• Aroma Coffee and Cafe (inside The Green Thumbers Nursery), 3030 BradySt., Davenport. 563-323-0055, https://www.thegreenthumbers.com/Aroma-Coffee-Tea-Expresso-Davenport-Iowa-Green-Thumbers
Aroma is the perfect name for this coffee shop tucked into a cozy corner of The Green Thumbers Nursery, just beyond the fresh flower shop. The smells of brewing coffee, homemade sandwiches and baked goods mixed with the aroma of fresh flowers beckon you to sit and relax.
Andy Kay, the owner of Green Thumbers, along with his wife, Sue, is ever the entrepreneur. His creative mind is continually looking for ways to diversify and enhance the gardening experience.
Green Thumbers is really three businesses in one: floral, garden and landscape, and cafe, which was added in 2016.
Some of the 20 olive oils and vinegars sold in the retail center, along with fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers and lettuce grown seasonally in the greenhouse, are used in the food preparation. Aroma Coffee and Cafe gives a whole new meaning to the words "sourced locally" — the source is right outside the door.
A greenhouse has occupied this spot on Brady Street for over 70 years. In 1948, Neal Rholfs' Nursery and Garden Center opened on this site in a converted chicken coop. In mid-1969, Frank Paaske bought the nursery and became the second owner, and he changed the name to Green Thumbers.
In 1980, Andy began working at The Green Thumbers while he was a student at Bettendorf High School. He enjoyed it so much that he stayed on after graduation, working as a runner, watering plants and weeding. What started as a way to get out of class as a co-op student turned into a career that took him from watering plants to owning the place. In 1998, Andy bought Green Thumbers from Frank, and the garden center tradition continued.
You can enter Aroma Coffee and Cafe through a separate door off of the outdoor seating area, or through the retail center. In 2016, the fresh flower area was remodeled to feature the coffee bar on one side and beautiful cut flowers on the other. After you place your order, you can enjoy the outdoor seating area in the summer months, or relax in the trendy cafe setting next to the coffee bar. The comfortable seats and fireplace are perfect year-round.
Andy does not do anything in a small way. Once he sets his mind to something, you know it will be something great. He started with the basic ingredient that makes good coffee great: the bean. He sources all of his roasted coffee beans from a family-owned business in Des Moines, Friedrich's.
The fresh-ground beans can be brewed or made into an Americano, cappuccino, latte, mocha or espresso. This full-service coffee shop also offers a variety of teas, chai latte and hot chocolate. You can substitute almond, coconut or soy milk for dairy. All drinks are available in 12-, 16- or 20-ounce sizes.
We thoroughly enjoyed a cup of pour-over coffee, made with fresh-ground Guatemalan beans from one of the cafe's innovative Marco machines. Pour-over coffee is produced one cup at a time, with warm water continuously poured over fresh ground beans to create a mellow, never bitter, full-bodied cup of coffee. The Marco machine creates a delicious cup at the perfect temperature every time.
Some of the flavored syrups are made at Aroma, and others are produced by 1883 Maison Routin. These French syrups are carefully chosen for their rich, aromatic flavors. Be sure to try them in one of the specialty drinks, such as the Brady Street, a honey vanilla latte, or the Davenport, a cardamom rose latte. Aroma also serves lemonade, ice tea lemonade, fresh-made smoothies and Zoomers. For the uninitiated (like us), a Zoomer is a Monster Energy drink with a flavored syrup.
The new beverage on the menu, which Aroma began serving in May, is kombucha on tap. Kombucha is essentially a cold fermented tea with digestive, probiotic benefits. Always on the lookout for new products, Andy discovered that there is a local producer of kombucha in Davenport, and he soon installed a three-tap system.
While we have enjoyed the bottled variety in the past, this was our first time sampling kombucha on tap. The lightly carbonated beverage is crisp and delicious. Aroma has three flavors on tap at all times, and the current choices are acai, strawberry and lemon-lime ginger. You also can buy it by the half gallon or gallon. We enjoyed the lemon-lime ginger kombucha so much that we took home a half gallon.
Aroma opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast. We really enjoyed the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich with garlic mayo. For lunch and supper, the menu includes sandwiches, soups and salads to go with your beverage of choice.
The salads feature Green Thumbers' fresh produce and dressings. They include a Caesar, chef and Greek salad, in addition to the apple walnut salad that we ordered. All salads are $6.95 for a half or $8.95 for a whole.
The apple walnut salad is constructed with Romaine lettuce, Gorgonzola cheese crumbs, chopped walnuts and a house vinaigrette. It was delicious and full of crisp green apple chunks and walnuts. We loved the dressing!
Sandwiches are of the "garden" variety. You can choose between the Designer, Florist, Horticulturist, Landscaper, Perennial, Thumber, Tree Planter and the Twisted Trunk.
The most popular is the Designer, which features homemade chicken salad. They make the chicken salad using the whole chicken, both white and dark meat. It was some of the best chicken salad we have had. It is topped with fresh-grown lettuce and tomato — when in season — and served on wheatberry bread.
The Horticulturist features roast beef, Swiss cheese and horseradish mayo on toasted sourdough bread.
We also tried one of the vegetarian options, named after Green Thumbers' olive oil company, Twisted Trunk. Fresh buffalo mozzarella is layered with basil pesto, Romaine lettuce and tomato and topped with a balsamic reduction drizzle to produce a burst of flavors.
We really enjoyed Aroma Coffee and Cafe. It is a garden oasis tucked into the midst of beautiful plants and flowers. The best part is, you get to enjoy the greenery without any of the requisite watering and weeding!
Aroma opens at 7 a.m. Mondays through Fridays and at 9 a.m. Sundays. It closes at 8 p.m. during the week and at 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Check the website for the schedule of cooking classes offered on the first and third Thursdays of the month.
Before you leave, be sure to visit the bathrooms. Green Thumbers was awarded the Best Garden Center Bathroom Award by the Garden Centers of America. Anything Andy does, he does well.
He said: Coffee is an important part of my life. The pour-over coffee was one smoothest cups I have ever had. Combined with the Horticulturist sandwich, which featured roast beef with horseradish mayo, it was a meal fit for a man.
She said: Their homemade chicken salad was some of the best I have had. If you are a fan of quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar, the salads are an excellent choice. Kombucha on tap was a first for me, and the lemon-lime ginger a favorite.
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