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Paper Co. Coffee: Where Have You Been All My Life?

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It's no secret that I love coffee. The second a new coffee shop (or coffee truck) opens, I'm all over it. Although Houston has many many places to grab a traditional espresso-based drink, or a creative concoction with a variety of syrups, no two are the same. Each shop has its own atmosphere, vibe, coffee drinks and selections of food.

If you want a funky latte or mocha, go to Inversion. If you're craving a perfect espresso and filling breakfast, go to Blacksmith (the Vietnamese steak and eggs, and biscuits with creme fraiche are out of this world). If you're searching for a chill place to sip on coffee, wine or beer and munch on something sweet late at night, go to Agora or Southside Espresso. And if you want to go somewhere quiet and relaxing with plenty of space, go to Paper Co. Coffee.

Located in the First Ward practically underneath the interstate split of I-45 and I-10, you'll find what appears to be an abandoned warehouse, but really it's one of the best coffee shops in Houston.

I am kicking myself for not discovering this gem, especially since I've driven by it a countless number of times. Paper Co. Coffee has been open for almost one year -- it opened in July of 2013 -- and I wish I had checked it out when it opened.

Taft Street Coffee closed last summer and moved from its location in Montrose to the building housingEcclesia Church. It then reopened as Paper Co. Coffee. The building's first tenant was Phillips Paper Company, hence the name of Paper Co.

When you approach the giant white warehouse, you might second guess yourself and think you took a wrong turn or failed to see the coffee shop. There are no giant signs or flashing lights pointing you in the right direction, just a small blue sign with an arrow guiding you to park on the other side of the building. When you pull up to Paper Co., you'll see a giant window and a small bright blue door with the coffee shop's logo. Open that door to enter a high-ceiling, wide open cafe.

The moment you step inside, you're greeted by friendly smiles and a hello from the baristas. It's a charming cafe with white washed walls behind the wood-paneled espresso bar and dark grey brick walls displaying art and photographs.

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Paper Co. gets its beans from Mueva Coffee, a local supplier that imports coffee beans from Nicaragua then roasts them in Houston, creating excellent hot and iced drinks.

The menu is simple. No frills. Just straight up traditional coffee drinks done right. I started with my favorite espresso-based drink, a nonfat cappuccino -- I've got a wedding soon, got to watch those calories! But let's be real, if a barista can make a frothy, creamy cappuccino with nonfat milk, then they know what they're doing, and Paper Co.'s barista did. The cappuccino was light and smooth, and as I took my first sip the strong espresso perfectly mixed with the steamed and foamed milk. A sprinkling of cinnamon made it complete.

As I stared at the menu, looking for another drink to try, my eyes fell on the chai tea latte, and thank goodness they did. I'm going to go out on a limb and say this was the best chai latte I have ever had. Normally, I stick to cappuccinos and Americanos for my morning caffeine, but now I am a chai tea latte convert. I was unsure if I should add sugar to the drink until I took off the lid; I breathed in the sweet smells of cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, sugar and possibly nutmeg and was convinced that it was perfectly fine as it was. It smells and tastes like Christmas.

Go ahead and purchase a cinnamon roll to go with your coffee, be it a cappuccino, chai tea latte or any other drink. The sweet pastry isn't obnoxiously large and each one is covered with enough icing to coat the top and slide down the sides. Choose the one you want from the case -- get there early to have a nice selection --- then heat it up in the microwave for a comforting and scrumptious breakfast.

There's no doubt in my mind I will return to Paper Co. Coffee, even if the only thing I order is the chai tea latte.

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