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Coffee houses have existed in America since the days of men wearing wigs and dumping tea into Boston Harbor. The dark elixir has always provided a reason for people to gather in towns across America.

Sitting at a coffee house for some is a time to catch up on community news and gossip. For others, it’s just plain amusing to watch as people order their favorite variety of addiction.

While those visiting Park City may look first for a Starbucks, they are not the only house in town serving a great cup of joe. Local coffee houses come in many shapes and styles, and Park City has lots of them. This roving reporter visited three of Park City’s finest (because, really, no one person could visit all of them without falling into a serious coffee addiction).

A distinct difference among the coffee shops is their “‘coffee speak.” It’s a telling sign to any barista as to where you frequently get your cup of energy in Park City. The Starbucks dialect is by far the strongest, with the coffee sizing being an American-Italian merge of words known around the world as? “Tall, Grande and Venti,” but their fluent customers are what’s truly amazing as they rattle off with perfection the tongue-twisting “venti, triple, vanilla, non-fat latte” and then a quick pause, “and a grande tap water” (for their dogs who wait patiently outside).

The “Better Mother’s Club” meets at the Kimball Junction Starbucks regularly, enjoying each other’s company as they indulge in a daily caffeine fix. They are not ones to forsake their children when ordering! Oftentimes, either the barista has beaten the mothers to the punch by taking little Jack’s order for a hot mocha, or better yet, mothers are seen handing over a sippy cup for an order of “decaf, one percent mocha with whip.” Which begs the question, do they have a button on the register for “sippy cup” size?

American factory workers invented the idea of coffee breaks during World War II, and Wasatch Bagel Café (1300 Snow Creek Drive) is such a spot for working folks, no matter what they’re working on. It attracts skiers on their way to the mountain and caffeinates them for their first run of the day, but also echoes the buzz and hum of local worker bees as a mini-extension of their offices. The numerous tables are perfect for meetings and spreading out to casually read The Park Record or The New York Times.

Just as General Eisenhower used “Operation Coffee Cup” during his campaign to meet voters, Wasatch Bagel Café, according to many regulars, is a great place to bend the mayor’s ear on topics around town. While it not only serves good coffee in a simple dialect of just “small, medium or large,” it also serves bagels, an assortment of bagel sandwiches and even a muffeletta sandwich. Try the sweet Vietnamese coffee for something really special.

The shop is always busy, and takes on the feel that Sam Malone from Cheers is behind the counter waiting to hear about your day. You start to hum the theme song, but just then, cheery owners Mark and Melanie Morgan might ask you what your plans are for the day, or where you got your T-shirt. The staff here is famously friendly and efficient ... so much so that they even once thwarted a robbery. One passerby didn’t know what he was in for on a busy Saturday when Jeanne Lambert (a former owner and still a partner in the business) was running the cash register and told the customer his bagel would be $2 dollars. He proceeded to tell her he wanted all of the cash in the register. Lambert immediately yelled out “Next!” and started serving the next customer. The would-be robber was so bewildered, he simply left! Now that’s takin’ care of business.

The local coffee shop with a more “urban” vibe is the fun and funky Java Cow at 402 Main Street. Cozy bistro seating next to a large window allows you to sip a brew and watch the world go by. (And outside tables on the sidewalk provide the perfect place to catch a few rays on sunny days). A very pleasant clutter of eclectic items gives customers plenty of eye candy — like the collection of pop art clocks, the neon sign that reads, “Free Coffee ... Tomorrow,” or the change bowl with the sign, “If you fear change, leave it here.” The serving area looks like an old-fashioned candy store counter and houses a glass display case full of delicious homemade goodies from New Dough Rising, that include: biscotti, muffins, homemade soups, paninis, chili and even hot cereal. Claiming to be “udderly Park City,” the shop shares space with Cows ice cream store, so there are diversions for Mom and Dad (brews like Mayan Sunrise, Aztec Dark or Caramel Macchiato), while the kids can enjoy a scoop of more than a dozen ice cream flavors.

Java Cow’s coffee ethic is pure, like its beans. Their mission statement reads, “We are committed to serving only certified organic and Fair Trade varietal beans, meticulously selected from only environmentally responsible growers found around the world.” Using only Arabica beans, Java Cow has them slow roasted here in Utah with Old World roasting techniques and equipment.

And you want to talk politics and get the scoop on all things local? Store manager Liza Simpson, who has always served as intellect, comedian and community service queen, entertains in her own right on any given day. Now she’s running for City Council, chock-full of conversation on anything from affordable housing to growth issues.

Or ... you can just sit quietly and enjoy your cup of joe.

Juliann Fritz loves to start her day at the U.S. Ski Team, headquartered in Park City since 1973, with a good cup of java.

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