Relax at The Espresso Bar


Customer works as she drinks The Espresso Bar coffee

Walking up the steps to the Espresso Bar, the first thing you notice is the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. The clean, white walls and the green plants dotted all around the cafe complement the natural lighting coming into the large room, making the customers feel homey and comfortable. Customers sit down and relax while waiting for their beverage to arrive. Cool music sets a tone for the cafe and makes the space feel lively, while still retaining a focused atmosphere. Sit back, relax, and ‘have a nice coffee time’ at the Espresso Bar.

The Espresso Bar was started by Sandy Bledsoe in 2012, previously located in Braun Court across from Kerrytown. Sandy Bledsoe was friends with people who owned a bar in the court, and the owners of the bar let Bledsoe use the ground floor of their space. The original name of the cafe was ‘The (Espresso) Bar’, until the parentheses were dropped in 2014 when the bar was moved above Literati.

“My understanding is that the original location was pretty low key,” David Chapman, a barista at the Espresso Bar, said. “Not a lot of people knew about it. I think that Sandy felt the space above Literati would have a lot more foot traffic and visibility.”

                                                                                                                                   img_0558editFrom the start, Espresso Bar has focused on making the experience of getting coffee a comfortable and pleasant one. They do such by providing table service, which is unique to cafes.    

“The location in Braun Court effectively felt like you were in a living room or a house,” Chapman said. “The idea was creating a very homey and comfortable experience, so the table service kind of switched up the normal routine [of getting coffee]. So for the customers, our workers are trying to make it feel a little bit more personable and domestic.”

Many people love The Espresso Bar for its clean and minimalistic interior design. Chapman said that many people come into The Espresso Bar to study and work for long periods of time, so they needed to integrate a focused atmosphere into the design.

“I think that the context shifted, now that we’re above a bookstore,” Chapman said. “My experience is that there is less to-go traffic. Less people are coming in and out than staying here for several hours doing homework, reading, writing, or just straight chilling here. I think that in a lot of ways, that is a huge part of a cafe’s success; the atmosphere or environment that it can create, aesthetically. From the natural lighting, to the colors, the sounds, and the spacing. This has been my favorite place [for coffee] long before I started working here, and that was something I always appreciated about this place is the attention to detail.”

Just as important as the design of the cafe is the coffee itself. The Espresso Bar specializes in espresso drinks, as the name portrays. Chapman himself said he preferred the basic espresso, out of the choices of beverages at the Espresso Bar.

“I really only drink espresso now. I can’t really handle milk [in my coffee]. We serve espresso differently than other craft coffee places. We serve longer [espresso] shots, with more dissolved solids, so it’s just a really fat, bold shot of espresso while still being sweet and well balanced. I think that Andy, who roasts our coffee, does a phenomenal job. And we have a setup that is really conducive to consist in good espresso, so that’s really all I drink.”

Not only does the Espresso Bar focus on the quality of their drinks, but they also focus on the ethical business between the farmers and producers they work with.


“Our roaster Andy works primarily with cafe imports, which is more or less direct trade with coffee farmers and producers,” Chapman said. “They work really hard to build sustainable relationships with coffee producers or cafes or roasters, so that there is less of a likelihood that we will be getting coffee beans from coffee farmers who are working in poor conditions, or who are receiving a low wage. It’s trying to create ethical relationships, where the farmer is benefiting just as much as the cafe. So cafe imports is with those mediators and intermediary sources that are organized around ethical, sustainable relationships that you wouldn’t get at a place like Starbucks or a lot of the bigger, ‘mass produced’ coffee places.”

The Espresso Bar was recently voted “Best Coffee Shop in Washtenaw County” in February of last year. The Espresso Bar also just merged with Literati, meaning Literati will now look over the operations and management of The Espresso Bar business.

Overall, The Espresso Bar works hard to bring people the best coffee experience as possible.  This idealism is infused in their catchphrase, ‘have a nice coffee time’. Chapman says The Espresso Bar focuses on “thinking holistically about the experience of coffee as opposed to just a commodity or a drug, but as an experience, for a cafe to be a social space for people to meet and spend time in public, and that is mediated or experienced through the consumption of coffee.”