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Espresso 34 is a one-stop shop for java, tea and fruit smoothies in Park Rapids

Espresso 34 crew members include, from left, assistant manager Carissa Lockhart and manager Beth Heltunen and owners Kathy and Brian Gray. A grand opening is planned for the end of June. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Take a brief bypass off the main thoroughfare to discover "The simple truth: Great coffee."

Espresso 34 has opened on Highway 34 east, offering something for all ages and tastes, hot or cold, espresso or Smoothies...the possibilities are endless.

Brian and Kathy Gray, in partnership with son and daughter-in-law Shawn and Carmen, have opened the "coffee shop."

Espresso takes the classic cup of java to new heights.

By definition, espresso is a concentrated beverage brewed by forcing hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee. Widely known throughout the world today, espresso was invented in Italy in 1884.

Compared to other coffee brewing methods, espresso has a thicker consistency, a higher concentration of suspended solids and crema (foam). Espresso is the base for lattes (the most popular), cappuccino, macchiato, mochas, and americanos.

The Grays worked with a consultant from the West Coast, Jana Buettner, in developing the building set-up and training of staff. She also shared recipes.

Ten are employed at the shop open from 6:34 a.m. to 5:34 p.m. Monday through Saturday, windows welcoming traffic from the east and west. Sunday's hours are a "mundane" 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The shop will be open year-round, with hours extended upon demand.

Beth Heltunen is manager, Carissa Lockhart assistant manager.

A comprehensive menu defines the choices ranging from hot espresso to cold espresso to espresso premium flavors.

A specialty is Muddy Waters, an iced, layered drink sipped via straw that pulls the sipper through layers of flavors.

The beans arrive from Dillanos Coffee Roaster in Washington, named "Roaster of the Year" by Roast Magazine.

Tea, hot and cold, includes My Chai tea from Oregon, a mixture of spices and black tea affording a mellow experience for the taste buds.

Or sample a nutrient rich fruit smoothie. A 20-ounce, California-inspired beverage provides four servings of fruit, 80 percent of daily needs. They are gluten free, with no artificial colors or flavors.

Choices range from banana to a berry blend to mango, orange tangerine, strawberry to lime.

A kids' menu includes hot chocolate (at a kid-friendly temperature) and Kids Kreamz, in cotton candy or bubble gum flavors.

Muffins, rolls, biscotti, and ice cream treats are available with plans to add breakfast sandwiches for traveling fisherfolk and those headed to work.

Buy 12, get one free punch cards for drip or specialty espresso will be available as will pre-paid cards.

A website will notify customers of promotions and specials at

Espresso 34 is a melding of the Gray philosophies, Brian aware "speed and good customer service" are key.

"But a good cup of coffee takes time," Kathy appends, adding the credo: "The simple truth: Great coffee."