How Dallas Woke Up and Smelled the Coffee
It took awhile to catch up to other brew-loving cities. But now we’re sold, and a new wave of beanheads has the town humming.
A couple toward the back of the room gathers their belongings and decides to buy some beans before leaving.
“Did you enjoy yourself?” asks the barista at the register.
“It was interesting,” the husband says. “But, honestly, all I tasted was coffee.” His wife shoots him a mock look of disgust. “You’re expelled from coffee school,” she says.
(clockwise from top left) Texas Coffee School owner Tom Vincent; Drip owner and roaster Steve Thatcher; coffee beans from Buon Giorno.photography by Elizabeth Lavin
THE NEW GENERATION
Meet the next wave of coffee roasters in Dallas.
Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters
Like many newbies, Jenni and Shannon Neffendorf’s coffee-roasting career was born of frustration. They wanted great coffee, couldn’t find it in Dallas, and started roasting their own beans in a popcorn roaster on the stove. They shared their beans with family and friends and, after much encouragement, opened Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters in 2008, roasting coffee on a converted gas grill in their Oak Cliff garage. Soon they had 100 online customers subscribing to their milkman-like delivery service. The Neffendorfs leave fresh-roasted coffee hanging in little burlap sacks on customers’ doorknobs on the first and third Tuesday of each month. They also supply coffee to restaurants, coffeehouses, and retailers across the city.
THE COFFEE: Coffee is roasted two to three times a week and delivered or shipped 24 hours after roasting. All coffee is roast-dated. Oak Cliff Coffee sells five single origins and four blends. Shannon’s favorite coffee is the Triple Seasonal blend, available only in the fall. The Panamanian beans are fruity and floral, with a blackberry front note and honeyed sweetness.
BUY IT: Dallas and Plano Central Markets; Urban Acres
TASTE IT: Oak Lawn Coffee, Company Cafe, Bolsa, Lucia, Meddlesome Moth, Crooked Tree Coffeehouse
Late-night study sessions at Waco coffeehouse Common Grounds instilled a love of coffee within Baylor University grad Brooke Bowen. After a stint in the coffee retail world, Bowen traveled to Rwanda and Honduras in 2008, meeting with coffee farmers and exporters. “It was a vision trip,” she says. It opened her eyes to how dependent entire economies were on the commodity. It also stoked her passion to create a micro-roasting company. Bowen established Well Coffee in 2009.
THE COFFEE: “Most coffee drinkers don’t know where to start,” Bowen says. That’s why she keeps her offerings simple: two blends (dark and medium), one decaf, and one rotating single-origin bean of the month. Bowen donates a portion of her sales to various nonprofits. Well Coffee also offers single-origin beans by special request. Bowen’s current favorite is an El Salvador single origin (full-bodied, chocolate-like, and well-rounded).
BUY IT: On Well’s website (with free delivery to the 75214 zip code)
TASTE IT: Smoke, Corner Market, Belmont Hotel
Cultivar Coffee & Tea Co.
Owners Jonathan Meadows and Nathan Shelton started their coffee careers working at White Rock Coffee and Pearl Cup, drawn in by the sense of community a coffeehouse fostered. The more time they spent around coffee, the more they loved it. Soon, they were following blogs, reading magazines, and chatting up baristas, until Meadows discovered latte art—using steamed milk to draw intricate patterns on top of espresso drinks—and found it “magical.” Not finding anyone in Dallas who could teach him, Meadows took an internship with Alliance World Coffees in Indiana. “That’s where I discovered that great-tasting coffee had little to do with latte art,” he says. In Indiana, Meadows was exposed to Cultivar’s current philosophy on coffee roasting: celebrating the best beans and letting them dictate how they should be roasted. Meadows and Shelton are also into educating their customers on proper brewing techniques, as well as training both baristas and home enthusiasts.
THE COFFEE: Cultivar’s offerings change regularly. Coffee is roasted every Tuesday and shipped every Wednesday. Currently, Cultivar offers four coffees: Costa Rica (La Minita Estate), Guatemala (Finca Santa Clara), El Salvador (Finca La Fany), and its namesake espresso blend.
BUY IT: Online or at its East Dallas coffee shop (1146 Peavy Road)
TASTE IT: At its coffee shop
Friends for more than 20 years, Jimmy Story and Garold LaRue were licking their wounds over breakfast one morning. Both had been laid off and were searching for their next path. “Garold kept going on and on about how he missed roasting coffee,” Story says. That’s when Story had a light bulb moment. Since LaRue had more than 14 years experience working with coffee, Story asked him what it would take to start a roastery. LaRue explained the basics and mentioned it would also be great to open a coffee shop to showcase the beans. Nine months later, a business plan was finished, a lease signed, and Avoca Coffee was born. Story and LaRue support a seed to cup philosophy, basing Avoca’s roasting method on the bean’s origin and how it was processed. They also support organic beans when possible and direct-sourcing practices.
THE COFFEE: Avoca sells its coffee by origin and currently is offering Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, Peruvian, and a decaf Columbian. Roasting profiles range from light to dark. Beans are sold in recyclable glass jars.
BUY IT: Roy Pope Grocery and Cowtown Farmers Market
TASTE IT: Four Star Cafe, Boopa’s Bagel Deli