There’s a framed piece of art in one of the dining rooms at Buona Caffe, a watercolor and ink print by local artist Kenneth James Benson. Its subject is many of the main characters of “Twin Peaks,” with FBI Agent Dale Cooper near the center holding a cup and saying “This is a damn fine cup of coffee.”
As a huge fan of the early ‘90s crime drama from notoriously eccentric director David Lynch, I really want that print. Honestly, though, it’s probably better off where it is, since Buona Caffe has the finest coffee in Augusta.
Owned by John and Pat Curry, Buona Caffe started as a hobby, with John grinding beans for the couple then experimenting with roasting. They began selling the beans to other people in 2010 and quickly made a name for themselves. When they opened a coffee bar in 2013, the only thing people were surprised by was the location.
Even the dubious placement of their coffee bar, in a building that hasn’t been kind to previous tenants, hasn’t stopped the Currys, however. Business continues to boom and the buzz isn’t all from the caffeine. They provide beans to a number of local and regional restaurants, including Frog Hollow Tavern and The Bee’s Knees. Heck, they even provide coffee to the Georgia Governor’s Mansion.
And they continue to grow. The Currys have had to buy a bigger coffee roaster. They recently rolled out a new logo and slogan (Happily Caffeinated). Their coffee appreciation class, a 90-minute session that includes a bag of beans to take home, had a waiting list almost as soon as they opened registration.
Visit Buona Caffe and you’ll leave knowing why people love this place, and it’s basically for three reasons: good coffee, good food and a knowledgeable staff.
I admit that I’ve only been to Buona Caffe a couple of times and it’s been a while. So on a recent Friday afternoon, when I realized at about 2:30 p.m. that I hadn’t had lunch yet, I began looking around online and saw pictures of their pear, asiago cheese and rosemary scones.
That was all the prompting I needed.
I got there only to discover that there were no scones in sight, but that they had two quiche choices available in addition to a small selection of sandwiches. It’s not often that I’m not in the mood for a pimento cheese sandwich, but quiche sounded like a good pick-me-up to go with the latte with (homemade) mocha syrup I ordered. The problem was deciding which quiche to order, the spinach and red pepper or the bacon and mushroom. I went with the former.
Once I ordered I began looking at the bags of beans that line a shelf opposite the ordering counter. They helpfully have a list of their roasts pinned to the shelf that tells customers the name of the roast, what kind it is (medium, dark, etc.) and tasting notes. I enlisted the help of the woman making my latte and, after I told her what I liked (dark, strong coffee but more rich and smooth than bright and acidic), she pointed me to the Bali Blue Moon. After having two big cups of it the next day, I can tell you it was the right choice.
Oh, and if you don’t have a grinder at home, they’ll grind the beans for you.
Once I received my sizeable mug I began to look around, and one of the things I like about Buona Caffe is that you feel like you’re in someone’s home. Large windows dot the space and the walls are oranges and yellows. The furniture is a hodge podge, but everything somehow fits together well.
I sat by a window in a room to the left of the counter and amused myself by looking at the other artwork until my husband, with teenager in tow, arrived from school. The kid ordered a cinnamon roll, warmed up, and a soda, while Jim ordered an iced chai.
My quiche had arrived by that time and I dug in while Jim made quick work of his chai. As for my latte, it was almost too pretty to drink, but I was pleased to find that, unlike some other coffee places, a coffee drink with syrup at Buona Caffe doesn’t mean you’ll get two pounds of sugar in your drink. Yes, I could taste the syrup, but it was barely sweet. Just good.
The quiche was excellent, although I could have used a lot more spinach. Anybody who’s cooked with spinach knows that it’s a tough thing to judge; you could think you put a ton of it in the recipe but, once cooked, it’s like it’s hardly there. Aside from that, it was lovely, with lots of cheese and a buttery, flaky crust.
I was happy to see that the cinnamon roll, like the latte, was flavorful without being a sugar bomb. The kid would have liked more icing but, then again, I think she eats cinnamon rolls just for the icing. I thought it was great.
I’m anxious to go back to Buona Caffe and taste their regular coffee made using the manual pour over method. They say it takes about four minutes (except for a couple of hours every weekday morning when they make some in advance) to prepare the coffee using a glass carafe topped with a glass cone and a filter. Basically, they put the ground beans in the cone and pour hot water over it and let the coffee filter through.
It’s just one of the many fascinating sounding items on Buona Caffe’s menu that will keep me coming back. The only thing missing from that menu is pie. Add slices of cherry pie and I, like Agent Cooper, would be happy indeed.
1858 Central Avenue
7 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays