Green To Go: A sip of millennial eccentricity at Juel Modern Apothecary
While the cafe offers high quality lattes, the food is unsatisfactory and the price is not justified.
Source: courtesy of Alejandro Morales
Source: courtesy of Alejandro Morales
I needed an experience to cheer me up after the mid-term stress so my partner and I headed back to White River Junction this weekend. Since we had such nice time at Tuckerbox, we thought we were seeing what else the city has to offer. After walking through the narrow one-way streets, filled with cars parked parallel to each side, we decided to visit a curious cafe on the corner of North Main Street: Juel Modern Apothecary.
“Apothecary? Who uses that word again? I thought as I approached the door of the building. The last time I saw that word was in my freshman year of high school reading” Romeo and Juliet. ”Yet it was half past ten in the morning and I needed a dose of caffeine.
When I first entered the building, Juel’s Gate was to my left, while Little Istanbul’s was sat to my right. The noise, colors and smell of spices coming from Little Istanbul, a gift shop, contrasted directly with Juel’s clean, plain white design. It was like a battle between tradition and modernity.
Juel was packed. It’s about as big as two triple dorms put together, and maybe a little too generous. The far wall was lined with hanging snake plants, spider plants, and succulents, while the one closest to the entrance had a small refrigerator with fresh fruit and homemade kombuchas. These two microcosms of vibrance highlighted the minimalist white walls and light-colored wood. Shelves with CBD products, beeswax, metal straws, and Abracadabra – a Woodstock-based coffee company – coffee beans lined the wall next to the barista’s counter.
The most interesting aspect of Juel’s design is the ceiling. It’s black with rods and pipes running through it, with tiny lights aimed at the tidy, immaculate cafe, as if it were a movie set. I think it captures the whole aesthetic of Juel – a staging perfectly crafted for millennial tastes.
As I soon found out, people know Juel for his coffee. As a heavy coffee consumer, I understood this recognition as soon as I approached the counter to place my order: right next to the cash register, as if to show off his credentials, was a standard espresso machine with ” La Marzocco “in bold red capital letters. This quality item inspired some confidence in their drinks when I placed my order.
While drinks make up two-thirds of Juel’s menu, they also serve food. The entire menu is vegetarian and adapts very well to gluten-free and dairy-free options. I ordered a Golden Latte with homemade cashew milk for $ 6.50, The Buzz smoothie for $ 9, a Superseed Energy Ball for $ 3, and an Avocado Kimchi Toast for $ 7.50. The total was $ 29, which seemed a bit pricey for the amount I received, but the aesthetic hinted at high prices.
The Golden Latte, an alternative latte – without espresso – made with “turmeric, coconut oil, black pepper and raw local honey”, came out in a beautiful handmade clay mug. The orange dots in the gray clay completed the design of the cafe, as well as the yellow latte itself. The cashew milk was silky and matte, exactly what perfectly frothy milk should look like, and it had no real flavor. When I took my first sip, however, all the flavors hit me at once. The texture was a bit grainy from the turmeric, but I found it to work quite well. The sweetness of the steamed cashew milk, along with its salinity, has helped balance out some of turmeric’s stronger tones. The deep sulphurous color of the drink piqued my curiosity, and I wondered how they had gotten the thick texture; it was like drinking fresh cow’s milk. This is the best alternative latte I have ever had, and for a dollar more than a ventilated frozen chai at Novack, it was well worth the price.
Then I switched to The Buzz smoothie, which the menu describes simply as “Abracadabra coffee, banana, dates, organic oats, cashews”. It arrived in a take-out plastic cup; however, I expected at least one drink, because the cup from the previous drink was so beautiful. The grayish-brown color didn’t make me like the drink at first glance, but the idea of a coffee smoothie still interested me. Small pieces kept creeping up on the straw when I drank my first sip, which I enjoyed as someone who favors heterogeneous blends. The smoothie itself was slimy: not slimy enough to clog the straw, but slimy enough to coat your entire mouth. It would have been great if I had enjoyed the flavor of the smoothie. It was a bit too hot, which makes sense since it had a coffee base, but I assumed the banana and dates would have tempered that flavor note. For a $ 9 drink, the best of my whole order, it was disappointing.
Before starting with the Kimchi Avocado Toast, I tried the Superseed Energy Ball. It smelled almost nothing. Almost. I associated the slight smell with vinegar. When I bit into it, it looked like any other energy ball I had tried in the past. The same nutty flavors, the same sweetness. It was good, but nothing jumped out at me. Still, the coconut flakes helped leave a sweet aftertaste that I lingered on before the avocado toast.
The toast, consisting of “gluten-free bread, avocado, kimchi, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, and dulse flakes”, came in a clay plate that appeared to come from the same set as the mug. It wasn’t a large plate, so the amount of negative space only emphasized how small the portion was. The whole toast was about the size of a Novack cheese and egg sandwich. It still looked gorgeous: the toast, fully loaded with nothing spilling out, had reds, whites, and greens that played out on each other as with Tina’s Toast from Red Wagon Bakery. The dulse flakes added a beautiful chrome purple that elevated this dish beyond the dinner dish. The kimchi gave the toast an amazing taste which paired well with the sesame seeds and oil. Finally, the avocado, like a wave, washed away the flavors with its fat richness and left a calm and neutral aftertaste in my mouth. The bread, on the other hand, was a bit too soggy, too bad the experience was almost perfect.
The things that made this experience worth it were the Kimchi Avocado Toast and the Golden Latte. Even then, I struggled to justify the price of the toast in relation to the portion size. The cafe offers a relatively quiet experience, a bit more upscale compared to Starbucks or even Still North Books & Bar, but it all depends on whether you favor the millennial aesthetic. If you find yourself at Juel Modern Apothecary, I recommend ordering their alternative coffees and lattes. Whether or not you can justify the price of the food, I cannot guarantee that you will feel full by the end.