Coffee Shop Saturdays - Zion Coffee Bar, Peoria, IL
Most of the time you visit a coffee shop and the product is the differentiator.
Sometimes the venue is what makes it great.
And, on rare occassions, you find a place that's perfect at every level and you wish this shop were in your hometown. And every town.
Zion Coffee Bar, located in the Peoria, IL warehouse district, meets and exceeds all this. And more.
But will it play in Peoria?
There's not much in Peoria. It's home to the Caterpillar Corporation and Bradley University. In fact, that's why we're here. My daughter is graduating from Bradley with a BA in English. (Proud of that, so mentioning it here.)
Otherwise, Peoria is the quintessential American city of the American midwest. In other words, it bears the unfortunate reputaion of being the epitome of average.
Zion Coffee Bar
We walk into Zion Coffee Bar and are greeted by a wide open space with a coffee bar smack in the middle of the large cubist room. To the left, a young lady is arranging flowers for Mothers' Day. This catches my attention, as I do like to get the Mother of my children something like this for her day. Apparently, Zion is fond of supporting local small business. As I talk to the flower girl, a friendly lady approaches me, exclaiming she's not seen us before and would like to meet us.
I'm talking to the lovely Banu Hatfield. Owner of Zion Coffee Bar.
Banu is a wonderful person, of Turkish descent. She welcomes us to her place, and with a little prompting goes into the story of Zion Coffee.
She and her husband, Mike, founded Zion in 2013 - after visiting Central American coffee growers. She has since left her corporate job and works the Hatfield side-hustle full time.
Zion has a great product.
The base product - coffee - leaves nothing to be desired. I had a Guatemalan pour over - with wonderful chocolate fruit tones. The lates are made to perfection. I also tried an espresso. I can't lie. It was one of the best I've ever had. It was incredibly smooth, with absolutely no acidity and no bitterness. The daughter and I played the "guess the origin" game. (We do this a lot. She is better at this than I am.)
We assumed the espresso was a blend. When I asked, I confess surprise. They were serving up a single-origin espresso from Thailand. Who knew?
I will repeat myself. This was one of the best espressos I've ever had. I can't recommend enough that you try it.
Coffee Grower Care
Banu and I talk some more.
I tell her about my current day job with an international non-profit (she was familiar - which is rare). We chat about Zion's relationship with coffee growers. I'm impressed.
Zion works closely with coffee growers in Central America - and now in Southeast Asia. Banu knows them by name. She knows their living situations. They work directly with growers, paying them fair prices, and representing them and their families when serving the patrons of Zion.
Zion profit shares with their growers and honors their hard work and agricultural expertise with every cup they serve.
It's rare one finds a coffee shop who serves a great product to their customers, AND serves their suppliers in vulnerable parts of the world at the same time.
Zion Coffee Bar does just that.