Coffee talk: 6 spots whose joe you should know

I’ve been a little busy and tired of late – but I’m wide awake now.

Actually, since beginning the research on the local coffeehouse scene, fatigue hasn’t been a problem. When I first considered doing this story, I wasn’t sure how many coffee places I’d find. As it turns out, Charlotte has a lot of java joints, many of which have an enduring uniqueness that will make you want to stop in for your next cup of joe.

Fabo Coffee Art Bar

8428 Park Road, 704-612-9768

Owner Cricket Burget’s shop showcases some pretty cool paintings, jewelry and pottery of local artists, but the coffee is equally stimulating. A not-overly-sweet white chocolate Fabo-chino is a good icy blend; the creamy drink allows for the distinctiveness of the white chocolate, which is a tough get since white chocolate doesn’t have that intense of a flavor.

Mama’s Coffeehouse

715 Main St., Pineville, 704-248-4882

Ellie Zarza and her husband moved from Venezuela to Charlotte 21 years ago. After helping him with his business, Zarza decided to try to start one of her own. Mama’s was born. Located on the outskirts of downtown Pineville, you can’t miss the life-size coffee cup sitting out in front of this tiny butter-yellow house. The house blend, a mix of Guatemalan and Brazilian coffee beans, is rich, not bitter, and full-bodied. Everyone who visits Mama’s is encouraged to break out a black sharpie and write on the wall, floor or ceiling to commemorate their visit; Zarza (who customers call Mama) promises “the messages will be there forever.”

Rush Espresso

14815 Ballantyne Village Way, 704-369-5120

This Ballantyne store brews the Italian Lavazza coffee, including hot Caffe Americana – made by floating espresso on top of water – and Hazelnut Choc Martini, a good choice for those looking for something cold. I’m told Rush baristas actually mix its iced drinks in a martini shaker, and mine was definitely still flavorful down to the last sips. If you’re looking to sweeten your drink, raw sugar is on the tables.

Smelly Cat Coffeehouse

514 E. 36th St., 704-374-9656

This NoDa coffee house took its name from a song sung by Lisa Kudrow’s character on the TV sitcom “Friends.” The staff is quite chatty, and that’s OK because it’s the kind of place where that type of interaction feels quite natural. What wasn’t natural is Smelly’s Sledge Hammer: three shots of espresso combined with three pumps of Ghiradelli chocolate syrup. I’m pretty sure it cleared up my sinuses – and I didn’t even know I was having a problem breathing. I was wired for hours afterward.

Summit Coffee

128 S. Main St., Davidson. 704-895-9090

They’ve got beans from Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia and a host of other places in this coffeehouse, which has sat beside Davidson College on Main Street since 1998. You’ll encounter a range of generations drinking concoctions, such as the Rocky Mountain Mocha, a lovely blend of espresso and Ghiradelli that uses the chocolate as an accent, not something that upstages the coffee. Out back, Summit features live music several times a week. You could switch to beer with the tunes, but with coffee this good, why would you want to?

Crown Station Coffee House & Pub

1425 Elizabeth Ave., 980-224-8020

I’ve included this place because it has some pretty intriguing spirited drinks. Look for the Foxy Brown (Jack Daniels Honey Whisky) and Sexual Chocolate (Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka) lattes as well as Irish coffee featuring Jameson Whisky. I didn’t make it to Crown, but I’ll jot a note to myself to go before my caffeine kick wears off and I get sleepy again.