Three Cities; Three Local Coffee Shops to Check Out

I’ve been reluctant to publish on this blog exactly where I live, but it’s getting to the point where I’m really owning the cities I’ve lived in. I’m old enough now to not feel stuck in one place (thank goodness for my ugly old Honda), and so I can appreciate a city’s culture much more than I did when in high school. And when I go exploring, and discover great places, I want to share them! Place is such an important part of life (also of the marketing mix, in case you were curious), and I’m ready to begin sharing some of my places with you.

So where am I from? Tennessee, y’all. It’s one of the most beautiful, vibrant places in this entire country. We have the Smoky Mountains to the east, the rolling farmland of middle TN, and the beginning of plains country right before you hit Arkansas.

I’ve lived in 3 cities in TN; two east and one middle. And I’ve found a good local coffee shop in each of them, one that I’ve claimed (or plan to claim) as my own. So if you ever visit any of these 3 cities, here are the coffee shops you need to check out.

Knoxville: K Brew

K Brew
Source: K Brew’s Site

Knoxville is where I grew up, and thanks to my mom’s outgoing nature, I know or know of a ton of people there. One of the founders of K Brew happens to be the son of my high school band director.

That connection was what made me come in initially, but I stayed for the coffee. K Brew can be a tad pretentious about their coffee, but they have every right to be. They do not skimp on quality. They also have a really cool culture — in addition to two very nice locations, including one downtown, the baristas are encouraged to create new drinks. Some of the drinks are then sold seasonally, with a portion of the proceeds from that drink going to the creator of it. One drink that came from that tradition is their Honey Lavender Latte — a definite splurge at $6, but one that is well worth it. And, if the coffee culture at K Brew really intrigues you, they hold free cuppings every Sunday night so you can learn exactly what it is that makes their coffee so good.

Cookeville: Poet’s Coffee

Poet's Coffee
Source: Poet’s Site

Poet’s is the Cookeville hangout. On any given day, it’s full of college students, young moms, and business professionals all enjoying quaint downtown Cookeville — and of course, good coffee. I spent my fair share of time there in college, doing some studying, but mostly catching up with friends. My favorite drink there is the Iced Vietnamese, a luscious blend of coffee and condensed milk.

They also have seasonal drinks as well as a basic menu, and they serve delicious — and affordable — breakfast and lunch food. I’ve found that while most coffee shops offer some type of snack, Poet’s leads in offering filling, protein packed food as opposed to sugary pastries. Although they have those, too — the house made chocolate chip espresso muffin is to die for. And, if all that’s not enough to make you want to stop by, they also sell handmade, local jewelry, and they have live music every Friday night. What’s not to love?

Chattanooga (Hixson): Sour Dough Cuppa Joe

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Source: Sour Dough’s FB Page

Funnily enough, the owners of this shop are a couple that my parents knew when they were dating. The shop itself is fairly new, however — it’s only been around a couple years or so. So far, I’ve only been a few times, but I can already tell it’s a good one. The Irish Cream Latte I got the other day was a treat.

But what Sour Dough is really known for is their baked goods. They offer scones, cinnamon buns, quiche, and other stuff that you can make at home, but it just won’t be as good. And the owners and employees are just as personable as they can be. Plus, the shop is inside an old drive in restaurant building — it’s very different, and very cute. My other favorite thing about this shop so far is that it’s not in downtown Chatt. The fiance and I both enjoy downtown, and it’s true that there are tons of local coffee shops there. But downtown is not super close to where we ended up living. Hixson is a smaller, more inexpensive, less crowded community, and it still has good coffee. Win!

This post is not sponsored by any of these coffee shops; all opinions are completely my own. I just really like coffee shops! (Also, what it it with coffee shops and round logos?? Is it that it evokes the idea of a coffee cup? I must know!)


Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

It was months ago when I wrote about my plans to travel to Costa Rica, and it’s been weeks since I’ve been there and back.  I had planned on writing about my trip each week while I was there, but as it happens, it’s much more fun to go do stuff and write about it later.  So here I sit in my very U.S. living room, thinking back to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

It had been about three years since I’d been on a plane, so the night before I left I was super nervous and couldn’t sleep.  I had to catch my flight pretty early Sunday morning, and my wonderful boyfriend  and parents drove me to the airport.  I’ll be honest; I had been super excited before that point, but exhaustion and excitement caught up to me and in that moment I really didn’t want to go.  But I hugged the people I love and got on the plane, and about seven hours and a few transfers later I was on a 12-person plane over Costa Rica heading for the coast.


When I landed in Quepos, which is a small town right next to the more touristy Manuel Antonio, there was a bit of confusion on where I was supposed to go next, but eventually I ended up with my host parents, Carlos and Janett.  They showed me to my room and let me unpack my stuff, and then they took me on a mini-tour of Quepos and Manuel Antonio, showing me where my school and bus stops were and how to get to the beach.

At this point, I was exhausted, and I understood only about 60% of what was being said, because, of course, everything was now in Spanish.  That night I met about half of Janett’s family when they all got together for a party, and I’m afraid I had exactly zero idea what was going on.

That got better the next day, after I had slept.  I found my way to the bus station with only one wrong turn and made it to the school early.  There, I met the director, David, who thankfully spoke English.  He gave me a brief oral exam to assess my level and put me in a class, and then I met my teacher.

La Academia de Espanol D'Amore
La Academia de Espanol D’Amore
my view from the classroom
my view from the classroom


Both my teachers and the classes were amazing.  I went through the Intermedio I textbook during my stay, which covered every verb form imaginable, plus vocabulary and culture studies.  A lot of the grammar I had seen before, which was helpful.  But I learned it much better this time around because I would use the grammar immediately and continuously when chatting with the teachers, my host parents, and locals on the street.

My confidence in speaking grew exponentially.  For one, I was forced to speak Spanish if I wanted to order food or ask questions about the town.  For two, once the person to whom I spoke realized I was a student, they were almost always happy to speak slower and correct my grammar if need be.  And I got much better at using words I do know to explain something I don’t know how to say, rather than just using the English word, as I would in a U.S. classroom.  A lot of the verbs and vocabulary I’ve learned but could never remember are now solidified in my brain, because I had to describe them in Spanish.

The school was only a thirty minute walk to the beach, and it’s impossible for me to be near a beach and not go.  In the four weeks I was in Costa Rica, I think I only skipped the beach two or three days.  It became my routine after class to buy a smoothie or falafel from the falafel bar up the street, then I’d take a walk.  While it was a steep walk, the view was absolutely worth it.

view halfway to the beach
view halfway to the beach


For the first two weeks I was there, I was the only student my age at the school, so I hung out on my own for most of that time.  I will admit, it did get a little lonely.  But it was easy to distract myself from that at the beach.  I love me some good people-watching, and man, it was great in Costa Rica.  There were always people surfing, both professionals and amateurs of all ages and nationalities, no matter how far down the beach I walked.  On the left side, the side of the beach closer to Manuel Antonio National Park, there were a lot of restaurants and shops across the street.  This was where non-locals hung out, and where surf instructors and the parasailing vendors set up their tents.  Farther down, toward the middle, there were chairs set up for rent, where families both local and foreign came to play in the waves.  The right side of the beach butted up against ritzy resorts, and that was where fruit and jewelry vendors walked back and forth selling their wares.  And of course, monkeys and sloths could be spotted anywhere along the beach at any given time.

I did get the chance to take a guided tour of the national park, which was expensive, but worth it because of the pictures.  Admittedly, they’re not the best quality, but that doesn’t take away from the level of awesomeness.


“Yes, we will steal your food if you’re not looking.”





To my delight, another student, F, showed up my third week into the course.  She and I hit it off, and we hung out after class most days, at the beach or walking around in Quepos when it rained.  Sometimes we chatted in Spanish and sometimes in English, and mostly a mix.  We spoke at roughly the same level, which was nice, and we even had class together during my last week.

F likes to dance, so one night we went to a salsa club and danced bachata and merengue and another very complicated Latin dance that I never quite caught the name of.  I had never been to a club before, and I don’t know if Latin clubs in the U.S. are similar, but if they are, I’ll go.  It was a lot of fun to dance, even though I had no idea what I was doing.  I just followed while my partners swung me around — one even dipped me several times, which caught me off guard every single time.  It was a blast.

It was also with F that I discovered what kind of alcohol I like.  I’m underage in the U.S., but not in Costa Rica, so I got to try a few different things.  I’m not ashamed to admit that my favorites are the fruity ones with little paper umbrellas.

hello lovely daiquiri

By my last week in Costa Rica, I was using Spanish without even thinking about it, at least some of the time.  In the morning, Carlos would ask me a question, and I would respond immediately, my brain pulling the words I needed automatically.  I would only realize I had spoken Spanish after the words left my mouth.  It was absolutely amazing.  I was nowhere near perfect, however — during the last week, I helped out some with a children’s class in the afternoon, and I really had to think to remember some of the vocabulary we were teaching.  Still, it was great review for me, and the speed at which the kids learned was astonishing to see.

At the end of my trip, I left Costa Rica wanting to go back as soon as possible.  I know I want to keep using Spanish in the future — hopefully, eventually, in my job.  It’s not going to go away.  But there really is nothing like being in a completely different, completely amazing culture.  There’s always something new to learn, no matter how long you stay.  I’m already saving up to go back.


Bonus: My Travel Guide to Quepos (or, tips because I’ve been there once and am now obviously an expert)

  • For cheap, authentic food, eat at the sodas!  Restaurants can be nice, but they get pricey.  Follow the locals!
  • Buses are cheaper than taxis.
  • But if you must take a taxi, use the red ones, which are registered and insured.
  • Don’t forget that in Costa Rica, pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way.
  • Make friends with locals on the beach and you might get a discount on chairs, surf lessons, and other stuff.
  • If you’re female, try not to go out alone after dark.
  • In the national park, don’t pay for a guided tour.  Just be sure to look where the guides are pointing as you walk by and you’ll see animals (although if you want pictures, the guide is the best option).
  • Don’t exchange your money at the airport!  It’s expensive!
  • Leave your passport hidden in your suitcase unless you’re going to the bank.
  • When on the beach, don’t leave your stuff too close to the trees.  Leave it in the open where you can keep an eye on it from the ocean.  Thieves are less likely to steal from exposed areas.
  • Don’t put your purse or backpack on the back of your chair in a restaurant.
  • Mostly, it’s okay to note differences between your home country and Costa Rica, but don’t get hung up on it!  Just have fun!

Disclaimer:  All these tips come from my personal experience and the people I met there.  Always use your own judgment when traveling abroad.

I Didn’t Know Chickens Were This Scary

YouTube videos can be hilarious; everyone who has ever been on the Internet knows that.  I go through phases where I find one and watch it over and over and over, until all my friends and family are sick of it.  And then I happen upon a new one, and the cycle starts over.  Recently, this very terrifying chicken ran a close second to my favorite YouTube video of all time.

In other news, it’s almost time for my trip to Costa Rica!  In about two weeks, I’ll have been struggling along in Spanish for awhile and the first of four posts from that lovely tropical country will go up.  You can expect Spanish- and travel- and adventure-related posts for the forseeable future — one post for every week I’m there is the plan!  I’m incredibly excited, and a bit nervous, understandably, but I know it’s going to be an awesome adventure and I can’t wait to start it!  GET PUMPED.

Wanderlusting for Sloth City

Before you read the rest of this post, look to the right.  There’s a little blurb, underneath that super awesome picture of me. Read it now.  I’ll wait.

Did you read it?  Good.  See how there’s that little word “figuratively”?  Well, scratch that word out of the sentence now and put “literally” in its place.

Because I am going abroad.

I have been waiting for this moment for years.  I’ve always wanted to travel, and study abroad programs were a big part of my college-decision-making process.  Lucky for me, the college I chose has a great one.  I’m becoming a fairly decent Spanish speaker (my recent oral exam grade proves it! woo!), and I love warm, beachy climates, so after the spring semester ends, it’s off to Costa Rica!


I’ll be in Spanish classes while I’m there, and I still have a lot of planning and studying to do.  But as far as I understand, we are allowed to explore the area as we like when class is not in session, and I cannot wait to discover the beauty of the language and the people — and especially the national parks.  Apparently, Costa Rica is the home of actual, real-live sloths.  Here at school, I’m affectionately (I think) known as “the sloth” by my friends, so I think it’s decidedly appropriate for me to meet some of them.


My blogging plan for Costa Rica is to post once a week while I’m there.  I’ll be taking copious amounts of photos, and I’m sure I’ll need to vent about all the ups and downs of living in a foreign country for the first time.  Also — and this is what I’m really excited about — I plan to write each week’s post both in English and Spanish.  This is as much for me to practice as it is for any Spanish speakers out there who may stumble upon my blog.  The two versions may not be the exact same, as I’m much more fluent in English, but I’m extremely excited to experiment.

Manual Antonio Beach, Costa Rica
Manual Antonio Beach, Costa Rica

I don’t leave for a month or two, but I’m so excited for this trip I just couldn’t contain my enthusiasm.  Also, I had intended to fulfill today’s Blogging 101 challenge of adding a new element to my blog by embedding pins rather than images in my post. Sadly, Pinterest only offers the code in Javascript rather than html, which is what WordPress uses.  At least I can say I tried.