Dandelion Coffee Co.


Owner Kristin O’Kain smiles proudly (underneath her mask) behind the counter of her coffee shop.

Brady Jordan, Staff Writer

The meeting is in an hour. My simple needs include a comfortable spot to gather and discuss group plans, and 2 shots of espresso to power through the meeting. I could go to a more popular coffee shop in town, but that popularity is accompanied by noisy crowds and interiors. Opting for somewhere cozy with a compliment of creativity, I entered Dandelion and Co, Florence. 

Initially beginning its life in Auburn, Dandelion has been serving a qualitative selection of unique coffees and teas across many locations since 2017. Despite being a newcomer to the Florence market, they have already picked up a growing clientele which is quickly becoming a dedicated community. Stepping into the shop, I’m met with a small, but tightly-knit atmosphere. The shop itself is proportionately smaller than most others in town (possibly even the smallest), but there is still plenty of room to not feel cramped. In fact, the lower ceilings seem to create a “living-room” espresso bar type look and feel. The interior design is extremely well crafted, with each individual piece of furniture carrying its own story to tell(as I discovered in my conversations with the owner). From the moment I sit down with my mocha to the minute I finish up and walk out the door, Dandelion delivers a unique experience that could best be described as “Home-ly”. It’s plush couches and wooden desk are complimented by fresh hardwood flooring, which come together to give it a family living room type atmosphere. If places like Rivertown coffee are the center for community gatherings, Dandelion is the warm kitchen you come home to after a long winter day. The shop owes it’s new location to owner Kristin O’Kain’s longing to return to her hometown. 

“I grew up up here so I was really wanting to come home…We started business planning back in 2015 and then we officially started in 2017. We were moved up here back in 2018…” O’Kain said.

The business initially started as a mobile coffee bar, serving campus events for Auburn University and catering weddings with customized menus.

“We were actually mobile first. We did small events in Auburn…we wanted at that time to do mobile coffee. We had dreams of putting it in like a camper…We did catering, we did [weddings]…So what I would do is write a menu that was specific to the bride and the groom.” O’Kain said. 

Their current location is on Tuscaloosa Street downtown, right around the corner from 306 Barbecue. It opened up earlier this year, having gone through a complete remodeling prior to that time. 

However the real thing that sets Dandelion apart from other shops in the Florence area, is its menu. As the latter part of its moniker suggests, it carries a much heavier focus on specialized teas. 

“We offer like a large selection of teas that I could tell you like exactly where they came from.

And unique teas. Like things you might not have tried before. Our favorite one that we have on the menu…actually comes form a small company out of North Carolina. It’s called Asheville tea company, it’s the elderberry yukon…It’s actually North America’s only native caffeinated plant. It was drank by the native americans.” O’Kain said. 

Several of these teas also contain parts of the dandelion plant, hence the shops name.

“For the Native Nectar and I have a drink called the dandelion, and both of those I do lemonade and honey in addition to the tea…Several of our teas [are] what inspired the name of the company, have dandelion in them.” O’Kain said.

Alongside these teas, the shop has a diverse menu stocked full of specialty coffee drinks. 

From the vanilla hues of the “Purple Haze”(which is my personal favorite and recommendation) to the dash of cinnamon found in the “Dust in the Mocha”, there is no shortage of unique coffee flavors to keep folks coming back. The shop also places a high degree of importance on sustainability by encouraging customers to use in-house mugs rather than single use cups in an effort to create less waste. 

“…We can still enjoy our coffee and this culture and the community, without all of the negative effects. It’s just been so normal to like ‘throw this away’ and ‘throw that away’.

We’re hoping with our business, we can work to solve those problems and not create more problems.” O’Kain said.

As I touched upon in my previous column, my travels across the country have brought me to many coffee shops. Each place I end up brings the desire to try their local blend or brew to the forefront of my priorities. In these travels, Dandelion most resembles a shop in the town where I’m from, Offbeat Coffee Studio. The Huntsville coffee/record store may not resemble Dandelion’s living room aesthetic in most respects, but it absolutely does in terms of menu options. Everything from the handcrafted recipes and brews to the presentation itself is overly elaborate. This is not to say that the menu is a carbon copy (in fact it’s quite the opposite), but the widespread availability of special drinks on the menu shares the same character. Dandelion may not appear physically as elaborate a place like Offbeat, but it’s menu has an option for almost every mood, vibe, or kind of day you might be going through. 

Despite the noted absence of flashy neon signs or marble walls, Dandelion and Co. offers a menu of specialty coffees and teas you won’t find anywhere else in Florence, and it does so while immersing you in the comfort of a warm living room, a home away from home for the weary traveler or college student just looking for a great spot to dig into the books.