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Burlap and Bean: More Than Just Java

This week food writer Clara Park reviews Burlap and Bean in Newtown Square.

To qualify as one of my favorite coffee shops, there needs to be much than just a great cup of coffee. They will have a killer muffin, some delicious breakfast sandwich, a dessert that I wax poetic about or something that is hard to find.

When I was in college, I went to this one coffee shop all the time because of their super buttery blueberry scone. There's another coffee shop in Gladwyne that has a smoked salmon sandwich that shows up in my dreams. Another coffee shop had one of the best slices of key lime pie I have ever had in my life. Yes, they all had great caffeinated beverages but what kept me coming back was that there was coffee and so much more. is a coffee and that so much more kind of place.

Situated in a strip mall along a busy stretch of road on Route 252/Newtown Street Road, Burlap and Bean can be overlooked easily. I headed in for a later lunch and catch-up session with a friend. She ordered a soy latte which emerged with some serious foam art, and as it was over 80 degrees that day, I got my requisite iced coffee.

They roast their own beans at Burlap and Bean which is pretty darn cool. Also noteworthy is that other coffeehouses get their beans from Burlap and Bean. Take a gander at the roaster in the back while you're waiting. The coffee was smooth and not bitter at all. I detected some subtle fruity notes which was a surprise. I love that they have "sugar in the raw" available, it adds a nice crunchy texture to my iced coffee which I really like.  

The soy latte had an intricate leaf "drawn" into the foam which is a testament to the skill of the barrista. If you ever have time to kill, google image "coffee foam art" and you'll seem some pretty crazy things. (I think I saw a pegasus once.) Soy lattes are a nice dairy-free option for those who are lactose intolerant or just abstaining from dairy.

My friend had the whole grain waffle with whipped cream and strawberries. It was great to see the staff member actually pouring batter into a real waffle iron. So many places these days use frozen products or preservative-laden gut bombs. It was a nice change of pace to see someone making waffles the "old-fashioned" way. It was crisp on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside. The fresh whipped cream and strawberries added tremendously to the flavor of the waffle. It's one of those dishes that gloriously blur the line between breakfast and dessert.

I had the spinach and cheddar quiche which was personal sized, rather than sliced from a large quiche. The crust was tender and flaky and the egg mixture cooked well. It wasn't as rich as other quiches that I have had which made this a more heart-healthy option. Well seasoned, this quiche is definitely worth ordering again. I also liked the small cluster of red grapes on the side. There's something to be said about pairing cheese and grapes. It always works.

The service was casual but friendly. Our questions were answered patiently even though most of the detailed signage had all the information we needed. The staff is on the younger side as is to be expected from an independent coffeehouse. I did want to note that it seemed like the employees genuinely liked one another and seemed to get along well, which is not something you see too often these days.

The decor is relaxed and a bit eclectic. There are comfy armchairs for reading and short and high tables for dining or working (or both). The furniture is spaced pretty far apart so that it's easy to have a private conversation with a friend. The warm brick walls add a coziness to the place. The artwork on the walls changes depending on who the Artist of the Month is.

It's nice for an independent business to help out independent artists by giving them a "gallery" to show their work. If you don't know by now, Burlap and Bean is also a live music and open mic venue on certain days of the week so be sure to check the event calendar.  

Burlap and Bean is a truly independent coffeehouse. Their coffee is 100 percent Fair Trade and their food comes from local sources. In a world where even McDonald's boasts brewing "premium coffee" and the Starbucks machine chugs on at full speed, it's nice to be able to sit at a place like Burlap and Bean for coffee and so much more. 

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