Verve Coffee: Walla Walla’s new organic hotspot

by Christina Russell 

When were the last times you found enthusiasm, energy and vitality, all while picking up your daily cup of coffee? Verve, Walla Walla’s newest coffeehouse, facilitates an environment that enables customers to discover these qualities, all while quenching their thirst and satiating their hunger. A co-venture between Gary Hemenway and his wife Lauren, Verve is a place that strives to “facilitate artistic expression,” said Gary. “The eye needs a place to rest.”

Located at 53 South Spokane Street, a short walk from campus, the house is spacious, with a variety of furniture on which to curl up and study, or read back issues of Whitman’s “blue moon” literary publication, which lay invitingly on more than a few tables. For architecturally minded Whitties, there are also copies of the alternative-design magazine “dwell” for your reading pleasure. Perfect for studying, there is free wireless Internet and a conference room in the back for those who prefer to focus in solitude. Barista Sarah Rice, a junior at the Global University, recommends stopping by to study between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. “Those are our quietest hours during the day,” she said.

The walls are adorned with local art. The Hemenways’ vision for the art scene is of working artists showing their pieces alongside aspiring students’ work. “I want to give students a place to show for free,” said Gary. Currently showing is Katherine Wildermuth’s work in watercolors, which runs through Oct. Nov. and Dec. will feature H. Drake and Eric Ashley, both photographers, and after the New Year Reggie Mace will be showing his Polaroids.

Verve is participating in the Walla Walla Art Walk, which takes place on the first Friday of every month. These Fridays will feature an eclectic mix of live musicians in genres ranging from jazz and bluegrass to alt-rock and indie. “The room is live, conducive to acoustic music,” said Gary.

The repertoire of drinks includes the usual coffeehouse lattes, tea, Chai and Italian sodas – actually made from popular French syrups – but with an organic twist. All of the coffee served at Verve is 100 percent organic and fair trade and is shipped from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The decaffeinated coffee is all Swiss-water processed. “Our coffee never sits in-house for more than two weeks,” said Rice. Rice’s favorite drink at Verve is a Soy Mate. Mate is a traditional drink of the indigenous people of South America. It is similar to Chai, but offers over 24,400 antioxidants in one serving. Verve is also serving Xango, which is made of the mangosteen fruit from Thailand. Xango is an all-natural homeopathic dietary supplement. Gary recommends drinking a small amount twice a day. He started taking it to alleviate fatigue he incurred from frequent travel to India. Verve also offers a variety of pastries, most of which are baked in-house. “It’s not uncommon to walk in at the beginning of the day and find cranberry walnut scones, or chocolate chip muffins,” said Rice. Gary had plans to expand the menu to include Paninis during the lunch hour, but says that sandwiches are on hold until he can find “the right press.”

Verve is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The hours were recently revised to include late nights on Wednesdays and Sundays, from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Students who are passionate about the arts and have a medium they would like to share with Verve can contact Lauren Hemenway on her cell phone at (509) 301-2969 or at the store at (509) 526-0929.

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