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Back to Basics

Customers may come to Bittersweet for the coffee (or tea), but it’s the down-to-earth atmosphere and warmth that makes them stay. Photography by Toril Lavender

Customers may come to Bittersweet for the coffee (or tea), but it’s the down-to-earth atmosphere and warmth that makes them stay. Photography by Toril Lavender. Story by Dawn Nolan.

Bittersweet Coffeehouse prides itself on offering handcrafted coffee and tea to its customers in a down-to-earth location

At Bittersweet Coffeehouse, owner Rita Evans and her staff of stylish baristas are taking brewing back to the basics. The cozy café, which opened in mid-December, has brought the third-wave coffee movement to Huntington by offering customers delicious drinks called pour-overs.

“It’s a manual technique used to create a handcrafted cup of coffee per order,” said Evans. “The beans are ground when the order is placed, so, it’s super fresh.”

Bittersweet’s beans come from Lamplighter Roasting Company in Richmond, Virginia.

“We wanted to find the right people to partner with,” explains Evans. “We share a lot of the same ideology. They’re our exclusive roaster. They not only provide us with a phenomenal product, but they also gave us the support that we needed in the beginning.”

For a pour-over, the barista takes the ground coffee, puts it into a filter cone or decanter and slowly adds water. As the grounds swell and gases are expelled, the coffee “blooms.”

“The process takes a little longer, but you can taste the difference,” said Evans.

Bittersweet customers can choose between two different pour-over methods — Bee House and Chemex.

“It takes about five to six minutes for a cup using Chemex and three or four using Bee House, but you’re left with a nice, clean finish,” said Evans.

Bittersweet offers four roasts that correspond with where the beans were grown — Papau New Guinea (Bee House), Kenya Kianjiru (Bee House and Chemex), Rwanda Invozu (Bee House and Chemex), and Ethiopian Misty Valley (Chemex).

“We’ve tested each batch both ways and decided which beans are best suited for which method,” said Evans.

Aside from the pour-overs, two of Bittersweet’s signature sips are a customary cappuccino and cortado.

“A traditional cappuccino is an eight-ounce cup and is made up of a third espresso, a third frothed milk and a third foam,” said Evans. “A cortado is a traditional Italian drink with two ounces of espresso and two ounces cut with milk.” Plans for a cold brew are on the horizon, too. “It’ll be a cold filtration from beginning to end,” said Evans. “It will never be hot.”

For non-coffee lovers, Bittersweet also has a selection of organic, loose-leaf Rishi teas. “We’re brewing behind the counter for every customer,” said Evans. “We want to offer tea drinkers the same quality and experience as we do coffee drinkers.”

Evans plans to introduce 100 percent crushed fruit smoothies once the warm weather rolls around.

“We’ll have orange, peach and some type of berry,” she says. “There will be no artificial flavors or preservatives.”

Eventually, customers will also be able to add nutraceuticals, or nutritional supplements.

“We wanted to start with the coffee and learn how to do it well, then add to it. We want to be comfortable with what we’re putting forth.”

To complement the drink menu, Bittersweet is partnering with two other local businesses — River and Rail Bakery and Rogue Bake House — to expand their selection of baked goods.

“Small businesses supporting other small businesses. That’s what it’s all about,” said Evans.

Though Bittersweet has only been open a couple of months, it has already established a following. “By week two and three we had regulars coming in,” recalls Evans. “We’re impressed with the caliber of people and couldn’t have asked for better. When your customers are looking out for you, that says a lot.”

Customers may come to Bittersweet for the coffee (or tea), but it’s the down-to-earth atmosphere and warmth that makes them stay.

“The idea was to honor this building but also have a comfortable space,” said Evans. “This was always part of the business plan, even though we opened A Southern Company first. People can come and study or hang out with their friends. Our goal was to create a sense of community. That’s really important for us. We’re somewhat off the beaten path, but that makes it kind of cool. We’re Bittersweet, the science of coffee at a community place, and we’re taking coffee back to the basics.”


Bittersweet Coffeehouse

1028 Seventh Street, Huntington, W.Va.(inside A Southern Company)

Monday – Friday from 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturdays from

8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m.-8 p.m.