// Houston is growing in leaps and bounds, and the coffee scene is fueling the growth. //
Image from InterAmerican Coffee's Instagram page.
We are often asked, why Houston, and not another Texas city. We have had wonderful support from Houston from the time the Crawls were just getting started, and not much more than a handful of shops in a city, and only 100 attendees participating all weekend. Early on green coffee importer, InterAmerican Coffee (IAC), reached out to us, and said there are inspiring coffee businesses and talent here in Houston. It took one visit to see that they were correct. As we wrapped up our 4th annual event in HTown, IAC continues to support their local specialty coffee community, and we all were able to sip on some of their coffees they brought in for roasters along the weekend’s Crawl activities.
Friday started the activities with a full day of back-to-back routes leading up to a Latte Art Throwdown. The event sold out about a month in advance so each route was full. The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar was our first starting point. Benjamin greeted us with information on the drink we were about to have, and background on The Honeymoon and Boomtown Coffee. Stephen was preparing an affogato for each one of us with Texas' legendary Blue Bell ice cream, Boomtown's espresso, amaretto, vanilla and garnished with fresh grated nutmeg. This gave us an early boost to start the Crawl.
We had a few new shops in the lineup, and Karee and Garry's Montrose shop FIX Coffeebar was one of those. These two have worked the bar everyday since FIX opened. For the Crawl, we enjoyed Java Pura's Kenya on nitro, and learned about the nitro process, and more about this specific Kenya from the roaster. Another new shop that hosted Friday was Cafeza. Owners Ryan and Keisha reserved their long bar, that hosts coffee and liquor lovers alike, for us to sit, watch and learn. The Alpha Dominche Steampunk brewers produced a coffee and tea - a Boomtown Coffee Peru and toasted almond from Benjamin Tea. This was followed with a sweeter, espresso-based dulche de leche and a signature drink of theirs, the picador, using traditional Mexican hot chocolate spices, As we sipped on the array of drinks Ryan walked us through the equipment used and their guest roaster set-up as a shop.
Most of us were on foot or bike for our Friday routes since the shops were so close. Southside Espresso was one of those locations, and has been part of the Houston Crawls since year one. We had both an espresso and drip coffee experience with lavender-chamomile macchiatos from the barista crew, while owner Sean Marshall passed out their Yemen roasted under the Fusion Coffee name, and talked about their experiences owning the farm. Carlos welcomed us at Siphon Coffee and had a sea salt-chocolate chip cookie waiting for each of us. Sheila brewed up a Kenya from Heart Roasters on the siphon, and we learned more about the 200 year history of this brewing device.
Mercantile, another 4-year participant, hopped behind their custom painted La Marzocco, and made café au laits using a Boomtown Coffee espresso. We were set-up outside at Inversion Coffee with our first matcha on this Crawl. Stacie visited with us about competing in Coffee Champs, a recent barista competition, and how she made the iced lavender matcha we had.
A 2nd Cup hosted a Super Bowl (inspired) Latte Art Throwdown party where 30 baristas came together to compete on Friday night. Local creamery Mill-King provided the milk, which was everywhere during the Crawl. Dumpling Haus had a pop-up to keep our bellies full, Eureka Heights Brewing Company had beer on tap, and Bird Barbershop was there for beards and braids. Emilee from Boomtown Coffee won the Throwdown over Rudy at Tout Suite in a close finals round. Ashley Lai and the whole A 2nd Cup team did an amazing job hosting a packed house. Time for Saturday's Crawl!
Saturday's routes got going at 9am. Katz Coffee invited two routes to start together with a breakfast kickoff at their new roasting facility. 50 of us took part in breakfast burritos from Tacos A Go Go, and multiple stations with Katz Coffee. The washed-processed Honduras Cual Bicicleta on the Yama Dripper & drip coffee station, on tap was the Café De Olla, a traditional Mexican cold brew, the honey-processed Honduras Las Flores on espresso station 1 with shots and cortados, and on espresso station 2 the Velvet Espresso blend. A lot of good chatting and drinking took place, and those that wanted to took a full tour of the new space.
All ticket holders received event bags from Wholesome! with goodies inside including a special Crawl discount from Boxo coffee subscription.
Doughnuts were just right for a Saturday morning. Morningstar handed out a variety of their doughnuts to choose from and to drink we had a sweetened condensed milk matcha drink. Matt, owner of Boomtown Coffee, and Tyler had us over at the Heights shop to sample one of their Ethiopian naturals and learn about coffee processes as we passed around samples of beans. David, owner of Blacksmith Coffee, paired chocolate and coffee during our stops at the Houston hotspot. The chocolate was a Bolivia from Rogue Chocolates, and the team shared a coffee David brought back from Coffee Champs, an Ecuador from Coffee Manufactory.
After a night with a packed crowd, A 2nd Cup had a few routes back for Saturday. Ashley had pre-batched iced mochas for when we arrived, and then passed out a drink with Topo Chico and housemade lavender-kumquat shrub paired with a Mediterranean panini. We had one last sneak peak of Retrospect Coffee Bar's new shop opening soon. Located in a historical building, Stephen showed us all the architectural details and discussed the mission of the space. We enjoyed our Café De Olla from Katz Coffee. The Crawl wrapped up with its last stop at Red Dessert Dive with the perfect combo to end on - a cortado and chocolate chip cookie.
We followed up the city's accomplishment being the site for Super Bowl 51 with the city's biggest coffee weekend. Each Caffeine Crawl in Houston gets better and better. This one did not disappoint, and each stop had something special to offer.
A big thanks to the sponsors listed above and to the city for always being so hospitable. Also, to our fabulous local tour guide assistant, Josh Burdett from IAC, and Derrick Wessels and I representing The LAB team. We look forward to seeing you again soon, Houston. - Jason Burton