In the morning, Katie Stratton doesn’t know which scent to count as her favorite.
She breathes in the first batch of coffee she’s making behind the counter. And across the hallway, she catches a waft of fresh-cut flowers getting ready to be delivered.
At Aroma Coffee, strong smells are always brewing.
The coffee shop on Brady Street shares an address and ownership with The Green Thumbers. It opened on April 4.
It’s a full-service coffee place, complete with an outdoor patio and cozy sitting area, baked goods from Barley and Rye and a menu that would make any caffeine-lover smile.
That’s not what Stratton was expecting at first, however.
When she heard plans for a coffee shop attached to The Green Thumbers, the 28-year-old thought it was a joke.
"I thought it was going to be a small little kiosk," she said. “It seemed like the coffee shop wasn’t going to be the priority.”
In reality, Aroma Coffee is very much its own thing, she said.
Stratton, who previously worked at St. Ambrose University, created much of the menu and coffee-making procedures on her own.
Along the way, employees at the floral shop have taste-tested different syrups and latte flavors.
“I don’t really know anything about plants, but I’m learning,” she said. “And they’re learning about coffee.”
Stratton is getting her own form of coffee education, too. She’s had the barista title at other Quad-City shops in the past, but she says opening a new space comes with questions of identity.
“We had to decide what kind of place we wanted to be, with so many different opinions about coffee,” she said. “You can get overwhelmed if you try to follow every rule by all these different lines of thought.”
Those opinions even show up in her marriage — Stratton’s husband works at Dunn Brothers Coffee in Bettendorf.
“Sometimes we get into arguments about coffee,” she said, with a touch of sarcasm. “Sometimes we both get home and decide not to talk about coffee anymore, it’s better if we decide coffee doesn’t exist.”
After being open for more than a month, in the prime of iced-coffee season, Stratton says the place is beginning to find its niche.
Some customers stumble upon a drink after shopping for gardening supplies, and others have begun to head straight for the coffee.
“We’ve started to hear that people think we’re actually a legitimate coffee shop,” she said. “And I think that’s a compliment.”
And if you try something from the menu, Stratton hopes Aroma Coffee will keep you coming back.
“We want it to be like someone’s living room in here,” she said. “It’s a place where you can move the furniture around and where we know what kind of coffee you like — that’s what a good coffee shop does.”