Finding Coffee with Purpose in Oklahoma

My sister Jane knows that anytime I travel, I want to experience the best coffee options in the region. So she was prepared with several recommendations in the Tulsa metro area when I visited in January.

The first stop was a quaint shop just off downtown Broken Arrow’s revitalized Main Street. Laurannae Baking Co. + Espresso and Pastry Bar – as noted by the name – is more than coffee. The display cases feature everything from contemporary celebration cakes to savory hand pies and a wide selection of cookies. My sisters and I, between two visits, sampled quite a few options and were astonished to find that every choice was a good one.

The setting of Laurannae is magazine worthy. Vogue. Chic. Hip. Hanging from a tall ceiling are garlands of gold balls and dried orange slices, with the central ceiling feature a chandelier of dried lunaria (the “silver dollar” plant), twigs and strands of Queen Anne’s lace. A row of tall cacti lines the wall behind a bench with cushions, and seating outdoors in the back includes heaters for chilly mornings.

That’s all fine and great. But what about the coffee?

I like a shop that offers coffee flights, for one. What better way to show your customers the versatility of your baristas and the unique flavors of your menu? Laurannae sports some unique temptations such as lavender honey, caramel apple, dirty coconut chai, brides cake latte and blueberry matcha (which my sister had twice). For me, a standard at any new-to-me location is a simple cortado to test the espresso itself. I was not disappointed. I mean, we did return for a second trip, so that’s saying something.

While Laurannae wins for vibe and creativity, two other shops take wins for serving a distinct, meaningful purpose.

The slogan for She Brews Coffee House in Tulsa is “restoring women coming out of difficult life circumstances.” Whether fleeing domestic violence, recovering from addiction, or reentering the community after incarceration, the baristas at She Brews all have a story – and they’re willing to share it.

Its founder, Rhonda Bear, previously incarcerated herself, wanted to help address recidivism, and did so by helping other women the way others had invested in her. She also directs a faith-based residential transition program. Both operations aim to help women “gain responsibility, leadership, trustworthiness and social skills,” according to the website.

On our visit at the Tulsa location, the manager stopped by the couch we were enjoying our treats and started up a lively conversation. The store boasts that its servers are eager to share their personal stories, so we asked Lorinda for hers. She shared it, then said, “But I came over here to ask if I could pray for y’all,” and she did, in the characteristic style one might expect of a passionate Black woman of faith. The shop hosts worship and open-mic weekly.

She Brews served up some tasty chocolate protein balls and I enjoyed an iced “dirty elf” latte with pure maple, both of which were presented on a beautiful wooden round.

The last stop before leaving the region was Not Your Average Joe, which started in Oklahoma City and now has locations in Norman and Broken Arrow. “Exceptional coffee, even better people” is the slogan for a shop that employs, inspires and supports people with intellectual disabilities. The cafes employ individuals who are neurodivergent to make your coffee drink or to decorate your coffee cup with art.

On my visit to Not Your Average Joe, Eric, the manager, took time to share with me about the business at length. During our discussion, his son, Schuyler, who has autism, excitedly shared with us the songs he was looking up on Shazam. His excitability over good ole 80s tunes was contagious.

The coffee? Eric was kind enough to brew an espresso of the house blend before I bought a bag to bring home (which I did) and then tempted me with a delicious caramel latte.

Three weeks after returning home, I’m still enjoying the beans from both Not Your Average Joe and She Brews. And each morning, I am humbled by and grateful for the amazing humans who roast good coffee and blend it with meaningful service to people who may benefit from an extra shot of grace. (Isn’t that all of us?)

A special shout-out to my sister, Jane Ingram, a redheaded real estate broker who seems to be recognized everywhere she goes, and for good reason. She’s drawn to other people making a difference in her Broken Arrow community.

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