Caffeine, Conversations, and Christmas Concerts


“Admits to using caffeine” was what I read in my file while at the doctor’s for a checkup. Seeing that written down in such an official capacity made me feel like an addict! But I was informed it was simply a formality. What-ever!

But I do admit to a problem; the problem is there are so many fine coffee roasters and coffee shops in the city of Chattanooga it’s hard to know where to start. Finding some enablers, er, friends from the orchestra and audience wasn’t too hard.  Apparently many suffer from the same affliction as I do, so we thought it would be fun to copy the pub crawl format and have a coffee crawl.


We did two separate crawls, as too much coffee on one day would have made for some serious performance speeds for us musicians!

The first crawl started on the south side of Chattanooga during rainy Saturday morning at Niedlov’s Breadworks. Niedlov is known more for their breads as they bake for many local restaurants in Chattanooga. But we decided this would be a great place to start since they had some good coffee reviews on

cinnamon roll
Warm moist cinnamon roll and a simple cup of coffee makes for a good start

Just simple cup of coffee and a pastry was all it took to wake us up. Each of us tried a different pastry and all of us enjoyed the coffee. It was nothing fancy, but we all agreed it was a well-balanced flavor and the perfect overture to our journey.

Next stop was a couple blocks down, Mean Mug. This was a dedicated coffee shop with many caffeinated options as well as many fine muffins and treats baked right in the store. While waiting for my eggnog latte, I met the owner, Monica, who was eager to hear about our CSO coffee crawl.


Mean Mug
Mean Mug had a great menu.

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Mean Mug owner, Monica, shares what’s good.


She had some really good suggestions about places to include, plus extra information on some of the local roasters.

Last stop of our coffee crawl for that day was at The Camp House. This was the kind of building you look at but don’t see. It didn’t look like a typical coffee shop, but fortunately they had a little sign on the sidewalk!


Camp House
Outside of Camp House is unusually cool, almost as cool as the inside

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Art in everyone’s cup
Art in everyone’s cup. Wonderful taste and beauty in a cup.


This is a serious passion for these baristas. Any question about a coffee or brewing style was quickly and knowledgably answered. Watching my friends get their various drinks made was very much like watching art being created.

One week later, our crawl continued, this time on the North side of Chattanooga. First stop was a new place called Milk and Honey. This was not just a place for coffee, but for sorbets, sweets of all kinds and breakfast sandwiches.

Jamey takes time to share his favorite recommendations
Jamey takes time to share his favorite recommendations. Since he’s also a fitness trainer of many CSO musicians, we know we’ll be working this off later!

I recognized the coffee shop manager immediately, as he was none other than Jamey Richeson who coached me through a most excellent kick boxing work out the previous week at Thrive where he is a trainer. Jamey had several recommendations for various coffee concoctions and I ended up getting a coconut latte which was delicious.

Our group continued to our final destination, Rembrandt’s Coffee House which is located in the scenic Bluff District. Instantly upon entering this coffee shop we felt transported into an Old World European shop. The coffee choices were decent, but the pastries and treats to accompany any warm drink were amazing.

Conner prepping some amazing espresso drinks for our CSO coffee crawl finale.

Behind the counter at Rembrandts was a member of the CSO chorus who sang the Mozart Requiem the previous month. What a fun connection between coffee lovers and music making!


Sitting in these coffee shops is the greatest conversation generator. With musicians, conversations can sometimes go straight to shop talk, but when our non-musician friends (but serious music lovers), Stacey and Kevin Castor, showed up, conversations were easily transferred to geeking out about a cup of coffee to interesting things about Chattanooga, life, philosophy, everything!

And as our group traveled from coffee shop to coffee shop, we had interesting conversations with owners, managers, and fellow coffee consumers. It’s these little conversations over a simple cup that can be the beginning to lasting friendships and shared experiences.

Walking from one coffee house to the next met us with some cool sculptures.
Coffee crawlers
Left to Right: Principal flutist Kristen Holritz, violist Megan Peyton, and bassoon section, Rachel Young and Eric Anderson chat while waiting for their coffee orders.
Coffee crawlers
CSO audience members, Stacey and Kevin Castor watch violinist Josh Holritz capture his coffee and pastry on his phone while bassoonist Rachel Young and principal flutist Kristen Holritz compare notes about things to do in Chattanooga.

Christmas Concerts

During the Coffee Crawls, Chattanooga Symphony & Opera was engaged in several holiday concerts. Our first set of concerts was a partnership with the Chattanooga Ballet company for the annual Nutcracker. The performances were a hit, and just listening to the sold out audience’s applause told me there was much enjoyment by all.

Probably the highlight of each Nutcracker performance is when parents bring their children to the pit to look over the orchestra. This does a number of things. It introduces musical instruments to the children, it punctuates that there is a live orchestra creating music the dancers dance to, and it breaks down barriers.

I had a lovely conversation with a group of girls, ages 4-10, about what it’s like to play violin, why I picked the instrument, and how we see our music in the dark! For parents, it’s an easy way to give their children many art forms in one sitting, and getting to see up close is extra exciting.

The second holiday concert set was a Christmas “Home for the Holidays” Pops concert. The concert was based around looking at Christmas through a child’s eye. So much of the music performed on this concert was tunes I grew up with, my parents grew up with, and my grandparents grew up with. It was awesome to see the various generations in the audience all connecting with their inner child as certain songs would conjure up memories of Christmas pasts.

Just like a good cup of coffee, a familiar song or piece of music can get the heart, mind, and soul energized!

Bonus Image Gallery!

The crawl produced so many wonderful photos, I thought it would be nice to include some of the additional images.

About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. She spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival. Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.

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