Welcome to the DiscoverNEPA Coffee Club, a series for anyone who loves the smell of freshly roasted beans and the warmth of a steaming mug in their hands. We’re visiting NEPA’s local coffee shops and giving you an inside look at all they have to offer, from handcrafted drinks to cool spaces to work and hang out. Join us and discover your new favorite spot for a caffeine fix.
Step Inside One of Scranton’s Original Coffee Shops
Northern Light Espresso Bar & Café is tucked along a row of stylish shops in the Scranton Life Building. The stately, historic structure is an Electric City icon, but if you ask coffee drinkers, the café is just as much of a local landmark.
This shop has been brewing coffee and pulling shots since 2002. Back then, it was one of the few places in town where you could find a real espresso. NEPA’s coffee scene has come a long way since then, but Northern Light still remains a staple in downtown Scranton.
Note: At this time, Northern Light is open for in-house dining, but capacity is limited.
For the Love of Coffee
Northern Light is the kind of place that just feels like home, even if it’s your first visit.
When you walk into the shop, you’re immediately greeted by the cozy smell of fresh-brewed coffee and muffins hot out of the oven. The bottom floor is usually bustling. Baristas are busy pouring drinks, while college students bury themselves beneath textbooks and laptops for a caffeine-fueled study session. People stroll in after a day of shopping downtown, or pop by for a quick coffee break between business meetings on Courthouse Square. But sneak upstairs to the loft, and you’ll always find a quiet little escape.
That’s where we met Jenn Saunders, who has owned Northern Light for two years this November. Jenn previously worked in banking for 17 years (often with a coffee in hand). But when her job ended unexpectedly, she started to search for new opportunities. Things started to fall into place on a family trip to Costa Rica, where she discovered the country’s rich coffee culture.
“When I was on vacation, I started to create a business plan of opening up a coffee shop from the ground up. When I got back, I just one day Googled ‘businesses for sale in Scranton,’ and Northern Light came up,” she explained. “It was just a done deal after that. It was just meant to be, I think.”
Her new ownership brought exciting changes, including an expanded food menu and in-house baked goods. But longtime customers can tell you that the most important things have stayed the same. Northern Light has always been a comfy spot to relax, and their dedication to top-notch, handcrafted drinks is here to stay.
Kick Back With a Warm Mug
These chilly autumn days call for a hot drink.
Northern Light sources their coffee from Damiani Coffee Roasters, a small-batch specialty roaster in Factoryville. They work with importers from around the world and pay well above the market average, which helps keep the quality consistent and make sure that farmers and workers can make a fair living wage.
The café’s top seller is the brewed coffee. They brew an exclusive house blend called Aurora, a medium-roast coffee with notes of rich cocoa and caramel paired with fruity citrus and apricot. The lattes are always popular too. There’s always a seasonal flavor on deck—when we were there, it was a cozy maple spice latte.
Northern Light is also known for their chai. You can always order the classic, peppery blend of cardamom, cinnamon and other spices, but the café also offers tons of fun flavors, from creamy vanilla to seasonal selections like pumpkin pie.
The drink menu has plenty of non-coffee options too, like teas, smoothies, hot chocolate and Northern Sparklers (an Italian soda made with flavored syrup and a Pellegrino base).
Homemade Treats & Café Fare
The espresso bar is the face of the shop, but back in the kitchen, there’s plenty of magic going on.
Over the past two years, Northern Light has expanded their food menu and started making more items in-house, like soups, sandwiches, wraps and quiches.
“We have certain items like our Caesar salad that customers just love,” said Jenn. “I’ll never take it off the menu. It could be a revolt.”
The chicken salad wrap is another favorite that sells out of nearly every day. Northern Light also switches out seasonal specials each month, and they usually have vegan and vegetarian options.
As for sweets, Northern Light makes their own baked goods like cookies, muffins and scones. The homemade biscotti goes perfectly with a hot drink.
“We got a special recipe, actually, from a customer’s grandmother. She gave it to us, and it does really well,” said Jenn.
Northern Light also offers catering, like sandwich trays, dessert trays and boxed lunches.
A Downtown Destination
Places like this help create a sense of community.
At the heart of it all, Northern Light puts a strong focus on the Scranton community. Whether you’re one of the regulars or a visitor from out of town, you’ll feel welcome here.
“I love coffee, and I love people,” said Jenn. “We have a really diverse clientele. We have students, we have business people, we have families. Everybody is so great.”
Before COVID, they frequently hosted live music and regularly participated in Scranton’s First Friday art walks. These events are slowly and safely starting up again, so be sure to follow Northern Light’s Facebook page for the latest updates.