Meet Our Wholesale Partner, The Orange Spot.
If you’ve been in Charleston for a few years, you might remember grabbing a fresh lemonade from The Orange Spot team at a local farmer’s market or sipping your cappuccino in a corner of their first location, a cozy bungalow on a side street in Park Circle. They’re now located in a bright and airy space at Marquis Station on East Montague Avenue, where they serve a rotating lineup of Springbok coffees as well as smoothies, sandwiches and delicious pastries. Stop by on any given day or take a quick glance at their online reviews and you’ll quickly understand why it’s one of Charleston’s favorite coffee shops. We’re proud to be their roasting partner and wanted to give you a closer look at the story behind the shop.
Here, co-founder Laura Cannon shares the origin of the “orange spot” name, the seasonal drinks you should try right now, and why she and her team love running a specialty cafe in Park Circle.
Tell us a bit about The Orange Spot and your team at the café.
We moved to our current location at the corner of East Montague and Virginia in July 2017. Prior to the move, we had only just recently hired three part-time employees after four years in business. We’ve always been a tight-knit group, I think due in part to the origins of the shop. We’re very fortunate to have grown our current team with people who love coffee and the culture of the Orange Spot. In addition, everyone is hard-working, genuine, and witty. A sense of humor is always important in this line of work (or perhaps for life in general).
Where did the name “Orange Spot” come from?
It comes from a drink called cha yen. Translated from Thai, this literally means “iced tea.” We started the shop with Julie Buelk, who served in the Peace Corps in Thailand in 2006. Cha yen is everywhere in Thailand, as ubiquitous as sweet tea is here in the South. It’s a bright orange color. While overseas, she treated herself to a visit to sidewalk cafes (typically a blanket laid down on the ground where the purveyor prepared beverages) on especially difficult or celebratory days. She called this experience — this respite — her “orange spot,” or, happy place. When we started the journey to opening this shop in 2012, we endeavored to create a happy place for people to visit. Orange is also the color of creativity, joy, and warmth, if you’re into symbolism. The name Orange Spot seemed to fit, and besides that, it’s quirky.
What’s something we may not know about your space, menu, or staff?
The space we’re in used to be a mechanic’s office, and their secretary, Anne, kept poinsettias from a Christmas church celebration in 1999 alive until the building was sold in 2016. We carry that tradition in part with the plants you see around the shop.
Regarding our staff: there are a lot of varying music preferences among us, but we collectively enjoy Tracy Chapman, and try to employ “Tracy Chapman Fridays,” wherein we play an album or even just a song of hers to celebrate the impending weekend.
Regarding the menu: Customers often request caramel in their lattes. We used to make a very secret salted caramel recipe, but after an accident that involved the loss of skin on Laura’s thumb, we opted no longer to make that syrup. However, we’ll happily make our other options all day, every day.
What’s the best part of running a specialty coffee shop? What makes The Orange Spot unique from other shops?
The freedom to play with menu offerings is a really fun part of working at an independent shop. We keep a Yirgacheffe on the espresso bar, which can be a difficult coffee to dial in because of the intensity of its tasting notes. We think it’s worth the effort, though. Expressing creativity through the food and drinks we offer people is one of the best parts. I would leave the second part of this question to our customers, but perhaps it’s this element I just mentioned that attracts people to try us out. Our goal is that people will want to return because of both a high quality of customer service and beverage quality.
Why did you decide to work with Springbok Coffee Roasters?
Springbok is putting out excellent coffees. They take their work seriously, and we’re lucky to have a roaster like them just down the street. Also, have you tried the nitro cold brew? Fans of it rejoice; it’s worth the hype!
What’s your favorite thing on the menu right now?
My favorite drink is a black coffee – usually alongside a WildFlour croissant, let’s be honest – but if I’m going to treat myself, I’m always partial to our seasonal offerings because they only come around once a year. Right now we have a Rosewater Latte. It’s made with rose, citrus, and organic cane sugar. This flavor pairs really nicely with the Yirgacheffe, which has notes of blueberry and lemon.
Anything exciting coming up that folks should know about?
Our lemonades. These have been a mainstay since our 2012 market days, and continue to be a big hit every summer. We only offer them a few months a year because we hand-squeeze all the lemons and make the syrup with fresh fruits and herbs. Typically, we kickoff with the Basil Lemonade – keep an eye out for it!
All photos by Elizabeth Urko.