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menus, directions, and reservations @


EA-Half-EM.pdf 1 11/29/2019 7:48:23 PM   1   

edible MEMPHIS winter 2020 PUBLISHER Bill Ganus OPERATIONS Kristopher Hassett EDITOR IN CHIEF Stacey Greenberg ART DIRECTOR Emma Meskovic COPY EDITOR Manda Gibson AD SALES Ali Manning DESIGN AND LAYOUT Chloe Hoeg FOLLOW US Facebook: Edible Memphis Instagram: @ediblememphis Website: Every effort is made to avoid errors, misspellings and omissions. If, however, an error comes to your attention, please accept our apologies. Thank you. No part of this publication may be used without written permission of the publisher. © 2020 All Rights Reserved.

2  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

contents 5 





6  9


Meet the duo behind Dr. Bean’s Coffee and Tea Emporium— and, yes, Dr. Bean really is a doctor







Go for the coffee—stay for the bike trails and beer



Third wave coffee culture has arrived in Memphis






The owners of Onyx Coffee Lab on good coffee



Memphis’s hip hop expression of fourth wave coffee MAURICE HENDERSON II • PHOTOGRAPHS BY ZIGGY MACK




Drinks that combine our favorite morning brews and evening beverages


Latino-owned Cool Beans brews local coffee with international flair BY ALEJANDRO PAREDES • PHOTOGRAPHS BY BREEZY LUCIA






From someone who regularly goes to coffee shops just to drink coffee

Comeback Coffee brings specialty coffee to the Pinch District BY BIANCA PHILLIPS • PHOTOGRAPHS BY MICHAEL BUTLER, JR.



From downtown to Cordova, here’s your guide to the best local coffee spots in the Memphis area BY EMMA MESKOVIC, REBECCA PHILLIPS AND BENJI K. FULFER




Thank you to these locally owned businesses that make Memphis a better, tastier city


COFFEE WITH BUBBLES, PLEASE How to get your coffee soda fix in Memphis




How one ex-Starbucks manager is pushing against the status quo

ON THE COVER The Dr. Bean’s team is thoughtful about its beans, all the way from soil to cup. Page 38. Photo: Justin Fox Burks




Local coffee experts share their knowledge STORY AND ILLUSTRATIONS BY ERIN KIM

ON THIS PAGE Comeback Coffee aims to serve up great coffee and a welcoming atmosphere. Page 22. Photo: Michael Butler, Jr.   3   

MP-Half-EM.pdf 1 11/29/2019 7:08:25 PM









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4  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

3/20/2019 3:38:14 PM


Portrait: Emma Meskovic; Other photo: Bill Ganus


started drinking coffee with my grandmother when I was in middle school. She was hooked on Folgers, and I was hooked on her. I never had much patience for the extended ritual of cream and sugar, so black it was and has been for the past 25 years. In college, I worked for three years at a small coffee shop that we naively thought was reinventing the industry. Our soundtrack was the perfect mix of Radiohead, Sade, Nickel Creek, Over the Rhine and Neil Young. Our beans were high quality, locally sourced and far more intentional than the coffee anywhere else in our small Arkansas town. Though now admittedly second wave, it was still a premier example of what would come to be called “creative placemaking” and was a “third place”—not home and not work, where people can gather—for the town’s college students, soccer moms and senior citizens alike. These days, coffee has percolated into so many parts of my life. The mug itself helps set the tone for my day. My seven-year-old daughter can make coffee three ways. My four- and six-year-old sons both love the occasional sip (once it has cooled a bit). I don’t even know if they like the taste—though they say they do—but I know they love doing things that I love, and I love coffee. For now my kids’ life experiences, including their experience of coffee, happen largely inside the safety of our home and family. But as they grow up, they’ll be moving outside of that space into their own third places, which, if they continue to take after their dad at all, will include coffee shops. So it matters to me what kind of coffee culture we’re creating in Memphis, not just for my kids but for all of our city’s children. I don’t want to raise a generation of indiscriminate caffeine addicts, but a generation that works more than previous ones have to make sure our coffee cravings aren’t satisfied at the expense of other humans. As with so many of our regular purchases, coffee can be dangerous when it’s thoughtless. Exploitation of resources—land, transportation and people—is real at every stage. But on the flip side, coffee is a beautiful culture to participate in when we’re doing it intentionally. Growers, roasters, baristas and consumers all can flourish when we make deliberate decisions all the way from seed to cup. When I look around Memphis today, I’m encouraged by individuals moving us toward a better way of doing coffee. People who focus on fairness for growers, the craft and the ritual of the

MY FAVORITE COFFEE COMPLEMENTS • Paper & Clay mugs • Shotwell caramels • Hustle & Dough pastries • Edge Alley overnight oats • Homemade French toast: Make or buy a rosemary sourdough. Slice and leave out overnight. Dip bread in mixture of eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and almond extract. Cook in skillet. Top with fruit mixture (combine chopped peaches and/or strawberries with maple syrup and bourbon; reduce over medium-high heat). coffee experience, and creating a coffee culture that’s inclusive for all Memphians. As you read the pages of this special coffee edition of Edible Memphis and make decisions about where to buy your next cup of joe or bag of beans, take a minute to think about what kind of coffee culture your choices are helping to create—for my kids, yours and the ones all across our city. • BILL GANUS Publisher Follow: @billganus   5   



6  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

These photos hold two of my favorite things—my kids and coffee.

own grinder. A French press is next on my list. And probably a SodaStream (see why on page 26). I try not to be too serious or get too wrapped up in the mechanics, but I am fascinated and excited by what’s happening in coffee—and not just because I often get the chance to use terroir in a sentence. But more than that, I love where coffee is going. Memphis is helping to define the fourth wave, and I believe we all will be better for it. We introduced you to Maurice Henderson II and Cxffeeblack in Issue 43, and in this issue he writes about the future of coffee in his own words (page 16). Curl up with your favorite brew and give it a read. We want you to love coffee as much as we do, and really get out and explore our local shops. We made a Coffee Guide to help you find the perfect cup in whatever part of town you find yourself. (You’ll find it between pages 24 and 25. And don’t worry—we have an online version too at Finally, mark your calendars for the Grind City Coffee Expo on March 14, when all the best of Memphis coffee will be in one place: the Pipkin Building. See you there! •

STACEY GREENBERG Editor in Chief Follow: @nancy_jew

Portrait: Emma Meskovic ; Other photos: Stacey Greenberg

am more caffeinated than I’ve ever been. For someone who didn’t start drinking coffee regularly until I was well into my 30s, I am clearly making up for lost time. Due to the proliferation of amazing local coffee options, sometimes I feel like I’m singlehandedly supporting every third wave shop in town. (Yes, I have some unsolicited advice to share on page 56.) My morning cup is usually from Edge Alley as I make my way downtown, and then I get a second cup at lunch depending on where I eat. I’ve been known to head back to Edge Alley for lunch too, but Tamp & Tap and Comeback are also good options for one-stop food and coffee. 3rd & Court has Onyx cold brew now, so it’s a new addition to my buzzy lunch list. I have to be careful on South Main. It’s not uncommon to see me shielding my Dr. Bean’s or my Vice & Virtue cup as I walk past Low Fi after eating at Puck. Low Fi is where I head for bonus afternoon coffees and Sunday morning brews, as they open the earliest. If I don’t wake up early, I head to City & State so I can sit on the patio. Jiro, my 15-year-old, also convinces me to hit City & State on our way to his school on Wednesday mornings when he has a late start and we don’t find ourselves in a rush. And he and I also look forward to sharing a cup at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market on Saturdays. If Vice & Virtue isn’t there, then we hit French Truck before he goes to work at MEMPopS. He’s also been known to meet friends (read: girls) at French Truck for coffee after work. The day he said, “I tried a medium roast; it was really good”—and gave me the OF COURSE I DID look when I asked if he drank it black—was one of my proudest moments. In my latest Road Therapy (page 43), I reached a new milestone: traveling somewhere for the sole purpose of drinking coffee. The Onyx Coffee Lab headquarters in Rogers, Arkansas, is definitely worth a visit, especially if you can get in a few words with owners Andrea and Jon Allen (page 48). And, yes, now instead of bringing home T-shirts or shot glasses or whatever one thinks of as a souvenir, I bring home bags of locally roasted coffee from my travels. I guess this is how some people feel about wine. I put away my Chemex, my long-neck teapot and my scale and am back to my little cold brew system, but I did buy my   7   

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8  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

c o m p o s t fa i ry.c o m

Tim Barker is the chef and proprietor of both Edge Alley and the newly opened MidPointe from Edge Alley. With over 25 years in the hospitality business, Tim and his team strive to create experiences, not simply restaurants. He would never put his feet on your banquette, so don't put your feet on his. @timabarker

Justin Fox Burks has been a professional photographer for 20 years, but that’s not all. He photographed and co-authored two vegetarian cookbooks, The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table and The Chubby Vegetarian: 100 Inspired Vegetable Recipes for the Modern Table. He feels fortunate to be able to make interesting images for a living. @justinfoxburks

Michael Butler, Jr. loves everything Memphis. His goal is to show the beauty in Memphis that others overlook. He’s a photographer, videographer, Memphis tee collector, foodie, lover of tacos and mayor of South Memphis. @_one901

Erika Cain is a communications vet with chops in writing, public relations, graphic design, TV, radio and brand strategy. She is a skilled storyteller and has been a trusted adviser to executives and companies for almost two decades. Erika founded GIRL 24, a business mentoring initiative to help build a culture of gifted and ingenious female leaders. She is a spouse, mom, speaker, community volunteer and member of Junior League, and loves dissecting brands. @ecain_co

Chip Chockley, an attorney by day, has been a professional photographer since 2008. Things that make him happy include tacos, mai tais and his wife and kids. @chipchockley

Brandon Dill has found a home in Memphis. When not planning road trips with his wife or building blanket forts with his two daughters, he likes to take pictures. His photos have appeared in the The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and others. @bdillphoto

Ziggy Mack is an internationally published photographer about town. When not immortalizing the movements of ballerinas, circus performers and mermaids, he spends his time finding candid moments involving delectable cuisines and the people that create them. @fomoloop

Benji K. Fulfer is a creative, artist and adventurer from Memphis. He has spent over three years in speciality coffee in various roles, from barista to quality control to brewmaster to educator to community engagement. This is because, much like life, a full experience makes the perfect cup of coffee.

Andy Meek is a native Memphian whose work during a nearly two-decade career in journalism has appeared in outlets like The Guardian, The Washington Post and Fast Company. @andymeek

Maurice Henderson II (aka Bartholomew Jones) wants to make coffee black again. He is the creator of the website Cxffeeblack, which is a lifestyle brand and a social experiment. He wants people to appreciate themselves the same way he enjoys his coffee— with no additives. @cxffeeblack

Erin Kim is a new neighbor in Memphis and its creative community. When she’s not barista-ing at City & State, she is teaching all things ESL at Connect Language Center to adult refugees and asylum seekers. She writes about her experience as a Korean American adoptee on her blog, One of Kim, at If she could do anything right now, it would be to road-trip across the country sharing stories and meals with new and old friends while jamming to some Anderson .Paak. @oneofakim7

Richard Lawrence takes pictures in and around the city of Memphis and the Mid-South. @sundayinmemphis

Breezy Lucia is a Memphis transplant from Kansas City, Missouri. She’s a queer photographer and filmmaker living in Midtown. When she's not using a camera, she's baking bread or making fermented beverages. @breezylucia

From pencil to the pen tool, Rebecca is a full time artist in the city of Memphis. @rlwphillips

Emma Meskovic is the queen of all trades at Edible Memphis. You can find her posting on social media, managing print files, designing ads or editing the website. You can also find her standing on a chair, taking photos of her food and proclaiming, “Sorry! This is my job!” @emmamesk

Averell Mondie is a photographer with a passion for developing narrative-driven marketing strategies and utilizing his creative direction to create spaces that yield a strong emotional connection. He has worked in the arts and community development sector for the past five years. @averellmondie

Alejandro Paredes is an audiovisual journalist and producer. In 2014 he visited Memphis for the first time and fell in love with the city. He has been involved in many initiatives to promote Latino culture, such as Cazateatro Bilingual Theatre Group, Ruta Memphis and New Mix FM. @panarkista

Bianca Phillips writes about vegan food (and shares images of everything she eats) on her blog, Vegan Crunk. She's the author of Cookin' Crunk: Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South. By day, she works as the communications coordinator for Crosstown Arts/Crosstown Concourse. She and her partner, Paul, are the proud parents of five cats and one very stubborn (but adorable) pit bull. @biancaphillips

Brad Pitts is an award-winning Memphis mixologist and beverage manager at the Germantown Performing Arts Center (GPAC). @lbradpitts   9   

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10  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

Riding the Waves


Third wave coffee culture has arrived in Memphis BY BIANC A PHILLIP S • PHOTOGR APHS BY BR ANDON DILL

Karen Lebovitz, owner of Otherlands Coffee Bar, has always made a community feel central to her Midtown shop.


hen Otherlands owner Karen Lebovitz opened her funky Cooper-Young coffee shop in 1994, the country was solidly in coffee’s “second wave”—when Starbucks was proliferating across the country and people began to gather at coffee shops, rather than simply enjoying a cup of Folgers at home. Karen never really intended to run a coffee shop. She’d moved her [now closed] futon business, Cottland Bedding, into one side of the space at 641 South Cooper Street and tried to find someone to run a coffee shop on the other side. “No one took the bait for the coffee shop, so I decided to do it,” Karen said. “I was coming from nowhere. I had been in the natural foods business and worked for restaurants, but I’d never done anything like this.”

She hired a friend and former social worker who’d recently moved to Memphis from Chicago, and that friend hired a Romanian immigrant who’d previously served as a barista at a Starbucks in Evanston, Illinois. At the time, independently owned coffee shops serving crafted coffee drinks were a new thing in Midtown Memphis. “When I opened, Java Cabana was here, but that was about it. Before that, it was just CK’s,” Karen says. Memphis remained solidly in coffee’s second wave long after some larger cities were moving into the third wave—when the focus shifted more toward the culinary appreciation of coffee, focusing on flavor, varietal and region. Third wave is often characterized by alternative coffee preparation (such as pourovers), lighter roasts and single origin coffees.   11   

Third wave coffee prioritizes equitable relationships over lower prices, says Lisa Toro, owner of City & State. It wasn’t until 2014 that Memphians were introduced to third wave coffee. In the spring of that year, Avenue Coffee opened near the University of Memphis. And toward the end of the year longtime Memphian Lisa Toro opened City & State, first with a pop-up and then with their Broad Avenue brick-and-mortar shop. Lisa’s primary focus with City & State was on the gift shop, which sells handcrafted goods created by makers mostly from outside of Memphis. But she also saw a need for a coffee shop on Broad. “[My husband, Luis Toro, and I had] traveled extensively, and we’d seen what was changing in coffee. And that was about sourcing, direct trade and fair pricing for coffee, and understanding the full cycle,” Lisa says. “We wanted to bring that global perspective and to celebrate that coffee, knowing what the farmers do and the risks they take to produce beautiful coffees.” And so the Toros decided to open City & State, helping introduce the city to pour-overs and lighter roasts. “Often, we’re getting over-roasted coffees in the Italian 12  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

fashion,” Lisa says. “Coffee beans are very similar to wine in that it’s the seed of a stone fruit, and you should get all kinds of flavor notes when you brew a cup of coffee. We’re trying to show people the other side of coffee.” While Lisa believes the best coffee is served black, she wanted to ease Memphians into coffee appreciation. City & State offers both unadulterated cups and sweetened latte drinks, so there’s a little something for everyone. “We knew we couldn’t come in and say, ‘We know more than everybody, and it’s our way or no way,’” Lisa says. “We still serve beautiful flavored lattes, and people should be able to enjoy coffee in any way they choose. “I’m nothing more than a customer who got more and more educated over time. I was a full-on pumpkin spice latte-loving mom six years ago. I never wanted to be so rigid that there wasn’t room for everybody. When we do our sweetened drinks, we think about the quality. We make the syrup in-house, or we use a smallbatch syrup maker out of Chicago.”

At Low Fi Coffee, owners David Pender (left) and Bailey Biggers work to help people abandon their assumptions about coffee.

By the end of 2017, coffee-loving Memphians were starting to get the hang of the third wave. So when a couple of Los Angeles transplants, Bailey Biggers and David Pender, opened their coffee pop-up, Low Fi Coffee, inside the [now closed] Bozwell + Lily pop-up boutique on North Main, some local coffee drinkers were ready to experience single origin coffee beans in their purest form—unsweetened and black. Low Fi may be the city’s only sweetener-free coffee shop. While they do offer various milks for coffee, the only sugar in the shop is a smidge of coconut sugar in the mocha drink. Customers are welcome to bring their own, but Bailey and David want people to try coffee in its purest form. “We explain why we don’t do sugar instead of just saying we don’t do it, and people are pretty thankful to have something unique and so thoughtful,” Bailey says. The business took off at Bozwell + Lily, and after a brief stint as a pop-up inside the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Low Fi set up shop inside Stock & Belle on South Main. The couple recently revitalized their space with new cabinetry, additional water lines and a nitro coffee setup. Low Fi uses only single origin beans, no blends. They source their coffee from small-batch, artisan roasters from across the country. “We see ourselves continually trying to push the boundaries of what people’s perception of coffee is,” says David. “We don’t want to ever be satisfied with our product to the point where we’re complacent about what we’re putting out. We’re constantly trying to get people to abandon their assumptions and help them open their minds.”   13   

Home roaster Tiffany Day first roasted beans on her porch with an air popcorn popper. The winter cold eventually drove her to buy a home roasting machine.

While Memphis was catching up to the third wave, some local coffee enthusiasts were experimenting with at-home roasting. Tiffany Day occasionally sells her home-roasted beans (under the brand Something True) with Lulu’s, a local vegan bakery co-op that sells at the Cooper-Young and downtown farmers markets, as well as hosting occasional brunch pop-ups. She started roasting beans on her porch with an air popcorn popper a couple of years ago. “You had to do it outside because the outer layer of coffee skin dries up and blows off, so it makes a huge mess,” says Tiffany. “I did it on my porch until we got into the thick of a Memphis winter. Then my air popper was not powerful enough to get hot enough outside to roast, so I invested in a home roasting machine.” Tiffany says that, when she was in college, she drank “dessert coffee,” which was mostly milk and sugar. But around 2010, about the same time she moved to Memphis, she started drinking her coffee black. Her interest in sourcing better coffee and trying it in different ways then developed over time. She was influenced by Memphis’s early artisan roasters, like Relevant Roasters (which folded into French Truck Coffee) and Reverb Coffee. A coworker introduced Tiffany to home roasting, and she’s never looked back. Today she orders green coffee beans from Sweet Maria’s, a coffee importer out of Oakland, California. Her favorites 14  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

are berry-forward Ethiopian beans or Kenyan coffees “with tomato-y notes or tea-like with citrusy cranberry and grape flavors.” “I’ve been in Memphis nine years now, and just seeing the growth of the coffee scene in Memphis has been wild,” says Tiffany. “I expect us to have more and more of these third wave specialty shops and more roasters. We have the Grind City Coffee Expo happening for the second time in March. That event shows how much coffee has grown in Memphis.” The first Grind City Coffee Expo was held in the spring of 2019 at Memphis College of Art and highlighted the growing Memphis coffee community with samples and brewing demonstrations. One featured company at Grind City was Vice & Virtue, a micro-batch, artisan roaster that started much in the same way as Tiffany. Since the expo, Vice & Virtue owners Tim and Teri Perkins opened their own third wave shop in the new Arrive hotel on South Main in November 2019. “I started out roasting at home for friends and family, as a way to get really good coffee cheaper,” says Tim. “I started with an old-school Whirly-Pop, a 1950s hand-crank popcorn popper. I eventually spent my bonus from my work as an attorney for AutoZone to buy a commercial coffee roaster.” The couple joined the specialty coffee association and went through their roaster training. In March 2017, they launched at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market, selling whole beans and fresh cups. These days, Vice & Virtue sells their beans at local grocery shops like The Curb Market and Cordelia’s Market. “I grew up thinking coffee was something you had to endure, not enjoy,” says Tim. “But I’d travel with work and go to these awesome coffee shops in L.A. and New York. I remember going to Blue Bottle Coffee in New York. They were the catalyst behind launching the third wave scene. “I had a cup of Kenyan peaberry. I was going to adulterate it and put all kinds of sugar in it, and the barista was just like, ‘Stop and just take a sip before you add anything,’” Tim recalls. “That totally changed my perspective on coffee. It was fruity and more tea-like, and that is what sparked my interest to delve deeper.” When Tim returned home to Memphis, he started ordering his coffee beans online, often paying up to $25 a bag with shipping. With his and Teri’s three or four cups each per day, the couple’s coffee habit had turned into a $150-a-month expense. That’s what led Tim to at-home roasting. “I’ve told Lisa at City & State that if she’d started a year before she did, we wouldn’t exist,” says Tim. “The only reason we started was because there was nowhere in Memphis to get great third wave coffee at the time.” In Vice & Virtue’s Arrive hotel location, they sell coffee drinks and whole beans alongside baked goods by Memphis baker

Ali Rohrbacher, of Hustle & Dough. Tim is most excited about their newest project there—barrel-aged coffee. “We’re trying to push boundaries and do fun things. We’ve teamed up with Blue Note Bourbon and have been barrelaging green coffee in Blue Note barrels,” says Tim. “When we launched the shop, we launched a barrel-aged coffee from Guatemala. That plays into the whole brand idea of Vice & Virtue. It embodies that concept.” As third wave expands in Memphis, local shops are experimenting with new ways of serving coffee. Low Fi is now offering coffee growlers and serving nitro coffee and teas, which are infused with tiny gas bubbles for a creamier mouthfeel. They’ve also launched boxed coffee and tea. “It’s like wine in a box but for cold brew and tea,” says Bailey. “You can heat them or serve cold. I’ve not seen anyone in the nation doing the box for cold brew.” City & State is bringing third wave outside the city limits to Germantown. The Toros partnered with Raw Girls to open a yearlong coffee shop/gift store/raw food pop-up in Saddle Creek in late October 2019. “A couple of my employees have been with me since we opened on Broad, and they remember what it was like to introduce this coffee in Memphis,” Lisa says. “Now we’re going back to those early days and bringing this into another market in Germantown. They haven’t really had this at all, so this is exciting to see what that looks like.” Meanwhile, second wave shops like Otherlands remain strong, filling the need for a gathering place and workspace with good coffee and a menu of sweet and savory food offerings. “I haven’t branched out into the different coffee methods,” Karen says. “Other people are filling that niche. But we have added some new things, like golden milk. And we make our chai from scratch using fresh ginger and herbs. I try to keep things as holistic as I can.” Karen isn’t worried about competition as Memphis coffee culture expands. Her shop has always been, first and foremost, about community. “All the coffee shops are so different, so there’s something for everybody,” she says. “Cheers was my inspiration, and it actualized itself at Otherlands. If someone comes in and someone else is sitting at their seat at the bar, they’ll say, ‘You’re in my seat.’” Meanwhile, Memphis is moving into coffee’s fourth wave, in which coffee purveyors not only pay close attention to roasting and brewing techniques but also ensure their beans are sourced in a socially conscious way—meaning the farmers are paid a living wage and the coffee is grown sustainably. In fact, many of Memphis’s third wave shops would actually be classified as fourth wave as well. “With the whole fourth wave thing, I’m not sure what the definition is,” Tim says. “But we’re trying to push boundaries and do fun things.” •

A desire for a good, less expensive cup of coffee led Tim and Teri Perkins to start roasting their own beans at home. In 2019 they opened Vice & Virtue’s first brick-and-mortar location inside Arrive hotel.   15   


GUJI MANE Memphis’s hip hop expression of fourth wave coffee MAURICE HENDER SON II • PHOTOGR APHS BY ZIGGY MACK

16  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

(From left) Maurice Henderson II, Daniel DeMire and DJ HD3

Joseph Jenkins (left) and Brian Williams II serve up brews at a Guji Mane launch party at City & State’s Broad Avenue location.


what if we released an Ethiopian coffee—and called it Guji Mane?” In July, Matt Mages—a storied local DJ that I’ve been collaborating with for most of 2019 through Cxffeeblack, the lifestyle brand I founded—asked me this question after a studio session. Ethiopian coffee isn’t the expected drink of choice for a hip hop studio that has recorded the likes of Memphis rap legends 8ball and MJG, but for us it was the norm. We spent most of the last two years recording live hip hop improvisation sessions over freshly brewed pour-overs. We called it On the Spot. Hip hop is all about the vibe, and although we all loved coffee, there was always some dissonance, getting coffee from third wave coffee shops and leaving to go record a bunch of freestyled bars over trap drums and blues guitar. When Matt suggested that we make our own brand of coffee, the idea felt impossibly perfect. It was so Memphis, and so indicative of all the things we wanted to see in the coffee industry, that we couldn’t help but dream about it for the next week. We were coffee nerds that were undeniably marked by Memphis rap music. Imagining a coffee narrative in homage of both of the most influential rappers from our teenage years and also one of the most influential coffee-producing regions in our coffee journey

felt unruly. It felt like a remix. It felt hip hop. It felt black. The problem, however, was that, though I was a passionate barista, I had little to no skill as a roaster. Because I wasn’t willing to compromise my love of perfectly brewed, flavorful coffee for my love of hip hop, I needed a roaster who created in that intersectional space. The next day, a Chicago indie rapper I followed on Instagram named @stvg7 posted a pic of a package of Ethiopian coffee he received in the mail. I was incredulous. I’d never met another rapper who was interested in coffee culture, much less a coffee roaster who sent sponsored coffee to rappers. I immediately DMed him and asked who the roaster was. To my surprise, the roaster had just moved to Memphis—Kenny Baker of Ethnos Coffee. The next few months moved pretty fast. My wife, Renata Henderson, known online as @browngirllettering, had an amazing idea for a watermark to to communicate the message we wanted to tell. Between her design chops, Ethnos’s roasting ability and the barista prowess of one of my homies in the coffee industry, Brian Williams II (one of French Truck’s top-tier baristas and a grad student at the University of Memphis studying the intersection of critical race theory and coffee culture), we dropped something that told the coffee story we always wished we had heard. A story where coffee is a natural extension of the black diaspora narrative.   17   

Guji Mane sold over 50 pounds in the first 10 days after its release. The creation of the Guji Mane mirrors the story of the music that inspired it. The name sampled indigenous African roots and chopped it over an undeniable trill aesthetic. It, like hip hop, was also the result of a multi-ethnic group of folks who didn’t know enough of the rules to realize they were breaking them. It was created without an abundance of resources. There were no label, no industry cosign and definitely no budget. It was made from black farmers in Ethiopia and marginalized Memphis creatives. We sold over 50 pounds in the first 10 days to a ragtag group of coffee lovers and hip hop aficionados. It spread from word of mouth, and we sold the fruit of our labor out of the trunks of our cars and at the ends of our concerts. I’m sure for some folks in the coffee industry our story isn’t much. But for a group of people who never felt represented in the coffee culture they patronized, it was revolutionary. It showed that hip hop culture, and more importantly unapologetically black folk, had a coffee story we could call our own. We always felt that coffee could be the most natural extension of our blackness, a natural extension of the uncouth creativity birthed out of lack and raw talent. One of the biggest revelations for me on my coffee journey was learning that coffee is not a generic burnt bean, but an African seed. For most of human history, since the fruit was discovered in Ethiopia, people have purchased the seeds raw and then roasted and brewed them in their own homes. In fact, in Ethiopia right now, coffee is sourced, roasted, ground and brewed by most citizens. It’s not a mysterious delicacy held for the bourgeoisie, but rather a rather a passion and craft for the people. The basic premise of what we’re labeling fourth wave coffee is that the elevation of product and indigenous personhood go hand in hand. There doesn’t have to be a dichotomy between quality of product and producer and the dignity and elevation of community and consumer. To quote Dr. King, our idea is that, in all aspects of creation, “we are all caught up in an inescapable 18  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

network of mutuality.” There can be no real empowerment of black and brown folks’ ancestral homes and cuisine without the elevation of their marginalized descendents across the border. This too is fair trade. Quality coffee should empower everyone involved in the process: from seed to shop to cup to community. I think it’s high time we imagine what that could look like, especially in quickly gentrifying black and brown communities. That starts with hip hop, and, if you ask me, it sounds something like a soul sample over Latin trap. Here are a few guiding principles based on some shops I’ve seen already employing these practices and some ideas we’ve been cooking up with the Cxffeeblack squad: • Informed communities make better customers. • Information is a tool for empowerment, not a weapon for exclusion. • Connecting a community to coffee’s origins helps connect the community to its own origin. • Extract flavor, not options. (See the next paragraph for more on this.) • Baristas should be educators. • Coffee should be shared, not served. Brian, who I mentioned earlier, served as community liaison and head barista for our first pop-up. He asked us if some of our ideas about fourth wave coffee could possibly displace the value of the modern barista. I understand the need to continue to fight for black representation and equitable barista treatment. However, I think this idea we’re calling fourth wave coffee makes well-educated and well-compensated baristas even more relevant. In many ways, third wave coffee is very restrictive: no sugar, no cream, no cash (debit only), limited hours, no diversity. They do this to protect the aura of the coffee. However, the goal of fourth wave coffee is actually to view pulling flavors out of coffee from the perspective of highlighting the possibilities in coffee, and from this create a culture that focuses on creating possibilities instead of limitations. Today’s reality, though, is that in most communities of color, baristas still are seen as agents of gentrification and colonization. They can represent everything wrong with coffee culture—but it doesn’t have to be so. In our first 10 days of creating Guji Mane, a pro-black coffee, over 90 percent of our sales were to black folks. It provided a really dope opportunity to empower them with something that they participate in every day. This opportunity is not unique to Cxffeeblack or Guji Mane or Memphis. I would argue that doing this actually gives people more joy and passion for the craft, more passion to invest as baristas and more understanding and willingness to support their cousins on the other side of the production chain. Every barista has the chance to view sharing coffee in communities of color as an opportunity to hand people a beautifully crafted reflection of themselves each day—to drink their coffee black. •

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RISING STAR (From left) Alfredo López, George Cervantes and Brandon Ornelas

BRINGING COOL TO CORDOVA Latino-owned Cool Beans brews local coffee with international flair BY ALE JANDRO PAREDE S • PHOTOGR APHS BY BREE Z Y LUCIA Brandon Ornelas’s quotations are translated from Spanish by Alejandro Paredes.


randon Ornelas has a talent for connecting with people. With the opening of his coffee shop, Cool Beans, inside Cordova International Farmer’s Market in September 2019, he now has a space in which to connect with people from all over the world every day. When he and his partners—cousin Alfredo López, sister Brisa Rodriguez and friend of the family George Cervantes— learned that the international market was looking to host a business within its property, they believed Cool Beans would be a natural fit. Because Alfredo already worked for the international market, it was an easy pitch. Brandon knew that Memphis had some great places to get a good hot brew after work, but he realized that none of them were in the Cordova area. “Sometimes you get home tired and you just don’t feel like driving half an hour and back to get a good cup of coffee, so we thought it would be cool to open a coffee shop here in Cordova,” he said. 20  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

Although he is originally from Mexico, Brandon has spent more than half of his 26 years in the Memphis area and he thrives on strengthening his community. “Midtown and downtown have some great coffee shops, and we thought, ‘We deserve one here too, something different from Starbucks,’” he explains. He and his partners had been exploring the idea of opening a business to serve the community for a while. At the core of Cool Beans is the idea of building a safe haven where people can talk to each other about their achievements and whatever may be troubling them, a place where they can get a cup of coffee and just hang out and talk. Brandon and company attend the same church, and, beyond a business, they view Cool Beans as a way to serve people. Originally they had the idea of a restaurant. But then they realized how demanding the business could turn out for five inexperienced entrepreneurs who would have to juggle studies, jobs, families and church duties. (Brandon is working towards a bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature at the University of Memphis.) When they decided on a coffee shop, there was a little problem.

“ONE OF THE BEST FEELINGS I GET FROM DOING THIS IS WHEN PEOPLE TELL ME THAT THEY GET MEMORIES FROM BACK HOME AFTER TRYING OUR COFFEE.” —BRANDON ORNELAS “All I knew about coffee was Folgers,” Brandon laughs. So he started researching, first by visiting local coffee shops and trying different types of brews, and then by talking to baristas. “Some of them would be really open and helpful,” he recalls. “Others would shut down, especially when I would tell them that I was planning to open my own coffee shop.” Then he met Benji Fulfer, formerly of Memphis Coffee Community and Dr. Bean’s Coffee and Tea Emporium, who provides consulting and training. “Meeting Benji was one of the doors that opened that made us think we were making the right decision,” says Brandon. Through Benji, Brandon and his family learned the art of brewing. “I had always thought specialty coffee was costly. But after learning what is behind it, I understood clearly why coffee culture is growing worldwide,” Brandon said. Benji was instrumental for the Cool Beans crew to understand how to fit into that culture and how to price their products. Other important partners are Ethnos Coffee and My Cup of Tea. With them, Brandon shares the passion of offering a delicious product to clients, and the mission of strengthening their communities. “I had heard great things about Ethnos Coffee from different people and obviously I liked the idea of using locally roasted coffee, but, when I finally met owner Kenny Baker, I felt right away that it would be an ideal partnership, not only because of the quality of his product, but because we are practically doing the same thing,” he says. Cool Beans has an eclectic menu. The specialty coffee is complemented with Mexican aguas frescas, traditional pastries from La Baguette and some Mexican bakery items from La Espiga. The horchata latte has proven to be very popular with customers, and he feels proud of incorporating his Mexican heritage into the world of coffee. “But what I really want is that, more than a good cup of coffee, people come here because they feel they are being taken care of,” Brandon says. “I want them to feel that it is worth it to stop by.” With that in mind, Brandon is studying how to expand their already varied offerings. “One of the best feelings I get from doing this is when people tell me that they get memories from back home after trying our coffee,” he says. So he’s started asking people what they would like to see in the coffee shop. Being located in the international market has allowed them to dream of adding some really exotic choices to their menu. Matcha and baklavas are already available some days; soon they want to have yerba mate, bubble tea and Turkish coffee. “These are delicious beverages but they also are part of a culture,” says Brandon. “So we are figuring out how to offer them in a way that is appealing for people who don’t know about it, but at the same time respectful of their origin, but with our own style.” • Cool Beans • 1150 North Germantown Parkway • Open daily 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Since deciding to open a coffee shop, Brandon Ornelas and family have been educating themselves on the art of brewing coffee.   21   

DARING DUO Amy and Hayes McPherson chose a 124-year-old building in a mostly disinvested area to serve as home to Comeback Coffee.

Y’all Come Back Comeback Coffee brings specialty coffee to the Pinch District BY BIANC A PHILLIPS • PHOTOGR APHS BY MICHAEL BUTLER, JR. 22  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020


hen he talks about what sets Comeback Coffee apart from other Memphis coffee shops, coowner Hayes McPherson doesn’t list their sustainably sourced beans, handcrafted flavoring syrups or fruity coffee sodas. Instead, he focuses on Comeback Coffee’s mission to make the customer feel like family. “I don’t think we’re better than any shop down the street. That’s not our goal,” says Hayes. “From the moment you walk in the door, we want you to feel like you’re a part of what’s happening here. As cliché as it sounds, we want you to feel like part of the family. We want the interactions to be good. We want the drinks and the food to be good. We want you to feel as comfortable as possible.” That’s reflected in the shop’s decor—a neon sign with the words “Stay Awhile” shines brightly over the open, inviting space with blonde wood accents and crisp white paint. Padded booths, leather couches and fabriccovered chairs were chosen with comfort in mind, says Hayes. Hayes and his wife, Amy, opened Comeback Coffee in March 2019 in the mostly disinvested Pinch District after they fell in love with the 124-year-old building at 358 North Main Street. The building, constructed in 1895, served as a private residence with an office in the front for years, but it was in need of plenty of structural and electrical repairs. Amy’s dad is a retired contractor, so the renovation project was a family affair. They retained the original window frames and doorframes and tried to maintain the space’s historic feel. A graphic designer by trade, Amy kept a Pinterest board of ideas inspired by her and Hayes’s travels. The end result was an open-air space with a clean, minimalist vibe, accented by plenty of plants hanging from wooden slats covering some of the old duct work. There’s a spacious courtyard patio, flooded with natural light, in the back. As for the coffee, Hayes admits that Comeback falls in line with the third wave philosophy of paying careful attention to the science behind brewing and the sourcing of sustainable coffee beans. But Hayes and Amy don’t love the term “third wave.” “Third wave has a connotation of pretentiousness, and that’s not what we’re shooting for, so we call it specialty coffee,” Hayes says. The house brew is made with beans from Methodical Coffee out of South Carolina, but they also feature other roasters from across the United States. “We support local roasters, and we love what’s happening in the coffee community here. We want them to be able to showcase their stuff here, and we also want to showcase what’s happening nationwide,” Hayes says. Their process for choosing roasters comes down to three factors: quality, ethical sourcing of coffee beans, and fair treatment of the roasters’ staff. All of Comeback’s flavored syrups, such as the seasonal smoked pecan syrup, are housemade. Hayes says every cup is “crafted to a science,” but Comeback doesn’t do pour-overs, which are typical of third wave coffee shops. “We focus on the drip, and we have really good drip,” he says. Comeback’s coffee bar features three taps. When they first opened, they experimented with nitro coffees, but Amy says they weren’t “super happy with it.” So now the taps feature Comeback’s flavored coffee sodas, which they’ve become known for. These carbonated coffee drinks are combined with handcrafted syrups to create unconventional flavors, like the strawberry lime coffee soda that they opened with and later replaced with their   23   

“As cliché as it sounds, we want you to feel like part of the family.” —HAYES M cPHERSON

Comeback has become known for its flavored coffee sodas. winning Orange Vanilla Cream Soda. (Their Orange Vanilla Cream Soda won first place in City & State’s third annual Cold Brew Throwdown back in September 2019.) “It sounds weird, and it doesn’t quite make sense, but it’s really good. Coffee soda is being done other places, but we’re doing it a little different,” Hayes says. When Comeback opened, they featured a full breakfast and lunch menu, but they’ve since scaled back to serve pastries, a couple of sandwiches and made-in-house cereals and oatmeal bowls. “Our kitchen is run by chef Cole Jeanes, and he has the same mindset about food as we do about coffee—that everything should look the best and taste the best,” says Hayes. Hayes and Amy are native Memphians who were familiar with the Pinch District’s rich history. The area, which is just east of the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid, served as the city’s first commercial center and was home to the city’s earliest immigrants. “We wanted to buy into something we felt good about, and we felt good about the history of this place and this district. At one point, this was Memphis. This was it,” Hayes says. The neighborhood was largely disinvested when they began renovating Comeback’s space. “It was a really risky decision,” says Hayes. “When we first started talking about this, a lot of people would tell us there was no way we’d succeed because there was no foot traffic, and we were nervous up until the day of opening. “But that first day we were open was overwhelming in the best way. There was a line out the door. I don’t know why we have a full 24  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

shop almost every day. But people get behind authentic things, and that’s what we’re trying to do.” Comeback has quickly gained a loyal following, despite being surrounded by empty buildings. In November, Food & Wine included Comeback in its 2019 list of the best coffee shops in America. Things are looking up in the Pinch lately. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is expanding their campus with a $412 million advanced research center, which is scheduled to open in 2021, and the convention center is under renovation. Both are expected to bring more traffic, and eventually business, to the Pinch District. “We’ve sat down with St. Jude and ALSAC, and they have been incredible partners. We’re excited about their developments and what that means for business and the community,” Hayes says. “We’re starting to see more little lots around us being bought up.” In mid-November, New York developer Tom Intrator proposed plans for a $1 billion Pinch development, which would include 942 residential units, two boutique hotels, 170,000 square feet of retail space and 222,000 square feet of office space. “I would love to see more locally owned retail shops,” Amy says. “Retail on the bottom floors, living space above.” As the district changes, Hayes and Amy plan to be faithful to Comeback’s mission of making customers feel like family. “This area has potential to be a real community spot,” adds Hayes. “Whatever happens around us, we’re staying true to that. We’re here for the ride anyway.” •

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How to get your coffee soda fix in Memphis BY S TACE Y GREENBERG PHOTOGR APH BY TIM BARKER

26  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

To carbonate their cold brew, Edge Alley uses High Cotton Brewing’s equipment.


everal years ago I ditched Diet Coke in favor of cold brew in the morning and La Croix in the afternoon. Then I started adding plain soda water to coffee concentrate, and it was like magic— coffee and bubbles together! Now I can get premium carbonated coffee in specialty coffee shops and, even better, coffee soda when I want a little sugar boost. My obsession has made me a bit of an expert on the history of coffee soda in Memphis and taught me all of the best ways and places to get it. My introduction to carbonated coffee was at City & State. Owner Lisa Toro was using a soda stream to carbonate cold brew in small batches to use in specialty drinks. Somewhere along the way, she let me try it black, and I was hooked. However, like so many other coffee drinks, it was seasonal. (There was a brief but beautiful moment in time when their sister restaurant, The Liquor Store, had it on tap.) City & State now stocks canned Matchless Coffee Soda from Nashville year round. Served on ice with an orange peel, this delightfully fizzy treat is subtly flavored with orange and slightly sweet. It’s made from coffee from Nashville’s own Steadfast Coffee Roasters and is very drinkable. Like, put-Coke-out-of-business drinkable. There’s only one catch—it’s 150 calories per can. Note: We have our own locally canned coffee, and it’s quite tasty, but not carbonated. Wiseacre Brewing is all about the beer, but they can a Metropolis Coffee (from Chicago) cold brew too. The Wiseacre folks worked on the blend for about a year and a half and finally decided on a Brazilian (70 percent) and Guatemalan (30 percent). It is only available for sale in the taproom for now, but there are plans to distribute in stores. Another coffee/beer collaboration is happening at Edge Alley, which shares a space with High Cotton Brewing. Edge Alley’s carbonated coffee (aka unsweetened magic) is for purists and is my absolute go-to. First they roast the beans, then they make a cold brew, and finally they use the High Cotton’s equipment to carbonate it. Edge Alley owner Tim Barker says that the roast is typically a natural process Brazil but that occasionally they’ll add a bit of Colombia if they need to boost the acid balance. It needs no sugar or creamer. One icy cup will get you jazzed. Two is too much. The carbonation is so perfect that it can withstand overnight refrigeration. I dream of the day when this is canned, but for now the bulk option is to fill a growler. Comeback Coffee opened in March with a fruity coffee soda that put coffee soda on the radar of many coffee drinkers. Owner Hayes McPherson explained that they rotate the coffee based upon what’s available seasonally. After September’s Cold Brew Throwdown, they updated their seasonal draft with their


City & State: Matchless Coffee Soda Edge Alley: carbonated in-house Comeback Coffee: seasonal draft


Vice & Virtue cold brew + tonic water + squeeze of grapefruit

Dr. Bean’s cold brew concentrate + Topo Chico French Truck concentrate + La Croix Wiseacre canned cold brew + SodaStream first place Orange Vanilla Cream Soda. They create their own syrup by juicing fresh oranges and combining the juice with their homemade vanilla simple syrup. Then they add flashchilled coffee and carbonate it in house. (Flash chill is essentially brewing hot coffee over ice. This helps retain the flavor profile of the coffee and is fresher than typical cold brew.) They pull it on tap in the shop and top with oat milk. It’s delicious. But just remember that, if you’re counting your calories, they add up fast with the simple syrup and oat milk. Over the summer, I discovered that Vice & Virtue was offering a grapefruit coffee tonic at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market. They switched to hot coffee for the winter market, but you can definitely make this one at home. Make some Vice & Virtue cold brew; then add a splash of tonic water (about 12 calories per ounce) and a squeeze of fresh grapefruit juice. So simple and so good. (The Vice & Virtue shop inside Arrive hotel has a barrel-aged bourbon latte on tap; it’s creamy rather than carbonated, but still in the delicious category.) For those who are wary of developing a $5 a day coffee soda habit, here are a couple of other economical ways to enjoy this treat at home: Buy a bottle of Dr. Bean’s cold brew concentrate from the Puck Food Hall and add Topo Chico, or buy some French Truck concentrate at Whole Foods and add some regular La Croix to it. Better yet, put Wiseacre’s canned cold brew in your SodaStream. •

Edge Alley’s carbonated coffee (aka unsweetened magic) is for purists and is my absolute go-to.   27   



and the work of



How one ex-Starbucks manager is pushing against the status quo BY ANDY MEEK • PHOTOGR APHS BY AVERELL MONDIE

“We can highlight and throw a filter on our favorite latte, but on the other end of the value chain ... there are a lot of producers and exporters who are suffering,” says Zan Roach. 28  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020


an Roach may qualify as the most philosophical member of the coffee scene in Memphis. As much a deep thinker and intellectual about the value chain and the seed-to-cup path of coffee as he is with, you know, pouring you a delicious cup of joe that you immediately want to Instagram. For proof, just look to Boycott Coffee, the name of the enterprise that Zan started as an Instagram account, which eventually took on something of a life of its own, incorporating disparate elements like a coffee pop-up that was called Drink Humanely. Boycott Coffee. It’s provocative, isn’t it, when the name of your brand kind of rails against the very thing you’re doing? Then again, that’s Zan’s point and what he’s all about. This ex-Starbucks manager grew disillusioned with the overly pretty, heavily filtered, sanitized, cutesy-latte-art-driven side to the coffee scene that he saw taking hold both here and elsewhere. Which is why, when he’s not roasting coffee for other entities around town like Edge Alley, you can find him leaving his musings about what he likes and doesn’t like about the coffee industry at @boycottcoffee, where at the end of September 2019 he left a kind of personal manifesto (of the sort that’s definitely not what you hear in the typical coffee klatch): “I have had [a] personal dilemma with a few things,” he writes. “1.) Building coffee spaces for others but with my presence sort of lingering. 2.) Qualifying worth and sense of belonging in a space that has been fueled by an industry erected out of colonial rule ancestral to me is a zero sum game I don’t have the gusto to play—but I’m involved in and benefit from daily. “In Memphis, we have community leaders, old and young, coming forth to speak and push for not just a better future but a just and wealthy present. I belong to a race and grew from a class that has made the hardships and current devaluation of people like this and all along the coffee value chain a horrendous reality. … I can make friends and have professional relationships with POC in the coffee scene, or migrants, or LGBTQ—and things in this city can improve greatly for members of those communities— but there is still a rung of this misshapen societal ladder that bears my name that will need to be dismantled. That will need to be removed and repurposed. I am the type of coffee that I Boycott.” Like we said, definitely not the kind of thing that hits you when you step through the door at Starbucks to order a venti latte, or when you’re sitting down to enjoy pastries at Café Eclectic or wherever else (chain or local) you get your caffeine fix. “Boycott really started on Instagram,” Zan tells Edible Memphis. “Not out of frustration about where the coffee industry was going, but more of just kind of an effort to spotlight particular issues. Anything from barista and worker rights to the potential for career growth. It evolved into how we were talking about coffee.” He wasn’t in a kind of clenched-fist, activist stance about his passions at that point, he explains: “I think at the time there   29   

At Café English, all drinks are $2, and World Relief ’s refugee clients get theirs for free.

was a lot of language and kind of a café culture that was springing up and focused more on the aesthetics of coffee—Instagram, kind of the allure of café culture—versus what is actually happening on the ground. Where crops aren’t yielding or production costs are outweighing value received. “It was like, we can highlight and throw a filter on our favorite latte, but on the other end of the value chain, on that side of the whole bean-to-cup scenario, there are a lot of producers and exporters who are suffering. It’s teetering on exploitation.” If you’re Zan, Drink Humanely was one way to push back on that, against the status quo. It was a manifestation of the Boycott Coffee M.O., as summarized in Drink Humanely’s very first Instagram post: “We care. We source ethically. We reduce waste and compost. We infuse vitality into your sipping routine. We believe in the future of our fellow Memphians.” Get it? The concept is coffee, but it’s also about much more than just the coffee. Coffee shops are limited, in a way, because they’re among those kinds of places where everyone coming through the front door has certain expectations about what they’ll see and encounter and the product they’re about to consume. Is there a place for a different approach, one that cares as much about everything you don’t see—from worker wages to how coffee is sourced to providing an opportunity for a career and not just a low-wage job where a proverbial clock is punched—as the transaction between barista and customer? Zan is betting—OK, hoping—that there is. “For the majority of my coffee experience, I’ve had no reason to love it or even enjoy it,” he says. “If the people I was immediately surrounded by (customers, coworkers) weren’t bringing me a sense of community, then it was just a job. Coffee as a profession, even now, yields minimal rewards. Only recently has there been a shift in that feeling for many across the board, and I think that’s due to people meeting (either because of conventions or Instagram communities) and talking about issues we face, big and small,” says Zan. “Finding a place in the industry where I can contribute to 30  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

sharing an appreciation of the realities many people face along the value chain and helping to adjust our perspectives and behaviors of how producers and consumers can and should socially and economically interact is what has made me really fight for a time when people can love coffee. Not because it looks or tastes good, but because of the lives it’s enriching. That time is not now, but people are getting around to talking about it. ... It’s a worthwhile period for people in the industry at any level to get a bit more involved.” Café English, the café at Connect Language Center, in partnership with World Relief, is a Boycott Coffee program that works to create a safe and constructive space for conversation between ESL students (mostly from coffee-producing regions) and American, English-speaking volunteers. “The idea here is that while there’s a huge need to establish technical language skills in a classroom environment, there’s also an equally measurable need to build confidence in speaking English as a new language outside of the classroom. This space does that over specialty café beverages, including oat milk and crafted syrups, with coffee roasted by Boycott Coffee,” says Zan. “We price all our beverages (no matter what it may be) at $2 by taking an average cost. For $20, each ESL student/volunteer/ staff gets 10 drinks of their choosing, and refugee clients of World Relief get theirs free. “The biggest thing in the coffee specialty industry is that, if we are to benefit from this crop, then we must acknowledge the people who come from or live in the countries where it is produced. Producers are not being supported, even at ‘fair trade’ prices, and it is causing an international coffee crisis.” • Café English is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., with plans underway to operate in the mornings. Follow Boycott Coffee on Instagram for the latest on their plans to open a new pop-up at the Commonwealth. @boycottcoffee

Local coffee experts share their knowledge S TORY AND ILLUS TR ATIONS BY ERIN KIM

32  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020


s an ex-barista who has worked in both corporate and specialty coffee shops, I have long wanted to see if there was a way to bridge the worlds of knowledge and creativity to make coffee more accessible to a wider audience. To do my small part in building that bridge, I sat down with a half dozen coffee experts from across the city. We had honest conversations about their experiences with coffee in Memphis, how they like to brew at home, their “magic moments” in coffee drinking and more.

Maurice Henderson ii • Cxffeeblack

About: Maurice Henderson II (aka Bartholomew Jones) is an educator at Aster College Preparatory Charter School, a hip hop artist and one of the founders of Cxffeeblack. For a minute, he was working the coffee bar at Society Memphis skatepark when the venue first opened. He started geeking out on coffee years earlier while he was at Wheaton College after a Bible study leader, who worked at Starbucks, introduced him to an Americano. He asked questions, invested in equipment and began a trial-and-error process of at-home brewing. I started talking more to Maurice because we both were minorities in specialty coffee. He understood the plight that a lot of us face in realms where we do not feel comfortable and are expected to advocate in predominantly white environments for a product grown by people of origin. Maurice unites the technicalities of specialty coffee brewing and the beauty of its origins to make it more accessible to communities of color. At home: Maurice uses the AeroPress to brew Guji Mane, his own roast by Ethnos Coffee. It’s a natural Ethiopian with caramel and raspberry notes and a full body. He uses The Stubby recipe by Brian Beyke from Abandon Coffee. Its fast brew time and affordability make it an attractive method for the novice, but it has remained a staple for most professionals as well. “The con is that it’s harder to repeat perfectly because you have a lot more physical labor; the varying physicality of each person affects the final product,” he says. Moment: The bloom. “The aromatics and seeing the carbon dioxide being released are the sweet spots,” he says. Advice: He urges homebrewers not to be afraid to get curious. “Don’t let the knowledge you gain by being curious stop someone else from being curious,” he says. “Don’t conflate knowledge with worth. The knowledge ... people gain about coffee should cause them to be better people and should cause them to help other people be better. We should be lifting people up. It should make us excited to show things to other people, not excited to snark on people because they don’t know things.”

AT HOME Brian Williams II • French Truck

About: Brian Williams II is a barista I met through the Cxffeeblack movement, which has made him feel ownership and pride in his role as a barista in the city and outward. “There’s this stereotype that baristas are over-caffeinated socialists, Vanswearing coffee snobs with tattoos,” he says. “But we are normal people, and I want to connect with human beings by breaking bread.” When Brian enters a coffee shop, he takes note of the demographics of the baristas and clientele. If he’s going to return to a shop, he wants to feel like he belongs and like he can bring his whole social-justice-warrior, Guatemala-pour-over-drinking self into a space. “Nashville sold their soul to get those great coffee shops, but Memphis hasn’t,” he explains. I don’t want to knock down Nashville’s scene, but I agree with Brian on this. When it comes to preserving grit, the Grind City stands out. At home: Brian is brewing Guji Mane by Cxffeeblack and Ethnos or the Guatemala by French Truck in a French press. The French press receives heavy criticism from many, but Brian loves the oils swirling on top with a heavy, full-bodiedness leaving a bit of sludge in the cup. Moment: “When you plunge down the grounds and elevate the coffee—what’s extracted from the grounds. I’m awestruck by the science but also from what was created from elements that were separated from each other,” says Brian. Advice: “Slow down from time to time,” he says. “Get Curious. Ask questions. Come back to the shop. There’s a reason why people are spending money and taking time on it [food, art, music, etc.]. When you’re doing coffee tastings, there is room for subjectivity when everyone else is tasting the same thing.”

Caleb Knight • Formerly with French Truck and Vice & Virtue

About: After doing stints with Vice & Virtue and French Truck, Caleb Knight has some thoughts about coffee. We talked about becoming over-caffeinated while flavor profiling as baristas with anxiety and how to better the reputation of decaf coffee. “Why does it always taste like hot dogs?” Caleb jokes. While he was with Vice & Virtue, the baristas all agreed not to get a decaf until they found a good one. “We got a Colombia, sugarcane-processed decaf,” he says. “It’s super fruity, super crazy and awesome. I can explore that, and have fun with it, and not feel like I have to limit myself. I can push the boundary of making six brews and trying the nuances of it.” As baristas, you are always tasting coffees and checking espresso throughout the shift. Having a lot of anxiety without the caffeine can make for a difficult shift, but maybe there’s hope for those of us more prone to become shaky after dialing in.   33   

“Don’t let the knowledge you gain by being curious stop someone else from being curious.” —MAURICE HENDERSON II

At home: Caleb uses a V60 or AeroPress and is most likely brewing the tasty decaf —Desvelado from Huila, Colombia— from the shop. “You have the freedom of investing as much as you want in brewing equipment at the beginning, but if you’re gonna dish out for something, it should be the grinder,” he says. (This answer was the same across the board with baristas. The size of the grounds determines how long the flow lasts after each pour.) Caleb uses the Baratza Encore burr grinder. It’s great for entry-level usage but still has a plethora of customizable settings. He also notes: “When you’re at home, waste doesn’t have to happen as much as it does. Compost your grounds if you have the option. Chill your ‘mess ups’ and use them for fun cocktail stuff or cooking.” Moment: “When you’re in a space long enough, the smells become neutral to you. When I’m grinding the coffee, that’s when I smell it and am like, ‘That’s it.’ It’s me introducing something into my space that serves a function,” he says. Advice: “I think the whole fun of coffee, because I try not to see the world too seriously, is playing with variables, making mistakes and learning what the palette likes,” he says. “And not being too quick to toss your ‘bad coffee’ out. Drink it. You might find you notice something about the coffee you may not have noticed previously. Add creamer. We’ve gotten so pretentious about adding things to coffee. Sometimes I love to add a super sweet cream my [former] boss makes. And I don’t feel guilty about it.”

Erik Rocha • Starbucks Coffee Community



About: Erik Rocha is the store manager of one of the busiest Starbucks in Memphis. Just like anyone who oversees a business, he has to balance quantity and quality. He hosts coffee tastings, and, if a customer’s favorite roast is no longer on bulk brew for the day, he’ll suggest and explain a pour-over. As important as it is for the customer to feel educated, it’s even more important for baristas to own the customer’s experience and aim for quality. When you’re excited about something, you’ll become an advocate for it. “Service first, but also don’t forget that this thing that we’re serving is special,” says Erik. Ethiopia Yirgacheffe by Starbucks was the first coffee in which Erik tasted intense blueberry flavor notes. After the first few sips,

he couldn’t believe there wasn’t a sugar sweetener or flavoring. This coffee was featured at Starbucks Reserve stores equipped with the Clover, an automated inverse French press machine. It was a lot of people’s first touch with the concept of single-brewing methods. Erik then started venturing out to shops like Barista Parlor in Nashville to try this wave of coffee that hadn’t hit Memphis yet. “It was a $10 cup of green-tip Panama Gesha from Verve,” he said. Surprisingly, he was less than impressed by the exclusive roast; the experience served as a reminder that specialty coffee is subject to the individual’s taste buds. At home: In the mornings, Eric brews some natural Ethiopia Yirgacheffe by Tandem using the V60 or AeroPress. Erik sips on some Ethiopian espresso by Ruby Coffee Roasters as a midafternoon pick-me-up. It takes about 15 or 20 minutes for his Breville Dual Boiler to heat up the water, and dialing in takes time. He’s grinding on an impressive Olympus 75E shop grinder. It’s heavy-duty and larger than what you find in most homes. Advice: “Specialty coffee at home is a rabbit hole,” he says. “You can spend thousands of dollars. It’s not that hard to get started. Get a decent burr grinder, a scale and a way to heat water—you can make great coffee. Numbers are just numbers. Numbers don’t tell you how something tastes. It’s OK to chase that perfect 44-second extraction, but, if it doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing.”

Tiffany Day • Home Roaster and Dr. Bean’s Coffee and Tea Emporium

About: Tiffany Day has recently started barista training at Dr. Bean’s, is a third of LuLu’s, and roasts her own beans at home. She started in 2017, experimenting with an air popper she found at Goodwill. “The least committal way to start is using an old air popcorn popper. It’s a low investment and allows you to just try it out,” she says. She invested in a Gene Café in January 2018. “It all felt a bit more official,” she says. “I could adjust the temp during the roast. I could track things and streamline the process. I was also able to stay inside.” Tiffany got her first set of green (raw) beans from a friend who had just quit drinking coffee and had a lot to offer. Once she began roasting more frequently, she turned to Sweet Maria’s, based in Oakland, California. It’s a good, ethically sourced option   35   

for home roasters due to the advantageous batch sizes ranging from one to 25 pounds. Sweet Maria’s has a very reputable and open relationship with their farmers, to the point that they include the cupping notes from them. Coffees are seasonal, so one roast isn’t guaranteed all year long. It encourages roasters and baristas to be more flexible in trying new batches. At home: Tiffany is using the Hario V60 for most of her morning brew but sometimes goes to the AeroPress or Moka pot for espresso. For a bigger batch, she will use the Chemex. She has her own natural Ethiopian and washed Kenyan and the Sumatra Survivor’s Roast by Dr. Bean’s. Advice: “Do it if you’re having fun with it. If it gets to a point where it’s frustrating to you, don’t do it. Find another brewing method that you enjoy,” she says. “In some ways, I feel like not such a great coffee ambassador. Drink it or don’t. Coffee’s not for everyone. Caffeine’s not for everyone. If someone is wanting to get into pour-overs at home, I would say to just pick a system. Look up YouTube videos.”

Katie Wells • City & State

About: Katie Wells was one of the first people I met when I frequented City & State on Broad, and she helped train me when I was working there as a barista. Their staff has always created a welcoming and intentional environment when it comes to learning about “fancy coffee.” Katie, who serves as director of operations, has been with City & State since the beginning and has learned how to innovate both coffee and retail. Katie marries the importance of quality in both customer service and product. She highlights that a person’s introduction to something new is how they will continue to grow in it. It will affect what kind of respect and attention small-lot coffee farmers receive from the masses. At home: Katie is currently brewing Koke Ethiopia from Edison Roasters on her Kalita. “The Kalita—its flat bottom is more consistent and produces a product with a fuller body. Brewing at home is definitely affordable,” she says. Katie’s first setup was a $10 AmazonBasics scale, a V60 under $20, an Amazon gooseneck under $20, and a Mr. Coffee grinder from Goodwill. Her current setup is worth about $400. “It was a choice that has changed over time,” she says. Moment: “The pour after the bloom is most satisfying visually,” she says. “It looks like a crema on an espresso.” Advice: For those beginning to venture into pour-overs at the shop or home, Katie recommends beginning with an easy Colombian with their traditional chocolate and subtle light citrus notes. “It starts getting you into that territory, but it’s not going to be super fruity like an Ethiopian or super tangy like a Kenyan,” she says. “It’s an approachable origin.” • 36  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

@sillygoosememphis 100 Peabody Place 901.435.6915

Charles Billings (left) and Albert Bean enjoy collaboration with other business owners inside Puck Food Hall. 38  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020


The Doctor Is In Meet the duo behind Dr. Bean’s Coffee and Tea Emporium—and, yes, Dr. Bean really is a doctor BY ERIK A C AIN • PHOTOGR APHS BY JUS TIN FOX BURK S


lbert Bean and Charles Billings are a match made in business. Albert owns Dr. Bean’s Coffee and Tea Emporium, and Charles is head roaster and director of operations. Together they create some of Memphis’s finest specialty coffee and tea. Their version of a vanilla latte is a top seller, and seasonal drinks like the Campfire Latte, which uses a bourbon-infused simple syrup (made from sugar, cherry wood-smoked water and bourbon) as its base, continue to wow customers. Albert’s relationship with coffee began while he was in medical school at Vanderbilt University. What he considered a solution to conquering intense studies turned out to be a way of life and community. Born in Naples, Italy, Albert was immersed in societal customs as a little lad. Having a military dad, he resided in many diverse places—Hong Kong, the Philippines and both U.S. coasts, to name a few. Having to relocate often taught him to communicate well with people and to find common ground very quickly. While living in Japan, he became accustomed to drinking lots of tea, which carried over into his adulthood. Although his medical schooling was many years ago, Albert remembers those days vividly, even down to describing his dorm room’s bay windows, plants, little tea set and Japanese table with pillows that once belonged to his parents. A tea drinker at heart, he quickly had to immerse himself into the world of coffee to stay awake to study for his most challenging courses. This was prior to fancy coffeehouses, when a regular cup of Folgers was good enough. When Albert’s dad retired from the military, they discussed opening a café, with coffee in mind. The only problem was they knew very little about coffee. “I didn’t know how coffee was roasted or stored,” says Albert. “I just imagined big brown bags, not knowing this was a living thing that just can’t lie around.” The idea was put to rest for a time. Albert graduated medical school in 1994 and has been practicing emergency medicine since 1998, with both the Baptist and Methodist systems. From sniffles to gunshot wounds, he has been impacted by multifaceted circumstances. “Emergency medicine allows you to see the blessings of birth and, hopefully, the dignity of death—and everything in between,” says Albert.

After hiking in Panama in 2009, Albert once again had thoughts of pursuing a coffee business. During his trip, he toured a coffee farm in Boquete and was intrigued long after. The Panama farm enlightened his view on the entire coffee-making process, from planting seedlings, to proper roasting, to topping off a perfectly brewed cup of flavor. This was enough to inspire Albert to return to school to become a barista. He received education and training in specialty coffee at Bellissimo Coffee Advisors in Portland, Oregon. Unbeknownst to Albert, his then next-door neighbor Charles Billings would later become his business partner. Charles worked in hospitality and was well versed in running restaurants. “Albert and I lived next door in Cooper-Young in 2000,” says Charles. “I was in the hospitality industry, while Albert was in the medical field. Needless to say, we became friends, not only due to the commonality of our careers—emergency medicine services what ails you, and restaurants service what sustains you—but also the odd hours we kept.” Albert moved to Harbor Town in 2004, but reconnected with Charles in 2012. “Our conversations always implied that sometime we should open something together,” says Charles. “And one night while I was working, Albert came into my place with the answer: coffee.” The idea of Dr. Bean’s Coffee and Tea Emporium was sparked. With Albert’s medical science background and Charles’s culinary arts and cocktail skills, they set about combining elements into the handcrafted science of the drinks they produce today. Albert and Charles returned to Bellissimo Coffee Advisors to receive training together, mainly to ensure their knowledge and skills were calibrated and in accord. They also trained in a roasting course at Coffee Lab International in Waterbury, Vermont. However, Charles soon found out that he had cancer, which set back the business venture, but not his spirit. “I’ve always been a ‘look on the bright side’ person, and that’s how I chose to fight cancer,” he says. “Before cancer, I was a workaholic, absentee father, husband and friend. I took my role as provider to extremes, and that dampened my relationships because work always came first. What I would soon learn is that I could balance both work and my personal life.” Coffee gave Charles the passion to grow and heal, and he’s been in remission for several years.   39   

40  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

Photographs: Lindsay Morris

Dr. Bean’s roasts have earned them awards from several national competitions.

The duo didn’t start selling coffee immediately, as they strived to ensure their product would be worthy of buying. “Coffee has to be prepared properly—from the beginning soil, to storage in the warehouse, to how it’s roasted and, finally, to the brewing process of the barista,” Albert stresses. Their first roast was Isotope 72, consisting of chocolate, caramel and berry flavors. All of their coffee selections have natural, authentic flavors that are specific to where the beans come from. They visit with their partnering farmers to see firsthand the quality and grooming of their product. Albert and Charles have built intentional relationships directly with their farmers, and their inspired stories of family and community are incorporated within their flavors. “If we think it’s amazing, we want Memphians to try it too,” says Albert. The Dr. Bean’s brand is instilled with a love for serving people. Albert’s compassion for people and community naturally spills over from his calling to serve in the field of medicine and even prepared him for the news of Charles’s illness. On the upside, Charles is in his fifth year of remission and looking forward to what life has to offer. “The community that gave me the energy to heal from cancer has inspired my philosophy of building community through coffee,” says Charles. Dr. Bean’s has partnered with many area businesses including The Curb Market, Muddy’s, Cordelia’s Market and The Hub, with the desire to expand to other partners as the company grows. Opening in Puck Food Hall downtown has given Albert and Charles a community of other artisans to complement their coffee. “The idea of having the option of gelato or bagels and how multiple vendors can cross-pollinate each other was amazing to me,” says Charles on their decision to open there. “Everyone there is really working hard to collaborate and lift each other up. So far we’ve exceeded our expectations and are getting close to beating our projections.” Dr. Bean’s has created award-winning coffee—Tariku Mengesha, Bedhatu, Hue Blend and their inaugural roast, Isotope 72. They hold many awards from several national competitions, including America’s Best Espresso and Golden Bean, where they created 23 roasts, winning 17 medals against 450 competing roasters. One of their special roasted flavors is Survivor’s Roast. “It’s a celebration of my five-year cancer remission anniversary that was May 21,” says Charles. “We are donating $5 of each bag sold to the UT/West Cancer Center. Considering that we’ve been roasting for a little bit over five years, my cancer story and our coffee story intertwine into where we are today.” And remember that Panama coffee farm Albert toured back in 2009? Today Dr. Bean’s sells Elida Estate coffee from that same farm. For the long-term, a flagship store is in the works. “It’s a very intensive and intentional project that will give us the opportunity to really highlight our passion for the science of coffee and tea,” says Charles. •

Dr. Bean’s Survivor’s Roast celebrates Charles Billings’s five-year cancer remission anniversary.   41   


R O G E R (S) T H AT ! Go for the coffee—stay for the bike trails and beer BY STACE Y GREENBERG • PHOTOGR APHS BY RICHARD L AWRENCE


requent trips to Low Fi made me an Onyx Coffee Lab fan. When Bailey Biggers, Low Fi co-owner, told me that Onyx was opening a new headquarters in Rogers, Arkansas, I immediately wanted to go. I had visited Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in nearby Bentonville a couple of years earlier and had done a quick drive-by in Rogers, so I was somewhat familiar with the area. When I told friends that Richard—my favorite dude/emergency contact/photographer—and I were headed to Rogers for the weekend, I was met with blank stares. Here’s a breakdown of the area known as Northwest Arkansas: It includes Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville—the third, fourth, eighth and 10th largest cities in Arkansas. Rogers has a population of about 55,000 according to the 2010 census, but judging from the Walmart boom, I’d guess it’s grown a lot since 2010. In a nutshell, Walmart has brought people from all over the world to work in Northwest Arkansas. As a result, there are all of the things that young professionals like—cute condos, bike trails, third wave coffee, yoga studios, breweries, fancy restaurants, art and so on.   43   

The building that houses Onyx headquarters once served as storage for trains. Now, in addition to Onyx, the building is home to apartments, restaurants, event spaces and more. It’s in the middle of downtown Rogers, a walkable area perfect for a weekend getaway.

Our Airbnb

The Onyx headquarters is in the center of downtown Rogers, and its building includes several Onyx-owned spots: a massive Onyx coffee shop; Doughp (pronounced “dope”), a full bakery and kitchen that supply the coffee shop and cater events; an event space called Dry Storage; and a speakeasy called The Foreman. Additionally, the space houses Yeyo’s, a Mexican restaurant owned by chef/ farmer Rafael Rios; 11 apartments, including one we rented for the weekend through Airbnb; and Heirloom, an intimate, hidden, 20-seat, tasting-menu restaurant that serves a multi-course prefix dinner by reservation only three or four nights a week. We arrived late Saturday afternoon and easily parked in front of the Onyx building near the entrance to Yeyo’s (which was sadly under the final stages of construction during our visit) to find our apartment for the weekend. The Airbnb was a very hip space with a giant glass, garage-style door that let in tons of light. (It looked like it opened, but we never figured out how.) The kitchen and stylish living space were downstairs, and the cozy bedroom and spacious bathroom were upstairs. “Yep, I could live here,” I thought. Since it was leaning towards evening, we freshened up and went out to explore downtown Rogers. Sadly, we missed the farmers market by a few hours, but we would have been able to walk to it easily. (It runs on Saturdays, May to October, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) I saw a sign for pupusas next to the Jiffy Kwick mart on South Arkansas Street on our drive in and told Richard we were going there first. They make about 450 pupusas under two tents every Saturday and sell them for $1 each. I didn’t get to see the pupusas being made, but I did buy a few before they were gone. 4 4  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

Onyx Coffee Lab Doughp


Ozark Beer Company

We carried them down a few blocks to the Ozark Beer Company brewery and taproom, built in a century-old flour mill. They have lots of outdoor seating and a permanent food truck. It was pretty hot, so we went inside to sit at the bar. Naturally, I ordered the Onyx Coffee Stout (5.3% abv). It’s a milk stout featuring French-roasted, coldextracted Red Queen and Mexico Zongozotla coffee. In the spring, Ozark hosts the Rituals festival to bring together third wave coffee and craft beer. There’s no date set yet for this year, but I am totally going. I’ll admit, the new Ozark Hard Water (5% abv), available on tap in grapefruit, strawberry lime and pineapple coconut, also caught my eye. I’m not a White Claw type of person, but a locally crafted hard water? I can get behind that. It really tasted good, but so much like bubbly water that I deemed it too dangerous for day drinking. (They also had kombucha and wine available, which would shut up a lot of Memphis people who complain about breweries only selling beer. Ha!) The bartenders were really nice, and, maybe because Richard had his camera, everyone was curious about where we came from and who we were. Before we knew it, Teddy, the head brewer who moved to Rogers from Austin, came out and chatted us up. Soon Richard was off on a tour of the brewery and later returned with a four-pack of smallbatch cans that Teddy wanted us to try. I love Arkansas. Ozark beer is not for sale in Tennessee, but you can find it in West Memphis. And, yes, the hard water can be found in cans too, but only in grapefruit for now. About their food truck. It’s called Three Cents an Acre (that’s what Napoleon paid for the Louisiana Purchase), and it features realdeal, chef-driven Cajun cooking. Chef Mike Robertshaw grew up in Fayetteville, but his mom is from Hammond, Louisiana. Some of the things we tried and highly recommend: the fried chicken poboy with pimento cheese and bacon; the fried chicken, grits and greens bowl; and the “lushpuppies” (“crispy floofs, cheesy, honey, jalapeño spice, sea salt and lemon”).   45   

Crystal Bridges If you’re looking for a fancier meal, check out Heirloom inside of Onyx. As I mentioned, they do 20-seat tastings with seven to 10 courses three or four days a week. The only problem is that the dinners sell out months in advance. So you’ve got to be on the ball. The good news is, they often do “pass throughs” at the window by the Onyx patio, so if you time it right, you can get some of their delicious food to go. We did get to check out The Foreman bar, which is open in the upstairs of Onyx from 4 p.m. to “late.” It’s the type of bar where the bartenders seriously geek out on the drinks and may pay more attention to each other than to you, but they know what they are doing and the cocktails are top notch. It wasn’t super crowded when we were there, but we could hear its music in our Airbnb until the wee hours (which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing). Sunday morning it was delightful to roll out of bed and walk just a few short feet to some of the best coffee available in the region. We enjoyed a pour-over, a nitro, a quinoa bowl and a fresh almond butter croissant before heading to nearby Crystal Bridges for Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room—My Heart is Dancing into the Universe, which is now permanently on view. It’s a small room filled with mirrors and paper lanterns that have dots that change color and appear to “expand forever into the universe.” It’s the icing on the cake, as Crystal Bridges was already a must-visit. (Check out the North Forest Lights exhibit that will illuminate the museum’s grounds with light and sound through mid-February.) On February 22, The Momentary, a Crystal Bridges satellite location, opens to the public; like Crystal Bridges, it is absolutely free. The space will bring contemporary visual, performing and culinary arts into a creative, communal space where everyone is welcome. It will also house an Onyx coffee shop. 46  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

Onyx We easily could have stayed in Bentonville to eat and drink, but this was a Rogers trip, so back to Rogers we went. Our first stop was Bentonville Brewing Company, which was temporarily being housed in Rogers during construction of their gorgeous, permanent Bentonville location. It was more warehouse than taproom, but we met a nice bartender who moved to the area from Wisconsin and we drank a Lil’ Wrecker and a kolsch before getting overwhelmed by a large group of folks on the Fayetteville Ale Trail. Judging from their passports, they’d covered quite a few of the 15 stops. When you fill in all of the stops on the passport, you mail it in and receive a free prize in return. (No one at the bar knew what the prize was.) Hey, can Memphis get an ale trail?

Doughp Heirloom Susie Q Malt Shop Three Cents an Acre Yeyo’s

Bentonville Brewing Company The Foreman Hawk Moth Natural State Beer Company New Province Onyx Ozark Beer Company

A burger and a sundae from Susie Q Malt Shop


Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Downtown Rogers farmers market The Momentary (opening February 22) Rogers Greenway and Trails System

Susie Q Malt Shop

Next we went to Hawk Moth, which I insisted on calling Hawkwind (because Lemmy!). They just happened to be celebrating their one-year anniversary, so it was quite festive. It features a sleek “beer parlor” with a fairly small brewery. I did like the backyard, but, again, it was real hot out! Their beers were all very high alcohol by volume, so we just had one and hit the road. That one beer hit harder than expected, so we didn’t make it to the other nearby brewery, New Province. Instead, we lined up at Susie Q Malt Shop for a burger and a sundae. It was very Jerry’s Sno Cones-ish, which is a compliment. (However, they do close for the winter each year.) (Natural State Beer Company, a unique brewery and taproom focusing on European Lagers and great views, opened in November 2019.) Then we may or may not have gone by Ozark Brewing one more time before calling it a night. We ended our stay at Onyx the next morning by talking with owners Andrea and Jon Allen, learning more about their business and tasting all of the coffees! (Read about it on page 48.) We didn’t bring our bikes, but we will next time. The Rogers Greenway and Trails System plan is to loop nearly 60 miles throughout Rogers using floodways, drainage systems, utility corridors and parks property for much of the trail locations. It will eventually link to the trail systems in the larger Northwest Arkansas region. •   47   


A Conversation with


On my recent visit to Rogers, Arkansas, I sat down to enjoy a coffee (five coffees actually!) with Onyx owners Andrea and Jon Allen. While Jon was busy cupping upstairs, Andrea and I got a head start. Here’s what I learned.


48  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

ndrea and Jon Allen grew up in Springdale, Arkansas, and were high school sweethearts. In college Andrea worked at the local coffee shop, Arsaga’s, in nearby Fayetteville. She started as a barista and eventually worked her way up to managing a couple of their shops—one in Fayetteville and one in Bentonville. In 2009 the owners were looking to slow down and simplify, so they sold the two shops to Andrea and Jon. Jon, who is also a musician, traveled with his band and saw the coffee movements happening on the East and West Coasts. In 2010 he bought a roasting machine and began to experiment, though they knew nothing about roasting at the time. “We were fully on the side of retail,” Andrea says. By 2012 the couple realized they could do their own thing, and push coffee in a new direction. They rebranded the shops, and Onyx Coffee Lab was born. Andrea explains that Northwest Arkansas is one place, but each town is really different. “Springdale is for workers. Bentonville is Walmart land; it’s super curated in every way. Fayetteville is a college town. Rogers has always been a makers area, but now the older downtown is getting a new look. It’s been a great community for some time,” she says.

Jon and Andrea Allen say many people have helped them along the way as they’ve started and grown their business, and now they’re doing the same for others. Andrea says Rogers has benefited greatly from Walmart and describes the company as “recession proof.” She likes that it brings new people to the area to work and to enjoy amenities like the hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails and Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “Being a local is less common,” explains Andrea. The Allens decided in November 2015 to move Onyx’s headquarters to Rogers and join the community there. They purchased a large building that once served as storage for trains, and they opened their new headquarters in 2019. “All of our things are in one place now,” explains Andrea. They house the green coffee, roast it and ship it, in addition to selling it by the cup. Best of all, everyone can see the entire process. The space feels a bit like a food hall and houses several Onyx-owned and independent businesses. “We wanted it to be a place to showcase people who make things. We built it for customers and really enjoy the synergy here,” she says. Andrea surmises that their customers are mostly young pro-

fessionals who come to work and hold meetings. “This coffee shop is much more of a destination than the others. Customers are getting drinks and food and staying. Our other shops are 60 percent to-go orders compared to 10 percent here,” she says. Once Jon finished cupping, he joined Andrea and me for a Q&A conversation. Edible Memphis: Let’s get this out of the way. How much coffee do you drink each day? Andrea: At least six to eight cups. Jon: I’ve already cupped 40 today. Most days I’ve had 10 full cups of coffee by 2 p.m. What, if anything, about Northwest Arkansas has contributed to your success? Are you affiliated with the Walton family in any way? Andrea: We are the full owners. We’re staunchly non-investor. We want to be able to do what we want, and not all of our decisions make good business sense! We’re very lucky and grateful to be in this position.   49   

I see you’ve placed in several barista competitions. What’s your secret? Andrea: I approach the competitions as an opportunity to ask questions of the industry and present things I’m passionate about. For me and our company, it’s really important that we use the opportunities and privileges we’ve been given to be a different kind of voice in the industry. Commodity production market trading is at historically low rates. Raw, green beans are selling under cost for many producers. More and various bigger players, like Nestle, are driving the market down. This profit-only-driven demand sinks bottom line for suppliers. We’re really proud of our transparency model. We publish all of our pricing data online so that anyone can see where we purchased our beans, who we bought them from, what we scored it at, what we paid, and who brought it to us. We’re the only company that does it in real time. Why is coffee often so cheap? Jon: A lot of reasons—consumer values, supply outweighs the demand, high yield, mechanized farming in Brazil, bad labor markets.

At the Rogers headquarters, Onyx houses their green coffee, roasts it, ships it and sells it by the cup.

What can we do? Jon: Buy expensive coffee—at least double digits. A bag of coffee that sells for less than $10 is not ethical. Why do coffee farmers continue to grow and lose money? Jon: What else are they going to do? There are not a lot of options. For many it is a family business, and they are in perpetual debt. Farms in Ethiopia are smaller than the café, basically a backyard, but there are 10,000 of them. They can’t afford pesticide, so it doesn’t make sense to get certified organic. Fair trade is a great stepping stone, but not what I would call fair. We are only looking for high-quality coffee, and we pay what it’s worth. Andrea: The average person doesn’t know coffee is a fruit or how it got here. It’s not like other things. You can’t easily visit the coffee farm. You have to trust the roasters and sellers. There is no real regulation. Have you had any mentors in the coffee world help you along the way? Andrea: A lot of people have helped us along the way. We’ve also learned from a few costly mistakes. Jon: Coffee is like the Wild West, and sourcing specialty coffee is kind of insane. There’s no curriculum you can study in school. It’s very odd—there’s not a lot of education behind coffee purchasing. It’s very secretive. Advice for someone wanting to make a living in the coffee industry? Andrea: Get ready to work hard. “I’ll just buy a shop and collect a paycheck” is not how it works. It’s very hands-on, and the culture 50  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

of the shop must be driven by the owner. Jon: Cafés are the new yacht. I’d advise someone to work in the service industry before jumping in as an owner. I love that you’ve helped your employees become business owners. Can you give me an example? Andrea: Kevin Frey opened Puritan in Fayetteville in 2017. He had an entrepreneurial spirit, so we taught him how to manage and gave him seed money. We’re not looking to have 50 shops, so we want to help others open their own shops. Jon: It’s similar to how Intelligentsia and Stumptown operate. They are two grandfathers in the coffee shop world. I can name two dozen people who came from Intelligentsia off the top of my head. We’d like to model that. Andrea: We are highly interested in growing the wholesale side of our business. Our retail locations serve as a base for that. We want to be in the downtown of all the little cities in Arkansas. •


THE INTERSECTION OF COFFEE AND BOOZE Drinks that combine our favorite morning brews and evening beverages BY BR AD PIT TS PHOTOGR APHS BY CHIP CHOCKLE Y


t’s fitting that the rise of coffee came about during the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason that fever-gripped Europe in the 1600s and 1700s. Borrowed from Arab culture, coffee made an immediate and welcome impact on the atmosphere of rational inquiry as new ways of thinking took hold. It provided clarity and a sharp mind and was embraced by scientists, intelligentsia, clerks and the rapidly rising merchant class. It allowed them to regulate their working day and stay alert and focused until the close of business or even longer.

52  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

Old Dominick Distillery’s limited edition coffeeinfused vodka was made in collaboration with Edge Alley.

Edge Alley’s Bailey Cash serves up a cocktail made with coffee-infused vodka.

THE MORNING ROUTINE IS RULED BY THE BEAN AND THE EVENINGS BY GRAIN AND GRAPES. While alcohol had been around for millennia, coffee was the newcomer and essentially the antithesis of alcohol. Water during this era was often tainted and carried disease, so one’s day would usually begin with a beer or a small glass of wine or brandy. Coffee changed this because it was made using boiled water and instantly provided a safer alternative to spirits. Instead of beginning the morning relaxed and slightly drunk, people were perky and stimulated and the quality and quantity of their work was vastly improved. Even today, coffee and alcohol affect our everyday lives like few things can. The morning routine is ruled by the bean and the evenings by grain and grapes. This can make them seem like unlikely bedfellows. We as consumers also rarely stop and consider how our coffee came to be (or where it’s from) or what early society in the Fertile Crescent had on their minds when they first developed alcohol for consumption (to get drunk). We just know we like it, and it’s there when we want to be up in the morning and there when we want to come down in the evening and sometimes vice versa or even at the same time. If you’ve been around Memphis long enough, you might remember the old coffee drink menu at Café Society. This was long before anyone thought about using coffee for cocktail construction. This menu was legendary, with many regulars referring to the original names long after the menu had disappeared. The Café Special was a particular favorite, consisting of Bailey’s Irish cream and Grand Marnier, but the others were all

different and made with your grandmother’s coffee liqueurs like Tia Maria and Kahlúa. They were simple, but they seemed exotic and hit the spot after a great meal at the café. The two most iconic “coffee drinks,” of course, are the White Russian and Irish coffee. Both of these are relative newcomers to the world of coffee cocktails, Irish coffee being developed in the 1940s and the White Russian in the 1960s. Ask any bartender in the world to make you either, and they will almost certainly present it to you in its classic form. Alex Castle, head distiller at Old Dominick Distillery, has just released a limited edition coffee-infused vodka, made in collaboration with Edge Alley. Alex aged the vodka in a used bourbon barrel for about a year. Once it was ready, she and Tim Barker of Edge Alley sat down to taste the vodka and discuss Alex’s vision for the final product’s flavors. Then Edge Alley roasted whole Brazil Fazenda Paraiso beans, Alex added them and and then she let it sit for about two weeks. She’s been happy with the results. “The flavors are dark chocolate with caramel notes,” she says. Tim says the final product is different from what he expected. “Here’s what makes it special,” he says. “We looked at all of the pieces of the puzzle before we constructed it. Right out of the bottle you can taste the bean character and the natural process. There’s a sweetness from the fruit pulp on the bean.”   53   

CRAFT BREWERS TODAY ARE A PERSPICACIOUS LOT AND—JUST LIKE THEY DO WITH THEIR HOPS—THEY SEEK OUT THE BEST WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR COFFEE. If you’re interested in trying a cocktail made with the coffeeinfused vodka, Edge Alley is the only place to find one on a menu. They’ve created A Very Dirty Chai, a cocktail that’s a riff on the old-fashioned and includes a cascara tincture (made from the coffee cherry) and chai tea concentrate. But what about coffee and beer, you say? If you’ve consumed enough stouts and porters, it’s apparent that the flavors of coffee are already in the brew even when no beans are used. Coffee and beer both require roasting and are aroma-driven pleasures unto themselves. Craft brewers today are a perspicacious lot and—just like they do with their hops—they seek out the best when it comes to their coffee. Davin Bartosch, owner and brewer at Wiseacre, is a prime local example. Wiseacre produces one of the most popular beers in this market with Gotta Get Up to Get Down, a luscious coffee milk stout that has its beginnings from when Davin was in brewing school in Chicago at Rock Bottom Brewery. It was here that Davin befriended Tony Dreyfuss, founder and owner of Metropolis Coffee and discovered the bean from the Konga region of Ethiopia he still uses today. “The coffee for Gotta Get Up to Get Down is an all-Ethiopian natural process coffee of single origin. Natural process means the fruit is allowed to ‘rot’ on the bean, which leads to this intense fruity note with lots of blueberry pie flavors,” says Davin. Made with select Bravo hops and various malts, including lactose sugar, Gotta Get Up to Get Down is medium bodied and slightly dry with a sweet roasty flavor. Some local coffee purveyors like Tim and Teri Perkins from Vice & Virtue Coffee are even going the extra step and 54  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

This coffee milk stout is made with an all-Ethiopian natural process coffee of single origin. aging hand-select roasted beans in used bourbon barrels. Their barrels specifically are procured from Big River Distillery’s Blue Note Bourbon. Vice & Virtue, a Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market staple since 2017, opened their first retail space in the Arrive hotel downtown on South Main in November 2019. Tim told me he had seen other roasters “tinkering around with barrel aging, but most were doing so with subpar commodity coffee.” He was curious what would happen if he took a quality specialty coffee and aged it in a higher end, charred oak bourbon barrel. An introduction to the owners of Big River Distillery has led to the development of a truly local product. After an extensive trial-and-error period that included “rolling the barrel” and determining the precise aging time for the coffee, he felt like he was onto “something special.” With this particular product, along with their new commercial space, Vice & Virtue feels like they fit in nicely between high-end craft cocktails and carefully curated specialty coffees. They contracted Erik Hmiel, beverage director for Arrive hotel, to develop a cocktail recipe called Proper Ambition that utilizes Blue Note Bourbon and cold brew made from Vice & Virtue’s barrel-aged coffee. The recipe is also included in each box of barrel-aged Vice & Virtue coffee they sell. Conspicuous consumption and personal preferences aside, coffee and booze will always be confederates. Constantly attempting to cancel the other out, they continue their service as benevolent bookends to the beginning and end of our human days and nights. •

PROPER AMBITION Recipe by Erik Hmiel Tim and Teri Perkins of Vice & Virtue wanted an approachable cocktail people would feel comfortable making at home. One that would showcase the Blue Note Bourbon as well as the coffee aged in the Blue Note barrels. Or, a cocktail that showcases the vice and the virtue. They hired Erik Hmiel, who created a riff on a Black Manhattan.

INGREDIENTS 1.5 ounces Blue Note Bourbon 0.75 ounce Vice & Virtue bourbon barrel-aged cold brew concentrate* 0.5 ounce Brauilo amaro 0.5 ounce cinnamon syrup** 2 dashes Angostura bitters

DIRECTIONS Combine ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass with ice and stir for 12 seconds. Strain the cocktail into a chilled stemmed coupe glass. Express the oil from an orange peel over the top, garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and enjoy. *To make the cold brew concentrate, pour 32 ounces of room-temperature water over 8 ounces of coarsely ground, barrel-aged coffee beans. Stir to combine. Cover and let sit for 18 hours. Strain coffee. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Yields 16 ounces of cold brew concentrate. Use concentrate in a cocktail or just as a coffee with 1 part cold brew and 3 parts milk or water. **To make cinnamon syrup, combine 1 cup demerara sugar, 1 cup water and 5 crushed cinnamon sticks in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally and remove from heat just as the syrup begins to boil. Cover until cool. Strain out cinnamon sticks and store syrup in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Yields 12 ounces of syrup.   55   



From someone who regularly goes to coffee shops just to drink coffee BY S TAC E Y GREENB ERG • IL LUS TR ATED BY EMM A ME SKOVIC


offee shop campers. You’ve seen them. Maybe you’ve even been them. They’re the people who set up camp in a shop—pulling out their laptops or textbooks or circling up the chairs for a meeting. Some coffee shops are more welcoming than others when it comes to campers. But regardless of whether coffee shops are encouraging people to “stay awhile,” they still must make money to stay in business. After talking to several shop owners and reading some pretty wild Yelp reviews, I created these easy guidelines to help you best support and enjoy your favorite coffee shop while being considerate of the staff and other sippers.

1. If you plan to hang for more than an hour or two, especially during peak times, ask for an out-of-the-way place that works best for the service staff and doesn’t take away from their assigned tables. 2. It’s a common courtesy to spend money in someone’s business. At a bare minimum, we suggest $10 per visit or two hours per cup of coffee. If you’re going to stay four or more hours, plan to purchase a couple of drinks and a pastry or a meal, and maybe something extra, like tea leaves, a bag of coffee, a mug or whatever else the coffee shop sells. 3. It feels like we shouldn’t have to say this, but we do. Keep your shoes on. It’s a health department thing. 56  edible MEMPHIS • WINTER 2020

4. Keep your feet off the furniture. You may feel comfortable, but you are not at home. 5. If you regularly do your work in coffee shops, become a member of a coworking space. Seriously! It’s a great way to work alone, while being around other people, and they usually have coffee. (And at a coworking space, you can make phone calls and complain about the Wi-Fi—things you should avoid at the coffee shop.) 6. If you tend to use a coffee shop as your main study space, give your campus library or public library another chance. (Bonus: At the library, you can bring your own water bottle or snacks.) 7. For meetings of four or more people, look for a coffee shop with a separate meeting room, or call ahead so that they can best accommodate you. 8. If you want to use the shop for a personal project—like a photo shoot of your latest product—check with the shop owner first. (But Instagramming your latte is totally acceptable.) 9. Talk to the baristas and try new things. 10. Leave nice reviews.




Mosa Asian Bistro blends the bold flavors and savory spices found in classic Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisines. To make our Asian comfort food dishes, we use the freshest local ingredients, inspiration from family recipes and a modern approach. We offer dine-in and carryout for lunch and dinner, along with catering.

If you have eyes for healthy, flavorful food that’s ready to take home and heat, Cooper Street 20/20 is your place. For a special occasion or just dinner in front of your favorite show, a five-star meal is only an oven away. With more than 25 years in the restaurant business, owner Kathy Katz creates fresh, prepared foods, using local ingredients whenever possible.

Grecian Gourmet Taverna is a local, familyowned-and-operated business in the heart of the South Main Arts District. We pride ourselves on sharing our delicious, authentic Greek cuisine in a comfortable and friendly environment, while creating great experiences for our customers. 901.683.8889 850 South White Station Road



BLUFF CITY TOFFEE Our confections are rooted in timeless, Southern hospitality. Over the past 25 years on every special occasion and holiday, I have shared a handmade treat with family and friends. This special concoction is my twist on English toffee, using the finest locally sourced ingredients. We handcraft each delicious batch using just a few simple, natural ingredients. Our toffee has no added preservatives and is 100% gluten free. 901.486.8500


The home of the best butter cookies in the world! Our family-operated business has been spreading butterific love for 19 years in Memphis. Favorites include cookies, banana pudding and our pies made with a butter cookie crust. We have two locations, and our butter cookies are in every Kroger in Memphis and the surrounding areas. 901.745.2667 488 South Second Street 2370 Airways Boulevard 901.871.6879 800 South Cooper Street 901.249.6626 412 South Main Street



MARKET PL ACE Thank you to these locally owned businesses that make Memphis a better, tastier city.

PHILLIP ASHLEY CHOCOLATES Phillip Ashley Chocolates is on a mission to break the boundaries of conventional chocolate making and develop a style of chocolates that are both visually stunning and breathtakingly decadent. Each chocolate is handcrafted in small batches using ingredients from around the world, focusing on seasonality, with the finest fair trade chocolate. 901.572.1011 1200 Madison Avenue

PROJECT GREEN FORK Project Green Fork is a Clean Memphis project making a big difference in the Mid-South. Their goal is to create a more sustainable Mid-South by helping reduce environmental impacts, with a focus on strengthening homegrown restaurants. There are at least 40 PGF-certified restaurants in Memphis. 901.235.2416 2112 Court Avenue

CARITAS COMMUNITY CENTER AND CAFÉ Caritas means “love of all people.” Caritas Community Center and Café in Binghampton fuse together art, food, music, hospitality, theater, self-help classes and open, crosscultural conversation to creatively nourish people from all ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. They are a crossroads for the rich and poor, young and old, liberal and conservative, foodie and non-foodie alike. 901.327.5246 2509 Harvard Avenue


March 14, 2020

10A – 3p


Profile for ediblememphis

Edible Memphis Issue 46 - Winter 2020  

This quarterly magazine focuses on food, farm and community in the Mid-South. Issue 46: The Coffee Issue digs deep into the different coffee...

Edible Memphis Issue 46 - Winter 2020  

This quarterly magazine focuses on food, farm and community in the Mid-South. Issue 46: The Coffee Issue digs deep into the different coffee...