The Overton restaurant has added Varietal, a new specialty coffee bar, to its space in the Rosemary District. Running the bar and pouring the drinks is the knowledgeable Evan Cooper, a 30-year-old transplant from Michigan.
Varietal’s atmosphere is minimal and elegant with exposed cement walls and high ceilings. “I was going for more a New York-style coffee bar,” Cooper says. “It’s a grab-and-go bar with outside seating for socializing.” He also decorated with a couple of flamingos, now Varietal’s logo. “I like pink,” Cooper says. “We wanted it to have Florida ties and those plastic yard flamingos came to mind.”
The drink menu is equally simple. You can get coffee or tea.
The coffee comes straight from Counter Culture, a Los Angeles-based roaster with an east coast hub in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Varietal offers a rotating cast of different roasts. On board one recent week was an espresso from Peru. You can have it iced, plain or flat white. The pour-over options were Buziraguhindwa from Burundi, the Kushikamana from Kenya and the Cueva de los Llanos from Colombia. I tried the Burundi and Kenyan roasts. The Kenyan was like syrupy wine with notes of black currants. The Burundi was wild. Lots of raspberry with a juicy mouthfeel.
Varietal offers both local dairy and the alternative milks, almond and oat. Cooper recommends not to drink almond milk hot because it brings out bitter flavors. I recommend drinking it black, so you don’t cover up all the flavor.
The tea comes from Spirit Tea out of Chicago. Out of the six available kinds, I tried the Sunstone ($4) from Yunnan, China. It was bright with natural hints of honey and sweet potato.
Varietal offers a non-intimidating way to experience specialty coffee and teas. But Cooper believes that the quality of drink isn’t why he wants people to visit. “I’d like to think that people come not for the coffee, but for the atmosphere and the barista.”