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Sacred Grounds offers more than coffee

I walked into Sacred Grounds Coffee House at 9 p.m., and the place was packed. A man was playing songs on his guitar, and people were singing along and clapping to the music. I had expected a quiet place to sit and have coffee with my friends, and I knew right then that the night was going to be much different than expected.

After walking to the bar and picking up some menus, I was amazed to see how much this little coffeehouse had to offer, from green and black teas to Italian sodas, smoothies, shakes, veggie wraps and pizza. All the items on the menu have interesting names, such as an herbal tea named Yoda and a shake called the Spanking Monkey. Although the names were interesting, I couldn’t help but notice the prices. Expecting them to be significantly less than places such as Starbucks, I was a little surprised that our drinks were close to $4 each. My friends and I were all a little hesitant about prices, but we went ahead and ordered a green tea called Fiji, which was flavored with pineapple and papaya.

The server taking our order was incredibly friendly. He told us our drinks would be up shortly and smiled as he informed us about the artist who would be performing later that night.

After ordering drinks, we made our way to the only available seats in the house, located in the library. The small room is set aside for anyone who wants to sit down and read or play a few board games with some friends. The shelves are filled with a variety of books and games, including Jenga, Clue, Trivial Pursuit, chess and Boggle. We played Pick-up Sticks until the drinks were served, and they exceeded my expectations and proved to be worthy of every penny. Before I even put my lips to the cup, I could tell I was in for a treat. Drifting from the mug was a luscious, warm and fruity aroma. The tea was smooth and sweet with just the right amount of pineapple and papaya, making it absolutely delectable. My friends, who were both expecting the drinks to taste like something out of a box from the grocery store, were pleasantly surprised with the tea as well. We sat and sipped our tea slowly, enjoying it until the last drop, waiting for the night’s main event to begin.

Sacred Grounds is a popular place not only because of its coffee, but also because of its events. This happening little coffeehouse has great connections to the local Tampa Bay alternative music scene. There are live musicians playing at Sacred Grounds a few times each week. The artist playing when my friends and I visited was Amy Steinberg, and I could tell from the reaction of the crowd that she had a lot of fans there.

“Amy is a really big deal for us,” owner Karen Lowman said. “We are really lucky to have her here tonight.”

The audience loved Steinberg, and my friends and I couldn’t help but get into her music as well. As she played her songs, the place became even more crowded. We chilled out on the floor, enjoyed some great music and took in the warm atmosphere.

After awhile I began to understand why this coffeehouse is so acclaimed. It’s everything one would expect from a coffee shop: It is simple, with plenty of cozy couches to sit on and soft lighting, but more upbeat than the average Starbucks. On the events calendar, I could see there was some form of entertainment booked almost every other night. With local musicians, open-mic nights and visiting DJs, I can’t imagine myself ever feeling bored at Sacred Grounds. I also couldn’t imagine feeling alone there because everyone around, especially the staff, is talkative and friendly.In addition to the tea and coffee selections, Sacred Grounds has a menu with a wide variety of choices, and if the rest of the items are as good as the Fiji tea, then I’m hooked.

As the evening wound down and the artist began to pack up, I took an even closer look at Sacred Grounds. From the work of local artists displayed on the walls to the stacks of magazines and wall of fliers promoting local alternative culture, Sacred Grounds shows off the fact that it is supportive of any form of creativity and expression. On its Web site, Sacred Grounds sums up its goal eloquently: “We are committed to providing a safe, friendly, positive community environment for all who have an open mind and are accepting of all ways of life.”

This openness has attracted a great crowd and connections in the Bay area. Sacred Grounds is a part of the Tampa Independent Business Alliance and has been named one of Tampa’s best coffeehouses by the Weekly Planet and the AOL City Guide. In speaking with Lowman, I learned that Sacred Grounds is becoming more known. She told me that although the coffeehouse has only been open for 10 years, she feels as if she’s done 20 years worth of work.

If you visit Sacred Grounds, expect to be in for a rare treat. Remember, however, to come with an open mind. The atmosphere of Sacred Grounds promotes socialization. The people are warm and friendly, with an expression of an attitude toward the world that accepts and promotes individuality and alternative lifestyles.

Visiting Sacred Grounds coffeehouse was a unique experience. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys good music and good coffee and tea, or students who want an alternative to the usual evening out.