At new Salt Lake City cafe, owners call coffee their ‘holy water’

Holy Water Coffee offers specialty coffee in an unpretentious environment.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Erin Butler and Nick Price, owners of Holy Water Coffee, on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

The owners of Holy Water Coffee, a new coffeehouse at 712 E. 100 South in Salt Lake City, take the beverage so seriously that they call it their “holy water.”

The term isn’t a dig at religion, said co-owner and co-partner Nick Price. It’s more of an “homage” to the “religiosity of the city,” he said, even though Holy Water Coffee bills itself as a “secular coffee experience.”

But like a church that opens its doors to the masses, Holy Water Coffee is an accepting spot by design, Price said, even with its specialty coffee. (The term “specialty coffee” refers to coffee that scores over 80 on a 100-point scale of quality, according to roasters.)

“I think that a lot of people that work in that field can be a little pretentious,” Price said. “And then the customers are intimidated.”

So instead, “we wanted to create a space that was inviting and welcoming and friendly,” he said. And “the quality of what you’re going to get is as good as anything else in town, if not better.”

‘Market research’

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) An oatmeal cappuccino at Holy Water Coffee, on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

Price, who runs Holy Water Coffee with co-partner and co-owner Erin Butler, became interested in coffee through his work as a musician.

While playing drums for Meg & Dia and later in Dia Frampton’s band, Price traveled extensively on tour, and “when you load in to a venue and then you have nothing to do until the show, you go to a coffee shop,” he said.

While visiting big cities across the country, Price was not only playing shows but also forming opinions about coffee, something he now refers to as inadvertent “market research.” He didn’t expect his newfound knowledge would become useful until he was a broke musician living in Los Angeles, needing a job.

Price said he “randomly fell into” work at Handsome Coffee, a roastery in downtown L.A.’s Arts District. Far from making latte art, at least in the beginning, he started out setting up and taking down Handsome Coffee espresso machines at events around the city.

One of the owners, who happened to be a world barista champion, noticed Price’s interest and asked if he wanted to learn more.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I really do. I’ve never had coffee this good, I didn’t know it could be this good. I don’t understand what you guys are doing or how, but this is really intriguing to me,’” Price said.

The two of them hit it off, and Price became the owner’s protege as they spent time together talking about coffee, tasting coffee and pulling shots of espresso. Eventually, Price started working in the roastery itself.

‘Warm and inviting’

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sectional seating at Holy Water Coffee, on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

After Price moved back to Utah in 2015, he helped start Three Pines Coffee that year in downtown Salt Lake City. But once he met Butler and the two of them decided to open Holy Water Coffee, he wanted that shop to be “its own thing.”

Holy Water Coffee opened in June, in a space occupied for nearly 50 years by Intermountain Guitar & Banjo. “We went over and took a look at the space and I just couldn’t say no,” Price said. “I was like, ‘This is beautiful. This is going to be so cool. We have to do this.’”

Wanting to make Holy Water Coffee as “as warm and inviting as possible,” Price said, he and Butler opted to let in tons of natural light (the front of the shop is made up of windows) and picked a neutral color scheme of cream, blond wood, black and brown. They also included a decaf option, and made sure there was plenty of comfortable seating.

The result is a shop that’s light, bright and airy, with a circular coffee-making station in the center. Cozy basket-shaped lighting hangs from the ceiling, and the tables are adorned with fresh flowers.

And since Holy Water Coffee is located next door to Wasatch Touring, you can drop by for a cup of coffee while getting your bike or skis worked on.

All the coffee comes from Olympia Coffee, based in Olympia, Washington. Everything they roast is direct-trade sourced, which means they have relationships with the farmers, who in turn receive more money for the coffee they grow, so they’re able to “grow the best coffee that they possibly can, year after year,” Price said.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Erin Butler and Nick Price, owners of Holy Water Coffee, on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

Compared to most coffee you’d buy in a grocery store, “the way Olympia is doing it, you really taste where it was grown, what elevation it was grown at, how it was processed, how it was roasted,” Price said. “It’s just really fun, so every coffee has very unique characters.”

The simple menu features filter coffee that’s brewed with a batch brewer ($4), or there’s a pour-over option ($5) if you’d like to sit and have a cup of coffee brewed just for you. There are espresso options like a standard cortado ($4.50 for 4 ounces), cappuccino ($4.50 for 6 ounces) and caffe latte ($5 for 8 ounces, $5.50 for 12 ounces). Decaf isn’t stated on the menu, but it’s always ready — just ask.

A tea menu is launching soon, with herbal teas, black tea, iced teas and white tea; matcha ($5) and chai ($5) are already available. The cold brew ($6), which is brewed for 24 hours, is especially flavorful iced, with milk and housemade vanilla mixed in.

To go with your coffee are hand pies from Pie Fight, and cookies, scones, cakes and cookie sandwiches from Bedlam Baking.

Holy Water Coffee is open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Follow the coffee shop on Instagram at @holywaterSLC.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A whole milk cortado at Holy Water Coffee, on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

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