One of my favorite things about Leaf + Bean is probably something that has to change.
Hidden just south of NW Third Street on Oklahoma Ave., Leaf + Bean is so innocuous that lots of people don’t know it’s here. It’s kind of stark and sleek and it blends in with the apartments upstairs and across the street.
It’s quiet — almost too quiet — and that’s not a recipe for longevity.
So it’s time for me to do the thing I should have done a long time ago, but was too selfish to do. I’m about to let you into my special place.
Oof, that sounded creepier than I meant it to. Or, actually, just the right amount of creepy, but decorum insists that I pretend it was an accident.
Leaf + Bean is a great little coffee shop, a place I spend more time than is probably prudent and the Official Sponsor of Getting Greg Super-Jacked On Caffeine.
It’s a simple set-up inside. Lots of little white tables with comfortable white chairs. Big windows that you can cover, if needs be, and a steady soundtrack of ’70s funk, modern rap and occasionally electronica.
It is the ideal place to watch people walk their dogs and it has a long, comfortable couch that is good for relaxing with a book or just plain relaxing.
But the most-important reason I love Leaf + Bean is the staff. There are a total of four baristas who work here and each of them is hell bent on being pleasant and helpful and nice to everybody. Even me. And if you ever got to know me personally, you would understand why that’s impressive.
They do not judge me when I ask for milk and simple syrup in my cold brew. They pull a good shot (I asked for help judging this one) and they’ll happily tell you everything they know about the kind of coffee you’re drinking. Or they’ll leave you alone. They just seem sincerely happy to be here making coffee for people who like coffee.
And that’s the most important factor at Leaf + Bean, and the one you’ll figure out when you come here yourself: they make great coffee.
There is not a kitchen at Leaf + Bean, though you can get a donut or a muffin made by Brown’s Bakery if you’re hungry. That said, the reason to be here is the coffee.
They serve different varieties of Slate Coffee Roasters coffee, which is largely “natural” coffee, meaning it sits after it is harvested, allowing the thin layer of fruit on the beans to ripen and imbue the coffee with some funky, fruity flavors.
The best way to experience that fully is in a pourover ($4). Much as my inclination is usually to add cream and sugar to coffee, this is a good place to resist those urges. Let the coffee cool gradually and continue tasting it to discover how heat disrupts the taste buds. Even cold, pourover coffee can be extremely satisfying, because you’re tasting all the weird ways the fruit changes the beans.
Barista Tom told me the natural Colombian I was drinking tasted like banana bread to them, but I got more of a green, vegetal flavor that mellowed as the coffee cooled.
I’m usually a latte fan, but I opted for a cortado ($3), which is kind of a mini-latte with a heavier ratio of coffee to milk. It’s much more coffee forward than a latte, but the milk cuts through the espresso’s bitterness for a pretty mellow little drink.
Because I’m not much of a straight-up espresso fan, I turned to former (non-Leaf + Bean) barista Jake West to explain what makes Leaf + Bean’s espresso so good.
“Paul has dedicated years to understanding his craft and has recruited a dedicated team to serve the community. Everyone at Leaf + Bean simply knows what they are doing when it comes to espresso," he said. "Slate Coffee Roasters already has a reputation for roasting superb coffee, however, if the person behind the bar is not skilled in their understanding of espresso, even an excellently roasted coffee can end up tasting mediocre."
"While the staff is exceptionally skilled and serious about what they do, they serve an experience without coming across as pretentious—something that so many quality shops fail to achieve. In addition to the skilled staff, the presentation of espresso at Leaf + Bean is one that exceeds anywhere else in OKC. Their espresso is always served in a snifter with a glass of Topo Chico on the side as a palate cleanser, and while the serving vessel can be seen as trivial, it really ties the experience together for Leaf + Bean.”
When I did get a latte ($5), Tom talked me into trying one made with almond milk from nearby Wheeze The Juice. Their almond milk has a bit of date and salt in it, which adds some complexity to the flavors.
While a regular latte’s milk is mildly sweet and a bit bland, the almond milk latte has a darker, nuttier sweetness that I really enjoyed. The almond milk also bulks up the drink, getting a creamier, thicker consistency, like a liquid marshmallow.
My usual order, however, is a glass of cold brew with milk and simple syrup ($3.75). It’s super smooth and creamy and a little sweet with an undercurrent of coffee punch, sans bitterness. I think it’s lovely, which I why I drink so much of it that I’m either causing or preventing nerve damage. Possibly both.
L+B manager/barista/professional human Alex barely has to ask me what I want anymore, but she does anyway, because she's unfailing courteous.
Now you know the secret. Now you know to look for Leaf + Bean and what to order and I guess that's it for my peace and quiet. But that's okay. This is a shop that deserves so much more business, even if it means I have to wear headphones and wait for my favorite table by the window to open up. And you, dear reader, deserve a cup of coffee made by some genuinely nice people.