Crema is located on Hermitage Ave (same as 1st Ave) just east of downtown Nashville. Word to the wise--it's pronounced crehm-a, not cree-ma. (And, despite their Twitter handle, just a singular "Crema.") We wouldn't want you to get publicly corrected in front of all the cool kids. Not that we know how that feels. Crema was on the cutting edge of the Coffee Shop Revolution in Nashville. We sort of just made that up. But for real, Crema was the first of the newer "we-take-coffee-seriously" shops in Nashville and seemed to usher in the explosion of the new local shops.
We've both been to Crema a handful of times. It's a popular destination for meetings and meet-ups (the wholesome kind, that is).
Crema is a unique shop because 1) they roast their own beans, and 2) they're what we're calling an "educational coffee shop," because they teach coffee classes here. Some help you learn latte art skills (AHEM Café Coco), some just educate you about specialty coffee, and some even help you learn how to steam milk correctly. They're nothing if not thorough. They also always have some coffee fun facts on the chalkboard wall behind the coffee and coffee contraptions they sell. Today was the anatomy of a bean, we think.
Crema makes the most of the fact that their building is mostly made of brick-o-blocks.* They kept the wires and ducts and stuff that makes a place work and cool and heat and all that exposed. They painted and then scraped up the concrete floors (at least that's how it appears) and put in some art, chalkboard paint, reclaimed wood shelves, and old doors to cozy it up. The building has two rooms and a patio. The room with the coffee bar has some literal bar seating, along with some bar-style seating on the wall and a few two-tops. But our inside sources say they may be re-doing the bar area soon.
The second room has one larger table they call the brew bar, which sits outside the window to the roasting/storage room. It also has a small sitting area with four comfy chairs, and several two-tops.
We are not photographers.
Along one wall sits a rustic railroad-trailer-thing with coffee sacks on it. We'll just show you a picture, because we obviously don't know what it's called [Elizabeth's dad informed us that it is actually a flatbed rail car.]:
The patio is small and cozy. You'll find people working out there when the weather is nice or chatting with friends. There is often a dog or two hanging out, as well.
Have we mentioned we are not photographers?
The patrons of Crema are diverse. It's mostly work-from-home (or Crema) hipsters and creative-types, but if you're there at the right time you can find families, grandparents, couples, and athletes.
The music was a little loud once there were less people in the shop. The singer of one song in particular kept doing vocal runs over a slow-jam for like 18 minutes while we were trying to write this post, and we were not in the mood. You can still talk without yelling, though. But you might be yelling when the music stops. Just a warning. In case you're in the middle of talking about something personal or embarrassing.
E: I got the chai. It's not the best I've ever had, but I do like their chai. A bit of a warning: I once ordered an iced chai to go and it was so small. I felt like I was drinking from a child's cup and it had a ton of ice so there was barely any chai, but it still cost almost $4. I swore off the place for a long time because of that. I recommend getting the chai for here, iced or hot. Or the hot to go. Any of those options are good.
Tea Taste Rating: 8
L: I got my usual vanilla latte (FOR HERE), and it was delicious. No complaints here.
Latte taste rating: 9
We should also note that the Cuban is supposed to be the best drink in the world, ever. Our friends may be prone to hyperbole, but if you like coffee, we recommend trying it sometime.
The latte art was pretty delightful (they DO teach classes on it), and it came with a saucer and everything, so it was pretty fancy. Even though I couldn't hold it up with one hand without it hurting my fingers, so the cup weight was a little disproportionate, but I'm not one to split hairs. (Coffee Cup Weight Proportion rating: 2)
Latte Art Grading: 8
Elizabeth got her chai in a branded cup, which was a nice touch as well. The service at Crema is perfectly pleasant, but not overtly friendly. They were busy when we came in, so it's not like they had time to ask us how our day was or what it's like to be a tea drinker in a coffee drinker's world.
Story/Rant Time with Elizabeth: Once, after the tiny-cup chai incident, I came to Crema for a meeting of some sort. I decided not to be weird and to order coffee. (Even though I don't really like it. I'll go to great lengths to avoid awkwardness.) One of two coffee drinks I actually enjoy is a Hazelnut Latte (with approximately 1/8 cup of sugar). I feel like the Hazelnut Latte is pretty standard coffee shop faire. So, I ordered the Hazelnut Latte. The barista looked at me as if I'd ordered a frappuccino (the other coffee beverage I enjoy is a mocha frapp, for those keeping score at home). She said, "We don't have Hazelnut. We have rotating seasonal flavors. They're listed here." She gestured to the chalkboard behind her, to a list that included things like "Lavender Silk" and "Local Honeycomb." I would like to know when Hazelnut Syrup season is, because obviously, I was not aware there was a calendar for such things. As my face turned red, I just said a quiet "never mind" and ordered tea. I could feel the judgment as I walked back to my table.
PSA time with Laura: Throughout our time at this shop we uncovered a coffee-shop-wide prejudice we have decided needs to be addressed. Tea drinkers are nearly always at the bottom of the priority list at coffee shops. "But Coffee Shoppers," you may say, "these are COFFEE shops." You would be right, reader, but do not bakeries cater to the gluten-free? Does Elizabeth not sip warm beverages from a mug like the rest of us? If you prick her, does she not bleed? So shops, I implore you, on behalf of tea drinkers everywhere, let's have a little more respect for our brethren (sisteren?) who for some reason like grass steeped in hot water better than the God-given gift that is coffee, and provide some more options for them. And please, withhold your judgments and give them regular human-sized cups. Tea drinkers are people too. [Dear Laura, Thank you. Love, Elizabeth]
Level of Uncomfortableness Upon Walking In: 2. No one at Crema will look up at you when you walk in, and the line for the counter is not blocking the door. So really it's a win/win here. You won't find any "triple turtle gingerbread mocha cappuccino" on the list of beverages hanging above the register, though, so know that going in so you don't stand there for 20 minutes trying to decide what to get.
Elizabeth's Uncomfortableness Upon Walking In the First Time: 10. It was more crowded the first time I went and the menu was not incredibly clear, nor the baristas incredibly patient with a non-coffee drinker. Now, they've opened up the front a bit, so it's not so crowded/there aren't any hipsters breathing down your neck while you ask for syrups that are out of season.
Location: 5. Crema is a little off the beaten path, so if you're not looking for it, you might miss it. It's on a busy street just past downtown proper, so be on the lookout.
Pretentiousness: 7. Crema's atmosphere isn't very judgey or pretentious, but they are very passionate about coffee. Passionate doesn't necessarily equal pretentious, but seeing as being passionate and knowledgable about specialty coffee is a relatively new descriptor for a person (can you imagine telling someone that in like 1955?), we're still giving it a 7.
Pretentiousness of the Patrons: 8. This is the coffee shop coffee drinkers recommend (and Barista Parlor). Everyone has their regular orders. We can't confirm this, being office-workers, but we're sure that during the day there's even quasi-assigned seating. The people drinking coffee there know coffee. The coffee is prepared the way they like it--like a science experiment--and they are darn proud of it.
Fedora Count: 1
Parking: 5. There is a gravel lot with slanted spaces to the right side of Crema you can park in, which we usually can find spots in. It can be difficult to get out of if you're not aware you can keep driving up the hill and land on a side street behind the shop--rather than turning around--so keep that in mind. If you can't find a spot there, a sign on the door said they had a paved lot across the street now.
Overall, Crema is a great place to go for coffee-lovers and work-from-homers. (But make sure you buy enough coffee to make up for the time you will be taking up a spot. Don't be that person.) It's cozy and they serve quality beverages. We recommend it. Y'know, unless you don't like coffee.
Have you been to Crema? What's your favorite drink there? Is there a tea drink there on some sort of secret menu Elizabeth can order besides the chai?
*This is a term Elizabeth thought was universal (but Google didn't) for those large concrete blocks your elementary school had lining all the walls.