Lula's Coffee Co and Soule' Cafe, Florence, SC
Every coffee shop meet-up has a story. The grounds for this story go back to September 2014. I'd just arrived in London and had about two weeks to acclimate before International Student Orientation week. In those two weeks, I spent most of my time just figuring out my life: searching for bedding that would not cost half my paycheck, trying to understand what an Oyster card was, searching for a grocery store larger than a gas station, etc... I had minimal human contact (hello and goodbye with cashiers does not count). Me telling you that I was SUPER eager to make friends is an understatement.
Then came the first day of orientation. I wore a pink tweed skirt, white blouse, Kate Spade tote and put on my best Elle Woods smile. I think I may have even wore hose. I'm not exaggerating. When I showed up at the cocktail social that night, I awkwardly walked around and looked for ways to insert myself into conversations. About 15 minutes in, I heard a Southern-sounding accent and caught a glimpse of a cute, friendly looking girl about my height discussing international cell phone plans. I thought, THANK GOD! AN AMERICAN! I physically and figuratively pushed myself into her convo circle with two other girls and was like 'Oh I have such-and-such sim card and I have an extra you can have and I'm Melanie by the way. What's your name?' In a matter of a seconds, I somehow managed to revert back to my second-grade social skills.
That's when I met Katie. In a minute, I gathered that she was from West Virginia, getting an Accounting MA, and temporarily living in Redding with a guy she met on vacation until her flat opened up. I immediately - like within two minutes - offered her my second spare bedroom free of rent. She kindly declined what I now recognize as my very creepy offer, likely thinking I was a serial killer. She was, however, down to get coffee or drinks the next day. I suppose this was a more appropriate, normal first friend-date. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Somewhere between our weekend trips to Asda Superstores and a dreamy visits to the English countryside, Katie became my soul-sister.
Okay, now you've got the background story (I promise I tried my best to make it a short). Reality forced us to say goodbye in 2015, but a couple weeks ago she found herself on vacay in Myrtle Beach and not far at all from Sumter! A meet-up became necessary. We split the distance and settled on Florence. Having been to many with me in England, Katie was akin to my coffee-shop wanderings. Therefore, Lula's Coffee Shop it was.
Lula's surfaced in 2012 and while there are many good things to say about it, my favorite characteristic is the one that perhaps defines it the most. It's a non-profit coffee shop. I repeat... a non-profit coffee shop y'all! Coffee with zero ulterior motives.
Lula's sponsors a number of humanitarian efforts, like providing safe-drinking water to communities without access. Lula's Coffee Company is a DBA of the 501c3 non-profit Me to You Missions. The reason behind this coffee shop's existence stems from its desire to fund the good things that Me To You is doing. I'll drink lots of coffee for that!
But, they also long to create a chill atmosphere where people can come together for good conversation around coffee. Coffee Hunch is ALL ABOUT IT. There were a couple folks studying inside, but other than that, Katie and I had the shop to ourself to chatter the morning away. There's plenty of seating in the shop, but we set up shop on an elevated area, which I later came to find out was a stage. Lula's will also host Open Mic Night and play host to some good musicians. If I was local in the Florence area, I would love to check it for myself.
Read more about Me To You Missions at: http://www.metoyoumissions.org/lulasabout
We've got to talk about the coffee too. We both got their famous Cold Brew on ice. Katie stayed mega disciplined and drank the goodness straight, but I almost always add soy milk to mine - just a little sweetness and some creaminess to break up what can sometimes be very bitter. This was not bitter at all though. And in addition to feeling good about where the profits are going, you can also drink this coffee with an easy heart about its sourcing. The coffee community can sometimes face a lot of criticism for the coffee growers work conditions. Rest assured, or rest informed, this coffee is ethically sourced. What does that mean? Well... I'm going to just paste the blurb from their very own website: 'the products being sourced are created in safe facilities by workers who are treated well and paid fair wages to work legal hours.'
Oh, and the monkey inspiration. I was curious about the story behind the monkey. The monkey's name is Ronaldo and was a legit monkey from Peru, as if there are non-legit monkeys. Ronaldo is all over the shop, hence the sneaky green monkey lamp above.
The barista was very friendly and the vibe was extremely inviting. I mean, they put up with us making a scene and laughing way too loud for about two hours, so they must be pretty fabulous.
We went antique shopping at Palmetto Pedlers and then took a break for lunch at Julia Belle's Restaurant which is ideally situated next to the farmer's market. Now I know this blog is supposed to be about coffee shops, but I had to mention Julia Belle's because it was THAT good. We ordered got salmon patties. Katie got a side of fried green tomatoes and I got cheese grits. Exceptional Southern cooking. Katie hit her water just right so that it spilled all over her plate. Nothing escaped the moat without getting soaked. They, however, immediately replaced it saying it's what Grandma would do. Just the sweetest.
Back to coffee...
We were both so full from Julia Belle's and beginning to hit that 2PM post-lunch drowsiness. . Plus, we had an hour or so drive to get home. You smelling what I'm stepping in? MORE COFFEE. We ticked another must-try coffee shop off the list from an area closer to downtown - Soule' Coffee.
We both ordered a Dirty Chai. Well...in reality, Katie ordered a Dirty Chai. In a bout of coffee jealously, I got one too. They have a solid range of espresso based drinks, a pretty darn good Matcha Latte, smoothies and baked goodies.
Take note though, Soule' isn't just a coffee shop. They are also a local platform for artists. Soule' features an eclectic range of the fine arts - painting, sculpture and music. As the photos give away, the coffee shop doubles as an art gallery. They also host open mic nights, in addition to poetry readings and musical performances.
The owner, Ezra Brown, wanted to bring an avenue to Florence that allow creatives to showcase their talent and share it with others. He's created a space that allows budding artists to really bloom and feel free from the pressure of moving to a bigger city in order to make a successful career for themselves.
What better way to do that than around coffee?
I just have to say, we also had the sweetest barista, Wanda.