What’s the buzz?

Trent O’Neil, who has worked at Bibo for about a year, steams up a vanilla latte.

Trent O’Neil, who has worked at Bibo for about a year, steams up a vanilla latte.

Photo By David Robert

Every once in a while, someone will call or e-mail me and recommend a restaurant ripe for reviewing. Occasionally, more than one person will suggest the same place, but rarely have I been deluged with recommendations the way I have been with Bibo Coffee Company. Everywhere I go, every set of lips I see, from strangers on the street to members of my immediate family, repeats the same refrain: “Bibo, Bibo, Bibo.”

The buzz on this place is louder than a frothing espresso machine, and one visit and a taste of Bibo’s excellent coffee drinks leaves little wonder as to why.

The coffeehouse doesn’t sell much in the way of food besides a few scones and biscotti (though I did have a blueberry muffin, fairly good and only $1.80), so it isn’t much of a destination for the hungry. It is, however, a good initial stop for those of us who are worthless without coffee.

The people at Bibo take pride in their espresso blend, Monsoon Medley—a low-acid, high-caffeine Indian mixture—and the craftsmanship of the baristas. The espresso has a thick, rich crema and a pleasing aroma.

“We concentrate on traditional coffee drinks,” says barista Ryan Stark, “as opposed to those drinks defined by a certain ubiquitous coffee chain. We’re not trying to hide the flavor of our espresso. A lot of coffee places are trying to conceal the taste of their shoddy espresso.”

The espresso drinks are quite good and have a distinct espresso flavor. As my friend Nicole said about her mocha ($3.15, large), “It doesn’t taste like hot chocolate.” Even the vanilla latte ($3.15, large) that I had, a drink with the potential to be saccharine, had a nicely balanced flavor. The vanilla added sweetness without eclipsing the rich espresso. And because the blend is low acid, it leaves one pleasantly caffeinated without the jitteriness or heartburn that more acidic blends can create.

The environment is also very appealing: clean, urbane, vaguely art deco. There’s a long front room with tables and chairs and a small alcove in back with sofas, books and board games. The interior was designed by Hawkins and Associates, the local architecture firm responsible for, among other notable projects, the Café De Thai building.

Owner Paul Martin envisioned Bibo to be a “community coffee shop. We have no music events, so our customers know that they can come here any night of the week for quiet and talk or study in an unabrasive environment.”

Bibo has done little in the way of promotions, relying instead on word of mouth, which, of late, has been growing to a fever pitch.

“Rather than spend money to get new customers,” says Martin, “we’ve decided to spend money to keep the old ones.”

Since the atmosphere is so inviting, I was surprised to see that Nicole had ordered her coffee in a to-go cup. “No, I want to stay here, she said. “I just have to get it in a to-go cup because I tend to spill on myself if I have it in a big mug.”

“Thank you," said Stark. "You’d be surprised how many people haven’t been able to figure that out about themselves."