Craft coffee is King in Tuscaloosa

Monarch Espresso Bar has quickly become a staple of Title Town

By Carter Boone
News Reporter

Tuscaloosa is home to several restaurants frequented by students on a daily basis. Students are always looking for a place where they can relax, do homework and socialize. Monarch Espresso Bar provides that for students and locals.

Paul and Audrey Vermilyea opened Monarch in February 2017. The Vermilyeas are graduates of Alabama and after spending some time away from their alma mater, they came back to open their coffee shop in hopes of providing a fun and relaxing place for the community.

Audrey and Paul Vermilyea (far left) with the first group of baristas to ever work at Monarch.

“We saw that there was great opportunity to create a craft coffee culture in Tuscaloosa and we felt connected to the community being former students,” Audrey said.

Audrey said she and Paul got the inspiration for Monarch because of how much they travel.

“Whenever we travel, the first thing we look for in a new town is a coffee shop,” Audrey said. “We love that every coffee shop has something different to offer and can give you a new way to experience a city. Plus, craft coffee shops become hubs for creatives, students, and locals alike.”

Monarch has been open for just over two years. The shop on 22nd Avenue has become a place of relaxation for students, a second work place for people, and a venue for creative people. Monarch hosts several events for people ranging from poetry competitions, coffee lessons and even the Barista Throwdown, which is a competition for the baristas to show off what they can create and for people to taste test new drinks.

“Our mission is to become part of the rhythms of people’s lives,” Audrey said. “Basically, we seek to know our customers and become so intertwined with their daily routine that their coffee experience goes beyond just a caffeine pick-me-up.”

Monarch has quickly become home to locals and students. Several students are employees, learning the technique of making lattes and serving the community with craft coffee and good conversation.

“We seek to see everyone of our employees as individuals,” Audrey said. “In this way we want them to feel comfortable to speak up to their needs, whether it’s a small thing with scheduling or dealing with something difficult in their personal life. I think treating each other this way requires people to care more about each other and ultimately I think it’s more satisfying for people to be in a work environment where they feel known, heard and seen as a person.”