~ Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Caffeine Crawl Houston, in retrospect (pun intended). ~
The team hit the ground running Friday AM with an early flight into Houston and stops at every Crawl shop for coffee, breakfast, lunch, more coffee, and beer.
Evening libations at the Boheme Cafe and Wine Bar with friends from InterAmerican Coffee & Wholesome Sweeteners was just what the doctor ordered after a long day of caffeinated prep, and we enjoyed red wine and cocktails with appetizers and good conversation.
Saturday dawned drizzly as we gathered at the idyllic Honeymoon Cafe and Bar, home to Boomtown Coffee Roasters and an excellent wall of spirits. Crawlers gathered their Yelp OKC swag bags with LOCAL Houston Magazines, customized sleeves from Sleeve a Message, Boomtown coupons and a Retrospect sneak peek, and meandered back to the table filled with samples from Tejas Chocolate for some melt-in-your-mouth pre-caffeination. Matt talked about Boomtown's vision and the success of Honeymoon Cafe, and Crawlers sipped Cafe au Laits & nibbled beignets as they listened. We wrapped up with some final insight from Matt outside the windowed roasting room connected to the cafe, and then broke into our groups and headed out.
Paper Co. dazzled the taste buds and amazed even the most culinary among us with a coffee infused presentation from Chef Dave Foong. Coffee coconut butter on Challah bread toast, sirloin strip cooked in coffee butter, and a SousVide coffee vodka infusion served as a coconut milk cocktail left us all inspired, and we wandered the unique cafe / roasting space / church / community space while savoring the flavors.
A tantalizing recreation of David Buehrer's US Barista Championship signature drink awaited us at Blacksmith, where we gathered on the patio in between rain showers for the tasting. Herbaceous and sweet berry notes in the El Vado Colombian espresso were brought out by orange peel simple syrup and bitters made with cinnamon, chamomile, juniper berries & piña roja (red pineapple), married in cortado glasses for an interesting and delicious beverage.
Staying focused at Mercantile with the smell of Doughmaker Doughnuts' truck set up outside was made possible only by coffee - in this case, cold brew using Amaya Roasting's seasonal espresso. Jonathan explained the cold brew process as we tasted it black and with the addition of Mill-King whole milk, and we snagged a made-on-the-spot doughnut on the way to our next stops.
Robin welcomed us to Double Trouble Caffeine and Cocktails with Houston hospitality and a smile. We hovered for handouts of toddy cold brew, served as-is or with the option to add house made Kahlua (awesome!).
It was a packed house at Siphon, but we cozied up to the counter and watched in awe-struck silence as Carlos and Nicole demonstration one of the most complex brewing methods in specialty coffee. We tasted the coffee fresh off the siphon brew as well as cooled down for flavor comparisons, and asked lots of questions. Even the delicious salted chocolate chip cookies they passed out didn't slow down our coffee intake, and we headed to the next stop a little wiser in the world of brew methods.
Eatsie Boys, an eclectic spot with Beastie Boys vibes, good food, and a shiny gold "Intergalactic Food Truck," drew us in from the rain to cups of steaming coffee and individual scoops of ice cream.
At Catalina Coffee, we were served cardamom infused cold brew, a popular drink in Guatemala. We listened to the toddy process explained, and the addition of hot cardamom tea set our beverages apart from the usual cold brew experience. Mike from Amaya Roasting discussed Catalina's initiative as one of the first specialty cafes in Houston, opened in 2007, and Crawlers added Brazil whole bean samples to their swag bags as we sipped the last drops from our cups.
Southside Espresso gave us a variety of tasty things to sip as we crowded into the friendly little space and were handed samples of drip brewed, honey processed Costa Rica Hacienda Senora. As Sean explained the coffe, shots were pulled for honey butter macchiatos - and intriguing and delicious treat to round out our experience and warm us up before braving the rain again.
Retrospect Coffee took us back in time, inside a recycled gas station from the 1940's with an even older and time-honored twist. Ladies from the Blue Nile Restaurant down the street prepared a traditional Ethiopian Coffee ceremony for us as we crowded into the 250 square feet of the unfinished building, brimming with potential and nostalgia all at once. Learning about the individual elements of the ceremony was insightful, and the coffee, freshly pan roasted, ground, and full immersion brewed on the spot, was surprisingly light, fruity and delicious.
At Crawlers' final stops, they grabbed individual samples of the coffee community's favorite milk from Mill-King Creamery. Whole milk or their new chocolate "cacow" flavor washed down the day's caffeine, and we said goodbye to new friends in a happily caffeinated daze.
The team wound down with beers and a late lunch at The Hay Merchant, and took some down time to catch up on emails at the hotel before heading back out on the town for a night exploring the local food and beverage scene.
The evening included drinks at Julep from "The Rural South" menu, margaritas and mexican food at El Tiempo Cantina in honor of National Margarita Day (a day early), and we had early morning capps at Boomtown Coffee before our flight back to KC.
A big shout out to our sponsors, including Unic Espresso Engineers & Barista Magazine - as always, we couldn't make the magic happen without them! H-town showed us a great time, and we'll be back for year three in early 2016. Cheers!
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