The Coffee Exchange in Providence, RI

On a rainy Saturday in March, we found a coffee shop in Providence with a 4.7 star rating on Google that was just 20 minutes away. The next two hours at The Coffee Connection turned out to be unlike any experience we’ve had at a café.

This is our review.

Should you go?

Yes!

The Coffee Exchange is an extremely high quality, cozy coffee shop with an uncommonly friendly owner who both preaches and practices ethical standards.

Ok so obviously we loved our experience here. But first, let’s get you there.

The Coffee Connection is located at 207 Wickenden St, Providence, RI 02903:

There’s some street-side parking but the GPS had us take a right and swing around the building where the café is located and into a very convenient parking lot.

There were plenty of spaces and an opening in the fence out back that you can walk through and get to the entrance very easily. This was especially appreciated on the day we visited because it was raining pretty hard outside.

I filmed a video of us exiting the parking lot, walking through the fence opening, and walking up to the entrance of The Coffee Exchange so you can see exactly how it’s done.

It’s open weekdays from 7am to 6pm, and weekends from 8am to 6pm.

Inside

It’s perfect inside. The rainy day only added to the contemplative comfort and it was clear this is a fantastic location for a date, reading a book, working on your computer, or just sipping some brew and looking out the window for some meditative daydreaming.

Great for a Date

It’s worth leaning into this point a bit more.

The Coffee Exchange is a great place for a date.

The owner actually shared that many married couples had their first date here, and I can’t think of too many places that are better-suited to conversation, romance, and showing you have good taste.

The Coffee Exchange has been operating in the area for 40 years and has been at this specific location for 32 of those. Because of that deep history, the interior is ‘lived in,’ like a baseball glove that responds to every move of the hand.

Another awesome feature is that it has two floors! There’s a middle staircase that leads up to another cozy space with a different feel than the first floor.

I took some pictures of the second floor but admittedly didn’t get a great shot. I was trying to be polite to patrons and not become the local paparazzi, but this will give you an idea of how it looks:

Menu

The Coffee Exchange has a variety of cold brews, roasts, teas, specialty drinks and limited offerings, and even some pastry / dessert items.

Prices are fair; in fact, Shio was surprised at how inexpensive her coffee was. She would normally expect to pay $3.75 to $4, but her regular-sized coffee at Exchange was under $3. That seems really good considering we saw the bags of fresh beans imported directly from Central America.

The quality is superb. From what I can tell, this is ‘single origin’ coffee and we saw the proof of it (read on for more information on that).

Beans are roasted daily and they don’t sit on the shelf for long. This is a popular spot so they move stock quite well, and that means their roasted beans are only up to a couple of days old, if that.

We were able to see the bags holding their roasted beans in the back room, and they are organized by the region they came from and the date they were bagged. We visited on the 23rd and the oldest date we saw was the 21st, so the coffee is very fresh here.

The owner, Charlie, was also nice enough to pour us a cold brew that he said we’d likely never tasted before, and he was right! It was smooth, delicious, and we learned all about how it was made straight from him.

Shio got a hot coffee and I tasted it and really enjoyed it, and I’m not even a big coffee drinker. It was light, smooth, and delicious without any cream or sugar.

What Makes The Coffee Exchange Special

I could go on and on about the menu but, I can’t resist talking about what makes this coffee shop unique and special.

Yes, it’s their direct sourcing from locations like Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and other regions, and the partnership with some of the best sippers and their sensitive palates – but the real secret, in my opinion, is the owner, Charlie, and what he adds to the experience if you’re lucky enough to chat with him.

I took a picture of one of their roasts, called ‘Blackstone River,’ and he inquisitively asked me why.

When I told him we lived along the Blackstone, he proceeded to tell me a fascinating story about a fungus called Laroya, and how it ravaged the coffee industry sometime around 2014. Laroya most effected the lower plants, and those higher up the mountain (and thus higher quality and more expensive) were not or were less impacted.

He told me about how the industry responded through science, innovation, and an adjustment in practices around the world.

And he brought it full circle by sharing how the ‘Blackstone River’ roast was his way of replacing another roast and attempting to emulate the darker flavor of it.

I was enthralled, and our conversation went deeper. We struck up an impromptu friendship and he ended up taking Shio and I into basement storage, where we saw the Toddy buckets for cold brew, the beautiful natural burlap bags, and the unroasted beans themselves, original imports from all around the globe.

We went back upstairs and he pulled up a chair to tell us more about his brother’s organizations (he’s also involved in the coffee business) and finish up with a few stories.

Charlie said he likes coming in on Saturdays to ‘schmooze’ with customers, so if you go on this day and see him, strike up a conversation and prepare for some great stories and learning.

Final Thoughts

The Coffee Exchange ended up being much more than a visit to a coffee shop on a rainy day.

We were impressed with the quality, charmed by the environment, and honored to receive Charlie’s stories and even a full tour to learn more about what’s behind the coffee.

Sometimes the quality of items is lower but the human connection is there. And other times the menu is a ’10’ but there’s no real connection beyond that.

Both can be fine, but every now and then, you get a knockout menu and an inviting, open, warm human connection and a kind of special relationship develops with the location and what they offer.

For us, and because of Charlie’s generosity, that’s The Coffee Exchange.