Distinguished Drinkers: Coffee With Todd Johnson

Distinguished Drinkers, a series for Dallasites who love quality drinks and enjoyable ambiances, is a new series designed to offer you a personable way to discover the best of the best drinking spots in Dallas.

I am not joking when I say I go to bed excited to wake up and drink my first cup of coffee in the early hours of the day. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Dallas four years ago, was the astounding number of independent coffee shops. It wasn’t long until I found my favorite little spot. As a student, my Saturday morning ritual quickly became studying at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse.(That coffeehouse may have been the reason I had enough energy to graduate.) I’m no longer a student and I figured it was time to start exploring other coffee shops and baristas.

Today, I debut Distinguished Drinkers : a series for Dallasites, like myself, who love quality drinks and enjoyable ambiances. Whether you’re looking for the most robust cup of coffee to start your day or a smooth gin and tonic to end it, there are many notable coffee shops and bars in North Texas, and we wanted to offer you a more personable way to discover the best of the best.

This series will feature interviews with acclaimed locals; individuals who know the ins and outs of Dallas dining so well, you’d be silly not to drop everything and immediately rush to the nearest suggested coffee shop or bar. For our first interview, we chose a member of the D staff. Todd Johnson, D Magazine’s creative director, wrote an article in November 2011 titled “The Best Coffee in Dallas.” He’s not a coffee snob, but rather a self-proclaimed “coffee connoisseur.” I sat down with Johnson, who was still sipping his morning coffee from The Hospitality Sweet, to uncover the true personality of the Dallas coffee scene.

RH: Well Todd, I think I already know the answer to this question, but coffee or cocktail?

TJ: That’s a hard one, but I drink coffee more than anything.

RH: Are you an everyday drinker or just on occasion?

TJ: Every day.

RH: Do you brew it yourself or regularly buy it?

TJ: I do both. On a daily basis, I stop at Davis Street Espresso. They use beans from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters.  You can only take coffee to-go if you use a ceramic mug. Each drink there is hand-crafted. They are protective of their coffee, and rightfully so. They want people to have the best experience possible. I also like Oddfellows.

RH: If you brew it at home, what brand do you buy?

TJ: I usually make my own on the weekends. I get beans from either AVOCA Coffee in Fort Worth or Cultivar Coffee and Tea.

 RH: If you are going to go out to get coffee, where do you go?

TJ: I go to different places for different things. Oddfellows makes a great mocha. Davis Street Espresso makes the best Cortado. It’s called the Van Buren, after the street in Dallas. They serve it with Topo Chico, which is a Mexican mineral water, and a small biscotti. I go to Ascension Coffee for their iced coffee, which is made with a Kyoto brew. It’s a different process than other cold brew coffees. It is a system which uses a slow drip method where individual drops of water pass over the top of a bed of coffee grounds. A slow drip method brings out the aromatic and delicate notes of the bean. It’s more nuanced than your standard full-immersion cold brew method where coffee grounds are steeped in cold water for several hours or overnight. I go to Cultivar for their espresso. I’d drive all the way over there just for their espresso. It’s a thicker espresso that  tastes like dessert. It has a nice heavy tone. It’s decadent. It’s also in the same building as Good Go Tacos, which has the best breakfast tacos.

RH: How did you hear about that place?

TJ: I was doing research for an article for D Magazine called “The Best Coffee in Dallas.” Before, I was a Starbucks person like everybody else. I didn’t know any better. Your palette just needs to be accustomed. I learned more by going to Oddfellows, and I also took a basic course at TexasCoffeeSchool. Now, I just can’t drink mediocre coffee. I also like Weekend Coffee. They use Victrola beans.

RH: Do you have a favorite barista there?

TJ: (laughs) I don’t want to name names. A good barista just knows what they are doing. Once I get good espresso, I’m hooked. I do like the crew at Davis Street Espresso. They do quality work. Other baristas go there, which says a lot.

RH: Do you sit around and enjoy the coffee in-house or do you take it to go?

TJ: Both. But espresso you don’t get to go. That is just sacrilege. It’s an experience. You are supposed to sit and enjoy it.

RH: Do you consider yourself to be a coffee snob?

TJ: Yes. but I prefer the word ‘connoisseur.’ I don’t look down on anyone for drinking other types of coffee. I just think they don’t know. I want to educate people.

RH: How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?

TJ: Not as much as everyone thinks. On average, one cup a day. I’ll have one cup in the morning, and then sometimes in the afternoon I’ll go to The Hospitality Sweet and get an espresso and a macaron.

RH: How much money do you think you spend on average on coffee a week?

TJ: I don’t think I want to say. (Laughs) I spend about $5 a day, so about $30 a week.


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