We recently had the opportunity to travel to northwest Arkansas to visit the operating locations of Onyx Coffee Lab, a local craft coffee roaster with 3, soon to be 4, locations that promise to “never settle for good enough” when it comes to the science of coffee. Their dedication to the process is unparalleled and stands out for a variety of reasons. Among one of the most significant is the amount of time allotted to dialing in each single origin coffee for the particular method(s) being used that day. Another element that is apparent in the Onyx philosophy is their desire to honor the intentionality of the beans’ farmers, which generates a particular type of consistency that allows for better maintained quality and a certain clarity in mouth feel that showcases exquisite tasting notes from the original green bean. Analogous to these unique parameters used for the coffees is the layout of the various Onyx shops, and of course we visited every single one.
At the Fayetteville location, you quickly find yourself feeling at home as you walk into the nature-inspired decor and are greeted by the kind-hearted baristas. While we were visiting the different shops, we made it a point to try at least one pour over, traditional espresso drink, drip, and seasonal offering. First, we ordered their Ethiopia Bensa Bombe Natural on the Kalita Wave, which had tasting notes of raspberry, lavender, milk chocolate, kiwi, and assam. This selection was an incredible way to start off our trip. Although this shop was the smallest, we found it to have a warm environment that is great for anyone wanting to hang out, go out for a relaxed date, or get ahead on some work. Overall, our experience at the Fayetteville location was great and is easily a place anyone would want to be a regular. [Pro-Tip: If you are looking to take home any merch, this location has what we think to be the best variety.]
Our next Onyx stop was in Springdale. Bigger than the Fayetteville location, but keeping with the same atmosphere, it offers a reservable conference room and a drive through for your on-the-go coffee needs. [Pro-Tip: If you want to reserve a room, you can do this either in shop by filling out the write-in calendar (3 hour maximum) or by asking a barista via phone call.] This is the original location, and with a siphon bar and two Kyoto towers on display, it’s no wonder that it is still a local favorite. After trying the amazing pour over in Fayetteville, we couldn’t resist getting another in Springdale. We tried another single origin from Colombia, whose most notable tasting note was fruit punch. At first, we were curious as to whether or not this note would be overwhelming, but after enjoying all of the subtle elements of the cup, we decided that the fruit punch flavor was a fine addition that added a unique sweetness to the drink. This is the perfect spot for a work break or out-of-office meeting
The third and final shop that we visited was the one in Bentonville. This is by far the largest and most elaborate Onyx location, and it’s everything you could ever want in a coffee shop. Cohesive with the other locations, the Bentonville shop includes the same natural aesthetic, but is light and airy, the perfect spot to catch up with friends over a great cup of coffee. One of the things we really enjoyed about the Bentonville location was the coffee bar itself that was patterned with white, square-mosaic tiles only to be interrupted by the clean cutouts for the pour over bar, row of four espresso grinders (each dialed in for a particular offering), among other incredible pieces of equipment. Here, we tried a traditional 2 oz. espresso, a cortado, cold brew, and a seasonal drink. (Don’t worry, we made sure to share in order to avoid over caffeinating.) Regarding the espresso, the presentation matched the elegance of the shop itself as the small cup was propped on top of a white serving platter and accompanied by sparkling water for palate cleansing. The coffee used was the Onyx barista recommended “Krampus,” also known as the “unfriendly” Onyx holiday origin. This coffee was extremely well extracted, which was evident through the ability to easily distinguish the notes of burnt sugar, black currant tea, cinnamon, and dark chocolate- some of the hardest to showcase well. As for the cortado, the milk was steamed with both precision and care as the texture and temperature produced a well balanced cup capable of maintaining some of the coffee’s tasting notes. All of the espresso based drinks were served with soda water and a serving tray that elevated the experience to the next level. Finally, the cold brew and seasonal offering proved to be exceptional as well. The cold brew is made on one of the Kyoto towers in house, which takes between 16 and 20 hours to extract. The coffee is then served as a drink on tap in a snifter-like glass that makes the drink even more enticing. Notes of cocoa, dates, and stone fruit powered through the boldly creamy mouth feel, leaving you ready for the next sip. Our seasonal drink was the Onyx delight cappuccino that had the added flavors of vanilla and honey syrup (also made in house), ultimately rendering a slightly sweeter drink that is not too overwhelming for neither the novice coffee drinker nor the purist. [Pro-Tip: If you want to take an iconic photo, stand in near the front door and focus your camera on the white neon-lights hanging on the back wall. This will allow you to get the shop’s name in the picture as well as the outstanding bar.]
Onyx Coffee Lab is a place we could not more highly recommend visiting, even if it is just for a few minutes. If you are into slow bar offerings, we recommend spending some time looking over the menu and chatting with the baristas, who are knowledgeable, prepared and delighted by any question (both complicated and simple) you might have. For the latte art fanatic, we strongly suggest that you try a cortado, or cappuccino if you like a little more milk. Regardless of what you order or the location you try, we promise you will not be disappointed.
Have you ever been to Onyx, or a shop with unique feature? Leave your comment(s) in the box below! Happy Sipping!