Maturing Houston’s Coffee Scene

There is a really good article in the New York Times on-line edition that discusses the growth of New York’s coffee scene. It has gone from a few “hard core coffee shops, the ones that felt like underground clubs” to, in the past year, one coffee shop opening almost every three days. The article goes on to say that the scene is not only expanding but it is maturing as well. More New Yorkers know about and are looking for good coffee: e.g. freshly roasted, single origin, and individually crafted drinks. Could this ever happen in Houston? Yes it will, and I can not wait to see it!

As I have said before in other blog posts we are at the beginning of a great time for coffee in Houston. We are already the number two port for coffee importing, new coffee shops pop up more often, and new roasters are appearing as well. However, in my talking to different coffee professionals I have found that there is a shared sentiment that we need to make what we know as “good coffee” more accessible to people outside of the coffee shops. One of the main problems, though, is that a lot of people don’t even know these places exsist. They are more likely to recognize Stumptown or Blue Bottle from seeing their cold brews in the grocery store than any local shop.

The Houston Chronicle reported that a recent survey done by Men’s Health ranks Houston in one of the last places for coffee drinkers.  I couldn’t believe that was true and expected the comments to be full of people talking about all of our great shops. It was just the opposite. The comment section was full of people agreeing with the article and seemingly having no clue that Houston has even one coffee shop besides Starbucks. I couldn’t understand how any of these people had never heard about Catalina or Blacksmith but then I realized: I hadn’t either until I really got into coffee. I’m a coffee bean junkie so I had to search for places to get better coffee beans and drinks. For someone that just likes coffee there is no reason for them to seach because what they already have is probably good enough for them. The coffee they have serves it’s purpose as a source of energy and that’s sufficient. Just telling someone about a local coffee shop may not be enough, but what if they had a chance to try something that is much better than what they are drinking now? Would they start looking for coffee shops? Would they look for fresher beans?

So, how do we get people to try Houston’s coffee? I think that there needs to be more opportunities for people to “meet” the coffee shops/roasters that Houston has. In my journey into Houston’s coffee scene I have found that everyone that I talk to is very nice and happy to help. I have been given so much great information from good people that helped me to get more out of my coffee experience.This is what we should be showing others: that coffee can be an experieince and not just a pick-me-up. Let’s show them that. Also, though we are passionate and dedicated about our coffee, you don’t have to be the same to get great coffee. You don’t have to be a “hipster”, “snob” or “evangelist” to drink good coffee.

They need to not only meet our coffee professionals but also the coffee itself, and better ways of brewing it. They should be introduced to coffees from all the different regions, and helped to understand that these aren’t just more types of flavored coffees. Finally, to brew the coffee a siphon may bit too much for some people but a french press or a pour over isn’t, especially if they taste the results. I think that Coffee crawls are good, like the one this past February, but there are other better ideas that can be implemented to introduce people to coffee. I have a few ideas brewing in my head that I hope I can get off the ground in the near future. I think it would be great to have our own version of New York city’s maturing coffee scene and I hope we can all work together to achieve it.


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