Too much coffee?

The headline says "A cup of coffee on every corner" and I don't think they're far off. One of the newest additions will be in the building between Franklin and Rosemary Streets right before they merge into East Main Street. So far it seems the only unique thing they have to offer is wireless internet access (whouch should be a no-brainer for any business that wants people to hang out there). There's also a new coffeeshop hiding in the Courtyard that I didn't know about and of course another Starbucks is on the way.

So what do you think - how many coffeeshops can southern Orange County hold? How much is too much coffee?



Just my $0.02. My wife and I went to Padgett Station the other night after dinner and it was great. The coffee was excellent and we sat outside on a balmy North Carolina night and chatted for awhile. My wife decided to have one of their chocolates and the person who helped her decide was friendly and knowledgeable. I got the last bit of the chocolate BTW, and it was delicious.
While in my younger days I enjoyed sitting at a coffee shop reading and working, my days and nights are now filled with family duties. But, on the rare nights out, we will almost certainly visit Padgett Station again.

On another note. As residents of Southern Village, my wife spends a fair amount of time at La Vita Dolce doing work for an online course. It has great music, friendly help, comfy chairs, and is not too crowded or noisy most nights.

I thought I'd revisit this topic since so much has been posted, especially regarding Padgett Station.

I admit that I was very skeptical of PS when I first heard about it (a couple months pre-opening). I thought it would be too upscale for an already-saturated coffee market. I was absolutely wrong. You will now see me there a few days a week, since they have supplanted Open Eye as my shop of choice. The coffee is better, and not as subject to change as OE, since they get their beans (locally, I might add) from only one source. I'd also like to add that I'm a personal fan of Larry's Beans, and as much as I like Counter Culture, you can get a cup of CC anywhere in this town(s).

Fair-trade and organic is great, but what really sets them apart is the service. Emmett and Rachel are gracious, dedicated, and passionate about what they do. Their staff is top-notch and are at least as knowledgable as any other around. While the staff at OE may be as much so, I wouldn't know as they will barely give me a look before they whip out my coffee and get back to studying. And I've never seen Beth and Scott talking to anyone at their shop, unless they came in with them. Everyone on staff here will take the time to talk with you and treat you like a guest instead of a wallet.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned in my 24 years, but I can make a good cup of coffee at home for cheap. If I go out for it, I want something excellent, with friendly staff. That's really what I'm paying for, and what PS is providing. We'll see if OE can do better when they expand, but again, I'm skeptical.

I'm also with Emmett (and Rachel, who gave me her semi-proselytization ;-) ) on the no wi-fi issue. When space is at a premium a la Open Eye, you lose seats to people as those with laptops camp out. We've all seen this dozens of times, I'm sure. Now, I have done this occasionally, so I'm not coming out against computers in coffeeshops in general. However, I personally think it's a matter of technology permeating our culture and I believe that it's dulling our senses to the simple pleasures in life. Which, for me, is a solid cup of coffee. I just don't think it's such a big deal to not do work or check your email when you're at a food service establishment. Again, if I want to slam some caffeine, I can do it much cheaper and more easily at home.

People on cell phones don't bother me, although ringers do. Someone who is on the phone is in a conversation just like other people who aren't, so I don't see that as a big deal. It's just common courtesy to not be on the phone when you're ordering, though. We're fortunate that these modern devices are equipped with volume controls, vibrating options, and power buttons.

I still don't get the 3 Cups thing, either. Then again, I haven't had time to hang out there, as I work (like many of us) during the day and their hours suck for me. Maybe calling Driade's espresso bad was over the top, but the three times I've been there have resulted in bad espresso, and the service there is just a bit better than Open Eye's.

Anyway, the bottom line is that you should at least try Padgett Station. I don't think you'll be disappointed, unless you're going there to surf the internet. And they play kick-ass classic rock in the afternoons. ;-)

I recently met someone at Padgett Station for a cup of coffee. The service was great and the lemon curd on that scone was fabulous. Kudos to the owners. I will be back.

In response to Jeff: 3 Cups is actually a great little place. They serve single origin coffees that are small-batch roasted by Counter Culture in Durham. Coffees are prepared exclusively in press pots. They've also got an excellent selection of tea, pastries, and chocolate. You won't find any espresso drinks here, and that's fine by me. The coffee alone is wonderful.

I like 3 Cups a lot. Quality-wise, it's on par with Padgett Station. The atmosphere seems a little sunnier and more laid back--less European in style.

Just got back from two weeks at Sunset Beach. Thank goodness for WiFi at the cafe on the mainland just over the bridge! DH had some work that HAD to be done--got up early and went to the cafe, spent a couple of hours working and then came back to the island. If not for that cafe--DH would have had to rent a hotel room in N Myrtle just for the internet access. As it was--he went, downloaded his e-mail, fired off some replies, and was back in time to help me "grease-up" the nephews.

DH bought coffee, pastries, AND left a big tip, so I think he covered ALL bases.

OTOH--it's nice to know PS IS WiFi free. And cel free would be even better!

Oh-and I DO remember Barrel of Fun. Bummer that it closed...


i recently traveled to costa rica and found out that starbucks purchases the lowest grade coffe bean from doka estates. the tour guide almost laughed at starbucks customers b/c they know not what they are drinking.

I worked at Broad Street back when we were the only roaster around here and dreamed of a day when I could get a good cup almost anywhere. That day has come.

I have to say, 3 Cups is the best around here, hands down. The staff is great, I never feel rushed to leave, and the coffee is just damn good.
Padgett also does a super great job, and is my number 2 (which still means they sell a ton of coffee to me). I go to either of these places depending on my mood. 3 Cups plays music I like and I enjoy the courtyard, so I'm usually there.

A note on Starbucks: confuse them with McDonalds at your peril. I'm assuming that many people on this list consider themselves progressive, as I do myself. I think progressives need to define the real "enemy" better. I've had friends that have worked at Starbucks who received a retirement plan, free coffee beans (excellent for grad students...) and best of all, health insurance. That's a big one. 15% of this country doesn't have it, and Starbucks gives it to even part-timers (I think). That's quite a resource if you're a rocker, writer or just like the idea of working less than 30 hours a week. As someone who does insurance yet advocates for National Health, I find this to be a wonderful thing.

So, Costco is not Wal Mart, and Whole Foods is not just another grocery store. If these good corporate citizens were the worst that were out there, it would be a lovely world. At the same time, don't just take on faith that Working Assets is good. I recently discovered that they are actually more than a little scummy, and I'm going to move my phone service as a result.

Another note on Starbucks - I'm not a fan of their coffee, but I drink it when it's all there is, and it beats what used to pass for take-away. Many studies have shown that places like Starbucks can have a positive effect on a town's indie coffee houses. The loser is Maxwell House. A "coffee culture" develops, and there is plenty of room for all of the purveyors now that a discriminating population has been forged.

I have to add that Driade is a fantastic thing to have around here as well. Always felt like a best kept secret to me.

Alex, did you jog to 3-Cups? Driade is a staple for our family - good brew, great location and easy access to the Bolin Creek greenway. The new Open Eye was packed during Carrboro's Musicfest, guess its quality didn't fall off during the move.

One last note on Starbucks, a place I've never bought a coffee at and wouldn't on price per quality, they have a neat program that gives away coffee grounds for your garden. That's pretty cool.

Alex and Will,

Do you know what time it is? Maybe you guys are drinking a lot more coffee than you should! :)

Just kidding, guys. I'm glad there's some other coffee lovers out there. Although I think I do it more for the coffee house culture than for the coffee.

Don't tell my family that, though. We own one of the largest coffee "fincas" in Panama, nestled in the highlands a few miles away from the border with Costa Rica, at an average elevation of one mile from sea level.


You make a good point on Starbucks fostering a "coffee culture" (though I wonder if CH/Carrboro really needs a Starbucks to foster it!)

I did a story this summer in Greensboro on how small coffee shops get by in the summer. Inevitably, the conversation turned to the big boys. Surprisingly, I heard this line from more than one person: "If you want to have a successful coffee shop, build down the road from Starbucks."

A question for the Alex who posted above about Working Assets (not Alex Zaffron, I learned after I emailed him): this isn't related to local politics (sorry Ruby), but can you please clarify what you mean about Working Assets being scummy? Are you talking about their MBNA credit card service or something else? Please email me at azuldaisy AT gmail DOT com



That's cool that even the coffee shop owners recognize what I'm refering to. It makes sense, and I picked up that bit of sociological knowledge while slinging coffee.

When Starbucks came we actually felt like the town had arrived. I know it's hard to remember, but back in 1989, there wasn't a cafe every ten feet. Carolina Coffee Shop was then and is now a restaurant.
Broad Street pretty much did it first. Driade, Open Eye, 3 Cups, et. al. are it's children. Starbucks preceeded all but the former, and they all seem to be doing well.

Actually, I'm surprised by how *few* Starbucks we have here. I was in NYC a few weeks ago and noticed many times that there were Starbucks across the street from each other. They are successful enough to bank that people don't want to walk across the street to buy a cup, yet they have almost no presence in CH. In fact, aside from the ones in the two Barnes and Nobles', we only have one, and one more (allegedly) on the way. The new one will be in an old gas station. Thanks for using the existing space! Not quite the Wal Mart slash n' burn model, eh?


Picture an unsightly coffee spill on the carpet of a Chapel Hill retail store. They called in the carpet cleaner, who eyeballed the dark brown stain and hoped out loud that it wasn't Starbucks coffee. "Starbucks puts dye in their coffee," he said, "and it doesn't come out." These words of wisdom came from a carpet cleaner who may have turned me off coffee forever.

"coffee culture" was being fostered in Chapel Hill over 20 years ago by A Southern Season. No one had heard of Starbucks but there were plenty of folks looking for an espresso or a pound of french roast.

I have never posted anything on OP; but, I had to let people know that Padgett Station is the best coffee shop in town in my opinion. Granted, I don't have a laptop; but I've had meetings there. The employees were gracious. The coffee & food are superb! The atmosphere is wonderful. I will continue to support there family owned business. I would rather go to a place that has great service and great products, than go to a place that have horrible service & products just so I can have wifi. However, I know its important for some to have that technology, so for people that do, than you will go elsewhere.

Who needs Starbucks when you have Open Eye and Padgett Station? Open Eye now roasts their own beans in their brand new roasting room, thus creating Beth and Scott's latest entrepreneurial endeavor: Carrboro Coffee Company. To see and read about their new expanded location and future plans, go to

Seems like Columbia Street Bakery did a lot to foster the local coffee culture as well - distinctly before Starbucks.

And I recall Cafe Trio being a very popular hang-out place well before Starbucks came to town.

Don't forget the Hardback Cafe! We had so much coffee culture that you had two places with people sipping all day right across the srtreet from each other for years.

By the way, today I tried to use the famed wifi at Foster's Market and it did not work. I spoke with the staff who said that some people were have problems connecting (and they apparently had no problem with that).

Back to Weaver Street Market for me!


I'm glad we _don't_ have a lot of Starbucks here -- ergo my comment in the original post that I don't really think CH/Carrboro need chain coffee shops to foster coffee culture. Starbucks just is not that good; I'd rather go to Driade or Open Eye, personally. (Hell, I'd rather go to Caribou.)

The local coffee culture is definitely one of the things I'll miss when I move to a place that isn't so urbane (and I mean that in a good way).

In other places, though, Starbucks paved the way because smart entrepreneuers recognized their opening. In some ways, the little guys beat the big guys at their own game. It's a good story and shows that people who rightfully aren't interested in patronizing uber-companies can make a difference.

All this coffee talk is getting to me. I'm headed to Open Eye to finish my ethics paper on the limitations of utilitarianism and cost benefit analysis!

Columbia St, A Southern Season, Hardback etc were certainly places I bought cups and beans, but unless my memory is failing me, they all bought their coffee from Broad Street (except from ASS's flavored, uh "coffee" which they got elsewhere because we didn't do that). Sure, people sat and sipped here back in the mid to late 80's, but long about the time coffee took off nationally, we got a Starbucks here - a little later than I thought we would have, actually.
My earlier point was, while it's not the case now, Starbucks acted somewhat as a marker back then. To use an unflattering example: if you have a well on your property, you should check for colliform bacteria often. Colliform doesn't hurt people, but it indicates that the well is ripe for other things that might. Starbucks was our colliform bacteria (and no, I'm not saying it indicated bad things). It showed that this coffee by the cup business was actually going somewhere.
Then people started stopping in to see what the fuss was...hmmm...not bad, but maybe I'll see what that local joint is doing...yes, I think I like it better here. An addict is born. Loser: Sanka.
I'm not saying that their arrival marked The Year Zero of the Great Revolution, especially in a hip, Europhillic, egg-head town like ours. However, not long before that people who cared about such things were looked at the way people who get excited about various sea salts are these days.
I can't say that I think Starbucks is any great shakes. The best compliment I can give their brew is that I sort of know what I'm getting if I'm in an airport and want a cup. They are great to their employees and should be praised for what they do for them. I think it's safe to say that Starbucks doesn't put dye in their coffee either, that's ridiculous. They do, however, overroast their beans and brew it a bit too strong (it's the only place I add half-and-half) which might account for it's impressive carpet staining power.
I stand by my comment that the biggest loser, when a Starbucks comes to your town, is Maxwell House. If I were the king of Franklin St. I'd be much more concerned about Miami Subs and the boarded up Gap than Starbucks.
I vote with my dollar. I love 3 Cups. They brew magic. Padgett is my second (out of what, 390 other places?) and that says a lot. When I do buy a cup of Starbucks, because it's the only choice in Town X, I do so with no reservations, and know that part of my money goes to give employees full health insurance.
We often discuss what is killing our town, and I'm pretty convinved that at best, Starbucks is an important cog in the coffee machine, and at worst, it's a neutral entity. They ain't Wal-Mart.



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