in the early morning while the retail area is still closed and inaccessible behind a rope. A single barista staffs a small workspace, preparing drinks and serving snacks that can be enjoyed at small counters and tables, both of which are found inside and outside the store. 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. In addition to drip coffee and cold brew, the shop lists an option of “espresso and milk.” As vague as this might sound, consider it an option to have those two ingredients combined in any way requested: cappuccino, caffe latte, macchiato, and even a Gibraltar, a cappuccino-like creation served in a glass tumbler rather than a ceramic cup. Tea is limited to chai and matcha, both of which can be 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. The specific purveyor seems to change every few months as bakers come and go, but the quality of what is delivered most mornings has remained consistent even with changes in the supply chain. Recent favorites have included a vertically formatted zucchini muffin, almond croissants, miniature chocolate bundt cakes, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies.
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.
5102 N. Central Ave., Phoenix AZ 85012