First Look: Quarrelsome Coffee in the Central West End of St. Louis
Quarrelsome Coffee opened on March 27 at 33 N. Sarah St. in the Central West End. The coffee shop and roastery is located in the space that was once home to restaurants including The Block and Terrene.
Spanning several thousand square feet, Quarrelsome Coffee’s multi-purpose facility includes the main coffee shop space, a room that will be used for coffee education sessions, a roasting operation and a large outdoor area that will eventually be converted into a patio.
Patrick Knobloch of Mademan Design led on designing the interior, retaining features like a historic tin ceiling and installing a wooden box-type canopy that distinguishes the counter area from the rest of the space. The space is the fruit of eleven months of construction, with frequent delays thanks to supply chain woes. “Getting these countertops took forever to get, and of course when they arrived, all four crates were shattered, so we had to redo it,” co-owner Mark Schwarz said. “It's just, you know, startup mode – you just have to keep taking the punches.”
Aside from anything else, it’s a lovely space, with a variety of seating options: small booths for two alongside the front window, couch seating, and stools along the back edge of the service counter. Customers can also take a seat in the adjacent room if it’s not being used for an event. When we visited on a Tuesday afternoon, the cafe was busier than you might expect for a business that’s less than two weeks old, and Schwarz confirmed that the neighborhood has responded enthusiastically to Quarrelsome’s arrival.
Schwarz said he expects work on the patio to begin in late April. Bleacher-style seating will snake around the patio’s edge, and the cafe’s accordion doors can fold open to minimize the boundary between interior and exterior. Quarrelsome is working with Maplewood-based Nevins Design on landscaping for the patio, and Schwarz said he’s already planted some Missouri wildflowers in the elevated garden.
At the coffee counter, you’ll find everything you’d want from a specialty coffee shop, from espressos and Americanos to lattes and cappuccinos, hot and iced drinks. There’s no food at present, but Schwarz said customers will soon be able to enjoy pastries and more from Knead Bakehouse & Provisions. A retail area features bags of whole bean coffee to take home, as well as merchandise and coffee making equipment.
The building also houses the office of Schwarz and co-owner Lance Shaner’s other company, Omega Yeast. Omega supplies yeast to breweries in over 20 countries, and the company’s lab in Chicago has played a leading role in applying gene-editing techniques to create thiolized yeasts, which brewers can use to infuse beers with aromatic flavors.
Schwarz and Shaner are drawing on Omega’s insights into yeast and fermentation and applying that directly to the coffee production process with the leadership of Connor James, who heads the coffee program at Quarrelsome Coffee. James will be well-known to Sauce readers from his time as head roaster and coffee director at Coma Coffee, and was named among the city’s brightest food and beverage talents in Sauce’s 2019 Ones to Watch.
Since joining Quarrelsome, James has been building relationships with coffee farmers, and a big part of that has been building fermentation programs where ripe coffee cherries are fermented using a variety of yeast strains. At present two of the three types of bean used at Quarrelsome are processed using anaerobic fermentation. James has traveled frequently to farms in Nicaragua and Costa Rica to work on these programs, with the fermentation carried out on the farms. Each of these experiments are carried out on a small scale, with the goal being to use fermentation to process coffee beans that yield delicious and interesting flavors that balance acidity, sweetness and fruit.
James describes the third coffee as “a good, everyday specialty coffee” produced by El Impossible in Ahuachapan, El Salvador. All three types of coffee bean are roasted in-house on Quarrelsome’s San Franciscan coffee roaster. James said the goal is not to add or impart flavor – it’s more about letting the coffee beans tell their own story. “Our goal is to unlock the character of the green coffee and accentuate both the acidity and sweetness in the coffees,” he said.
Schwarz said customers who are keen to learn more will soon be able to take part in classes at Quarrelsome. “We really want education to be a big component,” Schwarz said. “Some people have been playing around, but with our expertise in yeast and fermentation, we're bringing a whole different perspective to coffee. So for the people who want to go down the rabbit hole, we can offer classes that really get into the science and get into the whole process that we're doing.”
Quarrelsome Coffee is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Editor's Note: This story was updated on April 7, 2023, with a correction. Quarrelsome Coffee opened on March 27, not March 20 as originally stated.