By Christian Toews
From the March 2021 Biskinik
Nothing says good morning like a cup of coffee. Everyone has a favorite way to enjoy this delicious beverage. A hot cup before work or a warm latte on a snowy day, there is no doubt that Americans love coffee – or at least its caffeine. With the popularity of gourmet coffee, we have come a long way from the cans of Folgers in our grandparent’s cabinets. We now have coffee shops that provide espresso and specialty brews. Some of the country’s best coffee shops are right here in Choctaw Country.
Coffee is popular among Americans. According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), Americans are drinking more coffee than ever. The NCA website states that seven in ten Americans drink coffee every week, and 62% of Americans drink coffee every day. That means that if you are reading this right now, the odds are that you have had a cup of coffee today.
According to the NCA website, the majority of the coffee sold in America are premium beans and espresso-based beverages rather than traditional coffee. Nearly 60% of coffee served in the United States is gourmet (brewed from premium beans). It’s clear that we love specialty coffee.
Good coffee starts with good coffee beans, according to Tammie Johnson, who owns The Coffee Cup in Poteau, Oklahoma. “We source our beans from great local roasters. My main source that I’ve been using for years is Onyx out of northwest Arkansas. They are one of the top coffee roasters in the United States, but they are also known all over the world,” she said.
She said that the difference between using premium coffee beans and a typical cup of coffee is noticeable. “I would compare to a garden-fresh tomato vs. a store-bought tomato,” she said.
Ana Rivera serves a muffin at Opera House Coffee in Durant, Oklahoma.
Shaun and Ami Rawlings, who own Opera House Coffee in Durant, Oklahoma, said that many variables create a good coffee cup. “It’s the details that make it,” said Ami.
“Coffee is mostly water, so you have to have great water. You can make bad coffee with good water, but you’ll never make good coffee with bad water,” Shaun added. “All of our water is ran through a carbon filter, then water softener, and then we have a reverse osmosis system. There should be nothing in the water. The water should just be a blank slate and then let the coffee do its work,” he continued.
If you love coffee, there is good news for you. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that among older adults, those who drank coffee (caffeinated or decaf) had a lower risk of dying from diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, and other medical complications than non-coffee drinkers. In the study, scientists concluded that two or more cups of coffee per day equated to a 10% reduction in overall death for men and a 15% reduction in overall death for women when compared with non-coffee drinkers. Researchers say there is a strong association between drinking coffee and living longer.
While the intricacies of making coffee and the health benefits are interesting, most of us love sitting in a coffee shop and enjoying our coffee because of the environment. Tammie Johnson said that her favorite aspect of owning a coffee shop is the atmosphere and the platform for bringing people together. “Having people connect, using this place for work, reading or studying, or just meeting up with people. That’s the best part,” she said.
Shaun and Ami said one of the benefits of going to a locally owned coffee shop is the community and relationships you build. “Here (at Opera House Coffee) being a small town and a big space, you’re building a relationship with the people your meeting, the employees, and you’re always seeing friends that come by,” said Shaun. “I think it’s kind of a neutral zone too. Here people feel comfortable to have meetings and just feel at ease,” said Ami.
One customer at Opera house said that he uses this space to be creative. Jimmy Tran is a freelance videographer and goes to Opera House Coffee to work. “It’s like a little escape for me, creatively. I feel like, especially in mainstream media, coffee shops have become synonymous with creativity. Whether that’s real or not, there’s something about writing, editing, hanging out at a coffee shop that feels vintage yet new, and it just gets the creative flow going,” said Tran.
It doesn’t matter if you are a lifelong native to the area or just passing through. If you are looking for a good cup of coffee and a warm, friendly environment, look no further than right here in Oklahoma. The ten and a half counties of the Choctaw Nation has some great coffee stops featuring specialty coffee. No matter what part of Choctaw Country you are in, coffee is never far away.