If you’ve ever driven or walked through the Virginia Highland neighborhood (VaHi), you know the home-grown charm of the area. Virginia Highland is one of the best places to shop local in Atlanta, with its countless neighborhood restaurants and bars dotted along its streets. Now, consider grabbing a delightfully crafted latte at PERC Coffee. The Savannah-based roaster’s third shop opened on North Highland Avenue on April 6.
The storefront stands out on its own: a bright teal and white facade with a hot pink neon “open” sign was my guiding light. The space inside gets plenty of natural light, while outdoors it offers more muted versions of the colors: eggshell blues, whites and baby pinks make PERC feel calming, even with the bustle and noise of the custom-pink Victoria Arduino espresso machine.
On my first visit
I usually just get drip at coffee shops — it’s one of the best ways to keep from breaking the bank when going out — but at PERC, I was feeling adventurous. Maybe it was the splendorous Easter egg interior, but I was ready to try something new from the Virginia Highland menu.
After taking a long look at the menu, which carries all the standard espresso drinks and drip coffees along with a “cold coffee drinks” section, I asked my barista what her favorite drinks were. Based on the notes I like (chocolate, nuts, caramel), she proceeded to talk me through their drip coffees, the distinctions between their “mild” and “wild” brews (“mild” is right up my alley, “wild” is more citrusy with notes of chocolate and blueberry) and her favorite pastries.
I ended up with a cinnamon roll loaf topped with creamy orange icing and the Rupert Holmes: an iced oat milk latte with coconut simple syrup and orange bitters. This latte was a complex one. It was sweet but not overpowering, with the coconut flavor and bright orange citrus being pronounced yet understated at the same time. As one flavor gives way to another, the drink is eye-popping and bright without being too flashy.
If you like the basics
For my latte lovers, order the Good Times Latte, which is a vanilla lavender flavored latte with habanero-infused sugar. This drink is warm and floral, a perfect pick-me-up, hot or iced. It’s a great way to start a Sunday morning or finish a weekday afternoon. But if it’s a typical hot Atlanta day, order the Good Times Percshake; it has all the same flavors as the Good Times Latte with the consistency of a milkshake.
The Condor Mocha is another great choice if you like sticking to the classics. This mocha isn’t overly sweet thanks to the Condor chocolate, an Athens-based confectionery. The drink focuses on the flavor and thickness of the chocolate rather than syrupy flavor, unlike other mochas I’ve tried.
And for my hard-edged black coffee people, go with their mild drip: Brazil Legender with nutty and chocolate notes. It’s easy sipping and gives you that warm coffee feeling inside down to the last drop.
If you’re feeling adventurous
Nothing fails to get me excited like a coffee cocktail does: when fruits, syrups, bitters and herbs are combined with coffee to make a drink meant for sipping. PERC carries out this task expertly, most notably with their cold coffee drinks: The Cold Fashioned and the Virginia Highland-exclusive Hosea Williams. Each drink combines espresso with unconventionally delicious ingredients that are meant for those who want to taste the next level of coffee complexity.
The Cold Fashioned (dark roast espresso, simple syrup, a luxardo cherry and an orange peel) was chocolatey and rich, lending itself to the brown sugar notes of the espresso. The way the flavors came together — first chocolate, then cherry, then a light citrusy finish — made this the perfect drink for savoring. I found that the non-coffee elements didn’t overpower but rather complimented the coffee itself in a way that balanced the drink, leaving no room for the bitterness that I often taste when drinking espresso.
The Hosea Williams (light roast espresso, rosemary simple syrup, lemon) tasted like a bright summer spritzer rather than a shaken espresso drink. The flavors were all mixed and paired really beautifully. The bite of the lemon was tamed by the earthy rosemary sweetness that immediately followed. Tasting much less like coffee and more like a cocktail, this drink is perfect for the people who love bright, tart and citrusy notes.
Overall, PERC might be one of my new favorite shops in Atlanta. Their coffee is good, plain and simple. The baristas are friendly and make you feel at home in their colorful space. Their pastries are baked at the original East Lake location (go for the Ritz cookie or the chocolate fudge pop tart). The beauty of PERC is that no matter what you order, you make the right choice. Rest easy knowing that you’ll love whatever you’re drinking.