On a hot Sunday morning, the Food with Friends crew decided to caravan a little north to the City Beautiful herself, Laurel, to check out a beautiful coffee shop in the heart of its downtown – Lee’s Coffee & Tea.
Coffee shops are always staples of their communities, a place where you gather over delicious drinks and lunches to run into everyone you know and could want to know in your town. We spent most of our visit at the bar, where the pour overs are made, watching Dell Smith, owner, passionately discuss the ritual of coffee under some beautiful Tiffany light fixtures in what was once a Sears showroom. The space is gorgeous and the warm weather outside made the air conditioning and music inside all the more inviting.
He started us out with some pour over coffees. I’ve always wanted to try one, but have been wary as it was something new to me and I’m a little hesitant to try new things I don’t know about. Smith did a marvelous job of explaining the process and also the source of the coffees he was serving. The two pour overs he made us were both from the Black & White brand.
Created by the 2017 United States Barista Champion Kyle Ramage and the 2016 United States Barista Champion Lem Butler, you could say they know their coffee. We were served the B&W Gaharo Lot 4 from Bukeye, Burundi. It had notes of oolong tea, melon and peach and was a great first pour over, considering it was roasted by the highest ranked baristas in the United States.
The second pour over we were served was the B&W Peixoto, which did not even have a printed label, simply scrawled in permanent marker as it was made using an experimental process with wine yeast that’s sold out on their site, and for good reason. The wine yeast gave it a bit more of an acidic kick than your usual brew, so lovers of wine and coffee will definitely be fans. Allison sipped on this for the remainder of our adventure.
On a drowsy afternoon, nothing gives me the jolt I need to keep going quite like a cold brew coffee. Smith brought us a few versions so we could all sample their offerings and none of the drinks disappointed.
He first brought us a straight cold brew and it had the honor of being Allison’s first ever cold brew.
“I’ve never had cold coffee in my life,” she said. Which was then shortly followed by “Ooooh, I could drink a cold coffee!”
We then were served one with milk, which Dell says helps to bring out the sweetness of the coffee. It was exactly the kind of drink you need to power through a paper or help you stay up on a long day. I thought I had found the perfect drink for me, and then Smith brought out an iced lavender latte. The lavender perfectly complimented the coffee and I politely let everyone else have a sip before I claimed it for my own – a drink that good wasn’t going to be shared any further.
Smith also served the crew a Black Forest mocha chiller, a sweet blended coffee drink for those who are really looking to indulge. Evan shared, but quickly took that one off our hands. One of the staff, McKade, who had just graduated that week, then began to measure out the ingredients for a matcha latte.
Matcha is a green tea powder. I’ve never seen a matcha latte made before, so I was fascinated. Like the pour overs before, it was quite the ritual. Honey and matcha powder measured out by weight into dishes. The matcha was then whisked for two minutes by McKade, whose flawless graduation manicure just happened to match the concoctions forest green hue. The ingredients were then mixed with steamed milk and finished with that perfect foam heart on top. Almost too cute to drink. Almost.
Reuben Dance Break
I was already feeling like a princess, then they started to bring us food… and little did I know the spoiling was really about to begin.
First up was their hummus. Served with warm pita, diced cucumbers and tomatoes, it was the perfect snack to share with friends, and you know us. It would also be the perfect to go if you need a last-minute dish for a get-together or a night in on the couch. We quickly made it disappear as we were now caffeinated and had worked up a bit of an appetite. It took the edge off, but we were definitely ready for more.
Next, we were served a chicken salad sandwich on a croissant. It was the perfect bite of classic Southern lunch. Then the BLT with pimento cheese, another Southern classic. Lee’s is actually named after Dell’s great aunt, whose recipes for these dishes became family classics, and now they share them with all of Laurel and the surrounding area.
We also got to share a breakfast sandwich with egg, bacon and cheese, served on a croissant and put on the panini press. I’ve never had a croissant that was pressed before and realized I’ve been making a huge mistake my whole life.
And now, the star of the show – the Reuben. All of the Food with Friends agree that the Reuben is a masterpiece of a sandwich already, and then Smith served us one of theirs. Blown away is an understatement. We were all full, we were all caffeinated, there was great music in the background and we were all lost in the ecstasy of one of the best sandwiches we have ever had. Seinfeld was quoted. Maybe there was some light dancing, but I can neither confirm or deny whether that Reuben was the cause of the dancing.
I Feel Terrible in a Good Way
I was now full and hyper, but we all know there is always room for some dessert. A plate of bread pudding with four spoons magically appeared. I’m a sucker for a soggy bread pudding, most I’ve had are too dense and dry for me, but this was exactly what I look for in a bread pudding. Cinnamon sugary melty goodness. The sauce had a little kick of bourbon, but wasn’t too boozy or distracting from the flavor of the pudding itself.
We were then treated to two chess squares and some Oreo balls. I love a chess square, and they were amazing, but those Oreo balls touched my soul. We made quick work of them and I ended up buying some to take home, because something this good has to be shared with loved ones.
In short, Lee’s Coffee & Tea has something for everyone. They even have Friday night social events for all levels of social butterflies. The first Friday is their Open Mic Night, the second Friday is Board Game Night and third Friday is Vinyl Night, where customers can bring their own vinyl to spin and enjoy. Lee’s has everything a coffee shop needs to take care of you.
Hungry family? They have the perfect options for the whole crew. Need a pick me up? They’ve got the caffeine you need, in various delicious forms. Need something to do on a Friday night? Come play some board games or jam. Refined palette and like your pour overs weighed out to perfection? Come on down. There’s a reason they’re ranked No. 1 on both Yelp and Trip Advisor for the Laurel area.
I mean, has a sandwich ever made you dance? Please get yourself to Lee’s Coffee & Tea. The Food with Friends crew guarantees you’ll leave satisfied and with a spring in your step.