By Maura Keller | Photography by Holly Leitner
When you need a pick-me-up, nothing hits the spot like a cup of coffee, whether it’s a classic drip, a perfect French press or a creamy latte. Achieving a truly great cup of coffee involves so much more than just the brewing process itself — it can include everything from perfectly roasted coffee beans to an artisan pour of steamed milk from a local dairy. At each step, you will find people who are passionate about their role in achieving the perfect cup.
The Lake Geneva area is home to many engaged coffee entrepreneurs, and boasts several independently owned cafés, coffeeshops and roasting operations specializing in providing a peak java experience. We decided to visit some of them and meet the people who are leading the charge to create a burgeoning coffee culture in Walworth County.
Keep reading for the all the buzz on local coffee.
LAKE GENEVA COFFEE ROASTERY, LAKE GENEVA
Jeremiah Fox started out small, roasting his own coffee in his home for friends and family. It was such a popular venture that he decided to reserve a space at the Lake Geneva Farmer’s Market for a couple of years to sell the beans locally, and found that demand for his product was high. So in 2016, Fox opened his own roastery and shop, and today, the Lake Geneva Coffee Roastery distributes beans to many local grocery stores, restaurants and coffee shops in the area.
Fox is perhaps uniquely suited to the role of coffee roaster — he has been legally blind since he was a child. As a result, he uses his keen senses of smell, hearing and taste to create his roast profiles, using the adaptive assistance of talking timers and tactile points on his machines so he can adjust the temperature and air flow.
“Part of our mission has been to educate the public on the process of coffee roasting, and particularly educate youth with disabilities,” Fox says. Fox is passionate about not just community outreach but also sustainability. He created his own vented, reusable bucket system that saves a single coffeehouse 300 pounds of paper waste per year.
The roastery’s most popular products are its medium roast, called Artisan, and its dark and bold roast, Wake the Lake. These are commonly used by the many coffeeshops the company services in the area. “We also do have many single-origins available for purchase on our website,” he adds.
Why are Fox’s roasts so popular in the Lake Geneva area? “Our coffee is unique because it is air-roasted, which is why our coffees are naturally sweet with a smooth finish and easier on your stomach,” Fox explains. “People always ask me about how to make the perfect cup of coffee and I say it just needs to be perfect for you.”
THE COFFEE MILL, FONTANA
Maryann Bruss had talked about opening a coffee shop for years. “As the years passed and my children grew, I realized they had nowhere on the west end of the lake to go with friends,” Bruss explains. “That’s when I began to think more along the lines of a sit-down coffeeshop.”
Bruss opened The Coffee Mill in Fontana in 2012. After finding the perfect location, she knew she had to source a good coffee roaster. Bruss set her sights on Door County roaster Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company, a company that she says has turned into an incredibly supportive partner along the way.
“Making espresso at The Coffee Mill isn’t as simple as pushing a button. Our espresso machine is a manual machine from Italy, and it takes extensive training to get the right grind and tamp to create the perfect shot of espresso,” she explains. No detail is overlooked. “Water quality is just as important as the coffee used to make the espresso. We have a reverse osmosis filtering system and use Anodyne’s organic espresso, a great combination.”
A customer-favorite espresso drink is the shop’s Honey Bee, which is made with local honey, vanilla syrup, a shot of espresso and steamed milk. “We call it deliciousness in a cup,” Bruss says. In addition to award-winning organic coffee and espresso, the shop’s locally famous oatmeal bake is a crowd-pleaser.
“I went through a ton of batches before we came up with a healthy version that tastes great,” Bruss says.
INSPIRED COFFEE CAFÉ, LAKE GENEVA
Inspired Coffee Café launched in downtown Lake Geneva in June 2020, with a holistic mission that is an extension of Inspiration Ministries in nearby Walworth, a faith-based nonprofit organization dedicated to serving adults with disabilities. To further this mission, Inspired Coffee Café employs people with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities, and provides a space where they are celebrated, and coached and trained for a specific job.
Merik Fell, vice president of advancement at Inspiration Ministries, explains that the coffee café trainees learn multiple skills that help them not only succeed at their jobs, but also interact with the community in ways that eventually translate to other meaningful work once completing the Inspired training program. The ultimate goal of the café is that each employee trainee will graduate from the program and place into a fully integrated work setting within the community.
Visitors to Inspired love the café’s mission as well as its comfortable, homey environment. Customers enjoy Inspired’s caramel macchiato, chai tea latte and the shop’s frozen blended drinks during the warm summer months. Of course, coffee is king. “Our espresso is roasted by Lake Geneva Coffee Roastery utilizing a clean air method,” Fell says. “This offers a unique taste to our lattes and espresso beverages — bold yet very smooth.”
In Fell’s view what makes the perfect cup of coffee? “A friendly face and a fresh roast,” he says. “All of our beans, brewed coffee, espresso, and cold brew are all roasted fresh every week.” But he says it’s really the people that really make the difference. “The connection you make with those you share your coffee with is important to us.”
AVANT CYCLE CAFÉ, LAKE GENEVA
Avant Cycle Café combines two things people are often passionate about — coffee and cycling — into a single coffeeshop experience in downtown Lake Geneva. The friendly and knowledgeable café team offers in-house roasted coffees and signature drinks in a comfortable environment, while the establishment’s adjacent bike shop sells Trek, Bontrager, Pearl Izumi and Giant bicycles, and provides e-bike rentals on Trek bikes with route guidance.
This creative business venture greeted its first customers in April of 2018 and café manager Ann Esarco says they have been fortunate to find an avid customer base of coffee and bicycle enthusiasts. For coffee lovers, Avant Cycle Café serves coffee made from locally roasted and even in-house roasted beans. “A cup of coffee or tea needs to be made as if it is for yourself,” Esarco says. “All of our ingredients are fresh and properly measured. And, of course, served with a smile.”
One of the customer-favorite bike routes is the “Bay and Back,” a 16-mile, round- trip route between Lake Geneva and Williams Bay that skirts the shore of Lake Como. To fuel up for the journey, Esarco says the Honey Badger latte, infused with honey and cayenne pepper, is a “must have.”
GREEN GROCER COFFEE SHOP (FORMERLY STEAMERS ) WILLIAMS BAY
For more than 12 years, the Green Grocer in Williams Bay has been providing fresh organic deli and grocery options, as well as gluten-free specialties and vegan favorites to the Lake Geneva area. At the beginning of this year, the Green Grocer’s owners, sisters Jennifer Veith and Jane Larson, also acquired the operations of the former Steamers coffee shop space next door and changed the name to the Green Grocer Coffee Shop.
Both Green Grocer businesses are located in Williams Bay’s historic Lackey/ Granath building, which once housed a hardware store, dry goods store, post office and, appropriately, a grocery store. Today, the Green Grocer Coffee Shop boasts a warm, comfortable atmosphere in this vintage building, and provides a cozy sitting area with lots of natural light.
Veith and Larson say that they strive to support local farmers and vendors in both arms of the business. At the coffeeshop, customers can enjoy not only a great lavender latte or cup of drip, press or espresso, but also a sandwich, fresh- baked organic muffin or bowl of soup from the Green Grocer Deli. Smoothies, quick breads, fresh pressed juices and gelato are also available. In addition, visitors can order a glass of wine, a cold beer or even a cocktail, making the Green Grocer Coffee Shop a true full- service setting, unique among the area’s coffeeshops.
STILLWATER COFFEE COMPANY, ELKHORN
Karen Sieger had always dreamed of opening a coffeeshop and in May 2017, that dream became a reality when she opened Stillwater Coffee Company in Elkhorn. “I have always wanted to create a place where people could come and enjoy time with family and friends; a place to come and work remotely or have a business meeting; or a place to just get away and sit alone and read for the afternoon,” Sieger says.
Sieger is passionate about supporting other local and regional businesses. As a part of this goal, Stillwater Coffee Company serves Stone Creek Coffee, a craft coffee roaster founded in 1993 in Milwaukee. “Before opening my coffeeshop, I never realized how much that went into a good quality cup of coffee. It all starts with the bean,” Sieger says. “Next is the perfect grind, extensively filtered water, good quality equipment and my amazing staff — who take their job very seriously. They know that our customers appreciate the skills they put into each cup of coffee — whether it be a daily brew or the perfect latte.”
Stillwater Coffee Company offers a full menu of coffee drinks, teas and blended drinks, and Sieger says the shop’s baristas are always developing fun new drink recipes, including a customer-favorite white chocolate macadamia nut latte and a honey lavender latte. Guests will also find breakfast and lunch offerings, and all of the shop’s bakery items are sourced from local bakeries. “A lot of my customers call our shop their ‘happy place’ and appreciate that I have created a place for them to unwind and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea,” Sieger says.
BOXED AND BURLAP, DELAVAN AND LAKE GENEVA
Since 2016, when husband-and-wife owners John and Lindsay Neighbors renovated a historic farmhouse at the intersection of highways 50 and 67 into a modern, bright coffeeshop and landscape center called Boxed and Burlap, visitors have been charmed by the light-filled space and top-notch coffee on offer. The coffee shop became such a popular gathering point for the community that the Neighborses decided to convert a former barn on the property into a rentable event space, adding a weekly artisan and farmer’s market and community yoga, among other activities. As the website explains, “…Boxed and Burlap is a feeling, fed to the soul with coffee, creative spaces and community.”
At the core of the Boxed and Burlap experience is the coffee. To get the perfect custom roast for Boxed and Burlap, John and Lindsay Neighbors connected with Brooklyn, New York-based bespoke coffee roaster Christopher Calkins, who apprenticed with Alfred Peet of Peet’s coffee and worked with the co-founders of Starbucks. By collaborating with Calkins, the Neighborses chose a custom roast specific to Boxed and Burlap that is not available anywhere else in the Midwest, and they continue to roast the beans themselves on site.
The coffee at Boxed and Burlap proved so popular that a few years after opening their initial location, the Neighborses expanded, adding a Boxed and Burlap location inside the Lake Geneva Piggly Wiggly. But even as their footprint expands, Boxed and Burlap stays rooted in the community of Walworth County. As part of the Neighborses’ faith-based mission, a portion of the proceeds of certain items sold at Boxed and Burlap support art therapy and mental health services in the local community.
- Avant Cycle Café
- 234 Broad St., Lake Geneva, second location at W6098 US Hwy. 12 in LaGrange opening soon.
- (262) 203-5141
- Adjacent bike shop and onsite bike rentals make this a popular place to stop before or after a cycling tour of the area.
- Boxed and Burlap
- 2935 State Hwy. 67, Delavan (at the intersection of highways 50 and 67), and 100 E. Geneva Square, Lake Geneva (inside Piggly Wiggly)
- (262) 374-5497
- Menu at primary location includes assorted pastries. Charming indoor and outdoor seating areas plus an adjacent landscape center/event space make this a popular gathering place.
- The Coffee Mill
- 441 Mill St., Fontana, and Coffee Mill by the Water, 329 Third Ave., Fontana (open seasonally)
- (262) 275-0040
- Indoor and outdoor seating available. Menu includes breakfast and lunch options plus assorted pastries.
- Green Grocer Coffee Shop
- 26 W. Geneva St., Williams Bay
- (262) 245-9077
- Menu includes soups and sandwiches from the Green Grocer Deli as well as muffins, smoothies, quick breads, fresh- pressed juices and more. Also serving beer, wine and cocktails.
- Inspired Coffee Café
- 883 W. Main St., Lake Geneva
- (262) 683-8604
- Full-service coffee shop in downtown Lake Geneva with a mission of empowering, training and employing people with disabilities. Menu includes pastries from Hummingbird Bake Shop. Mobile ordering and counter/curbside pickup available.
- Lake Geneva Coffee Roastery
- Shop online at lgcoffee.com.
- Stillwater Coffee Company
- 1560 N. Country Club Parkway, Elkhorn
- (262) 723-2301
- Top-notch latte art. Menu includes breakfast, lunch and snack options in addition to assorted pastries.