Our annual food guide, Taste, hits newsstands Thursday, February 19. In this year's issue, you'll find guides to local food neighborhoods; interviews with local coffee roasters, chefs, and chocolatiers; and a handy roundup of South Florida's breweries. Readers of Clean Plate Charlie don't have to wait. Here's a sneak peek from 2015's Taste Guide.
They say necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of craft and specialty coffee in South Florida, this is certainly true. For many of South Florida's growing community of small-batch coffee roasters, the quest for a good cup of coffee is what propelled them into the business.
"You could say most great ideas start in a garage," says Oceana Coffee Roasting (221 Old Dixie Highway, Tequesta) founder Scott Angelo, who began roasting from home first as a hobby. "That's where it began. Now, it's much more than a hobby. Today, it's a mission to share with people what truly good coffee is all about."
That same passion is making its mark across Palm Beach and Broward counties, where in the past six months, a number of small-batch coffee roasters has started what is becoming a specialty coffee movement of sorts. What Panther Coffee in Miami's Wynwood district began has slowly crept north.
Now, you'll find places like Oceana in Tequesta, Subculture Coffee and Rabbit Coffee Roasting Co. in West Palm Beach, and Wells Coffee Co. in Boca Raton. In Broward County, there's Argyle Coffee Roasters and Calusa Coffee Roasters in Fort Lauderdale and the Chosen Bean out of Coral Springs.
Of course, this growth isn't unique to South Florida. It's part of a larger, national trend not unlike the craft-beer movement. This awakening, often referred to as "third-wave coffee," is fast becoming a niche in the country's obsession with everything artisanal, handmade, and small-batch.
For restaurateur Rodney Mayo, the specialty coffee movement has been a long time coming. Mayo opened Subculture Coffee (509 Clematis St., West Palm Beach) in February 2014 alongside business partner and local roaster Sean Scott. Together, they founded the city's first roasting café, where you can grab an espresso and watch the beans bake all in one place.
"We both wanted a good cup of coffee and couldn't find it anywhere," said Mayo. "So we decided to do something about it. Subculture is all about bringing good coffee to the people."
Their mission: to not only brew a good cup of coffee but also help to cultivate a coffee-shop culture in Palm Beach County. Today, they're realizing that goal and already looking forward to opening a second location, in Delray Beach, where onsite roasting will also take place several times a week.
Although some are selling their product directly to consumers, others like Manny and Amy Carrera from Argyle Coffee Roasting are looking to break into a different market: wholesale. They don't own and operate a coffee shop where you can order a cup of brew or buy a bag of beans. Instead, they're working with local businesses and restaurants to create custom roasts.
"We want to focus on what we do best, and that's roasting. I'm not a barista," says Manny. "This way, we can stay passionate about what we're doing and just make great coffee. The key component to what we do is to get people drinking better coffee and support the local scene."
Still others, like Calusa Coffee Roasting and the Chosen Bean, are eager to provide a better product that customers can enjoy in the comfort of their own homes. Their roasting facilities are still small-scale, but the idea is the same: provide South Florida with better brew.
These local roasters aren't the only ones creating change, however. While roasters are sharing their love of the craft, a new breed of specialty coffee shops and cafés is interested in selling you more than just a good cup of coffee.
They're also selling you a new way of brewing and drinking it, beyond drip coffeemakers or even espresso machines. Third-wave coffee prep is all about the French press, "slow bar" pour-overs like Chemex and V60, and cold brew, which employs time instead of heat to draw out the coffee flavor.
At the Seed (199 W. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton), owners Rachel Eade and Carly Altier are excited to deliver the area's first third-wave coffee-shop experience in which patrons have the option to order their coffee prepared using alternative brewing methods. The full menu offers classic drip, of course, but also cold brew, espresso, lattes, cortados, macchiatos, and cappuccino, all made with the café's own brand of fresh coffee, provided by in-house roaster Wells Coffee Co.
Like many small-batch crafters, founder and roaster Brandon Wells began roasting coffee as a hobby, a love affair that started at age 18, when his grandmother brewed him his first cup. The experience, he says, was one he'll never forget.
"For me, coffee is more about the connection," says Wells. "It's not just what's in the cup but what happens around the cup. This project was born out of my passion for specialty coffee and a longing to see people more engaged with one another. For too long, there has been a lack of this type of culture in South Florida."
Taking that idea one step further, Warsaw Coffee (815 NE 13th St., Fort Lauderdale) will stand as Broward's most distinct coffee shop, set to open late this month. The 3,000-square-foot space will offer a fresh-roasted custom line of coffees produced by nearby Argyle Roasting and will give customers the opportunity to participate in monthly cuppings to taste-test various roasts, sample different brew methods, and commingle in true coffee-shop fashion using the shop's in-house office space and equipment.
Despite their different roasts and methods, there's one thing these roasters have in common: They all offer unique insight into the incredibly labor-intensive process of producing coffee.
"We're really about education," says Angelo. "We don't want to just sell you a good roast and then send you on your way. We want to help people understand the best methods for brewing different beans and how to get the most out of your coffee."
While the specialty coffee scene in South Florida is growing, the community is still finding common ground. For some, the complaint is that there still isn't enough collaborative companionship among the cafés, shops, restaurants, and roasters to create the synergy necessary to propel the movement to the masses.
"I look forward to sharing that collaborative culture here," says Angelo, "a day when we can all work together towards a single goal: to get everyone drinking excellent coffee."
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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