Coffee Break with the Staff of The Claw
Check out White River Junction's cafes and hot spots.
Most students here look forward to the weekend, particularly the town trips. While most students like to visit West Lebanon or Hanover on a Sunday afternoon, we felt that it would be a good idea to explore another gem of a location to showcase its potential as a weekend trip spot. White River Junction, just 10 minutes north of West Lebanon, is an up-and-coming town boasting a mix of cultural restaurants, trendy salons and shops, and quirky cafes. A big draw of the town is Northern Stage, which sits just off the main drag. We decided to check out the coffee shops in town to help showcase the offerings available.
Below are our reviews for three drinks at each location. Hopefully these will inspire you to take a trip down I-89 and visit White River Junction the next open weekend.
From a small trailer, Juel Juice has steadily grown to fill this small building in WRJ. Its mission is to bring healthy options to people all around the Upper Valley, and this cafe presents kale and beetroot smoothies alongside yoga tops and seaweed chocolate. The bright interior is full of plants and wooden decor to bring you back to nature at its root. But don’t worry, you don’t have to give up your phone or internet to join this chill, earthy way of living, but as Juel’s Instagram says, “you are what you sip.” If Juel was bigger and had much more food, this would be the perfect place to live, as it sells pretty much everything and could not be more relaxed.
Hot Chocolate (Forest)
Before I even walked through the doors of Juel I could tell the type of drink I would have. The sleek modern logo on a wood grain was very similar to the hot chocolate that I received. It was filled to the brim and had a more natural aroma that made me want to drink it immediately. The flavor was even better than I had hoped. It tasted exactly like high-quality dark chocolate with a thick creamy texture, and the cafe was by far my favorite of all the places we visited. Although it is a little cramped, Juel is a place that I would go for both the atmosphere and the drinks.
I like Starbucks, but I love coffee that is made for the person on the other side of the counter. Juel has the small cafe feel of coffee being a treat made with the art and the people in mind, rather than a mass-produced concoction. This warm drink was smooth and if you wanted some extra sweetness, maple syrup could be added. This is a coffee that you will want to enjoy more than once. Juel was definitely my favourite place for a simple latte, and I was impressed that the milk could be changed for oat or cashew milk for a healthier option. I could spend my weekends here with their coffee.
Chai Latte (Ms. Kelly):
Ah, the Juel chai latte! It was so good! Definitely my favorite drink of the three I tried. I especially loved the cinnamon, which featured heavily in the overall taste but wasn’t overpowering. I was pleased to find out that they only use McNamara Dairy products for all their dairy drinks, and the high-quality milk mixed with the high-quality spices made for a toasty, cozy treat. I could absolutely see myself hunkering down in the corner, grading papers and nursing one of these for a while. I was also intrigued by the various products lining the walls and the shelves of the refrigerator. This is one of those hip, trendy places where you can score a shot of wheatgrass juice or turmeric concentrate. They sell cans of cold brew coffee or coffee that is infused with CBD, and their personal care section is an expensive-looking treasure trove of various unguents and balms made from organic, natural ingredients. The place is far more of an experience than a coffee shop, but the vibe is inviting and my drink was top-notch.
Café Renée is a quaint cafe attached to Hotel Coolidge in WRJ. From the moment you walk through the front doors, you are greeted by a pleasant atmosphere and a welcoming feeling. There are small drawings and signs all across the cafe to help make you feel at home. The walls are decorated with paintings and there are comfortable seats in every direction. All of the drinks and snacks available were proudly made in Vermont, however, they were not our favorite out of the cafes we visited. The pastries and snacks available were much better than the other places we stopped. Café Renée is more of a place that you would go to read a book or look out the window and relax, rather than go there for the drinks.
Black Coffee (with milk) (Kirsten)
This reminded me of the school store. I chose a Vermont version of a Sumatra, a coffee which Starbucks and Keurig also sell. With the self-serve options, a person can make their coffee their own as long as they don’t mind too much about the brewing method or how long it’s been there. If you just want something quick and easy to warm you up as you walk around the town looking at the shops this is the place for you. If you want somewhere quiet to drink a black coffee without any add-ons, this could also be the one for you. It promises coffee, and that is what it gives.
Hot Chocolate (Forest)
After my hot chocolate was made I was given a can of whipped cream so I could put however much I wanted on top. This warm feeling held up the whole time we were inside Café Renée; however, the hot chocolate itself would not be worth the trip. As sipped away I was reminded of the dining hall’s hot chocolate. I’d be happy to go to Café Renée and drink their hot chocolate for the cozy and warm experiences.
Eggnog Coffee (Ms. Kelly)
Disappointingly, Café Renée does not serve coffee or tea lattes, so my plan to order a chai latte quickly came to an end. Of the several self-serve coffees “on tap”, the eggnog one seemed the most intriguing, so I decided to give it a shot. The result was a solid cup of joe with a hint of holiday spice. If there were any item that would best make a latte, it would be an eggnog coffee, but as it was, there wasn’t much smoothness or creaminess to the brew. I would drink it over a cup of coffee from a basic chain like Dunkin Donuts or Honey Dew, but I’d be hard pressed to find a drink at Starbucks that I would happily trade for the Cafe Renee eggnog coffee. Still, the ambiance of the place was compelling and cozy, giving off a vibe that is a mix of 1930’s plush interiors and artsy 80’s fashion.
Just a few years ago, Tuckerbox was a crowded brick-walled cafe that served an eclectic mix of lunch sandwiches and middle eastern cuisine. In recent years it has expanded to include a cafe bar area and to-go bakery; the smaller tables have been replaced by large, rich wood dining surfaces, and the meals are decidedly more upscale. Think less bistro, more date night.
The main dining area and extension are lit by elaborate Turkish lantern fixtures, and the walls are decked with Persian rugs and middle eastern motifs. As we were only there for coffee, we had the option to take it to go or sit at the “communal table”, a single six-person table not set for the impending dinner rush. It is very fun to take in the ambiance of the place, but, as Kirsten put it, it doesn’t feel like the kind of place you can hunker down in to drink coffee and get work done. There’s an implicit sense that those coming for a quick drink or bite are encouraged to depart shortly, making room for other transitory customers. Still, anyone looking for a bit of culture with their cup of coffee should come check out this gem.
Hot Chocolate (Forest)
When the waiter brought me the hot chocolate I was immediately struck at how they presented it. It was delivered on a small platter with a mound of whipped cream and chocolate powder sprinkled on top. It looked delicious. After Kirsten helped me with the whipped cream and I reached the hot chocolate below the toppings, it was just as delicious as it looked. It would be a perfect order to drink it for the taste or just to have something to sip as you chat with friends or do homework. I would definitely recommend trying this drink the next time you visit Tuckerbox.
This was a classic latte. Nothing fancy, but nothing wrong. The coffee was brewed locally in Vermont, and the cup was big enough for two people. By the time I got here (Tuckerbox was our last stop), any coffee was too much coffee, but this should not be taken to the cafe’s discredit – just my poor judgement of how much coffee I can drink. If you don’t want to adventure into the Turkish culture but are joining a friend for their journey, you can feel safe with this latte, which won’t take you any further from home. This would give you enough energy to tackle any conversation or book, and is proof of the quality that Tuckerbox can easily provide.
Turkish Coffee (Ms. Kelly):
If you’ve never had Turkish coffee, you may be surprised when your order is served. This type of coffee is traditionally brewed with finely ground beans in a cevze, a long-handled copper pot. Sugar is optional (but highly recommended), as the final product is a small cup of intense, thick liquid. It’s best to drink it when it’s hot, since the ground beans tend to settle on the bottom of the cup, creating an increasingly unpleasant sludge as the drink cools. When drank hot with sugar, it is a rich, caffeine-packed treat – and Tuckerbox serves it with a small slice of Turkish delight on the side! This is not the kind of drink you’d order to sip while you do work or wait for a friend, but it is a fantastic after-meal kick of caffeine or a great way to boost your day with some intense flavor.