Though Austin is the easy answer to “best coffee scene in Texas,” Houston has quietly been very, very good for some time now. This is due, in part, to the fact that it is a coffee scene that largely keeps to itself; you won't find cafes from Dallas, Austin, or San Antonio trying to make moves inside H-town, nor will you find Houston cafes looking to expand across city lines either. But don't let the city's insular nature fool you, Houston is home to a handful of cafes that would excel just about anywhere in the United States but nonetheless feel the most at home right where they are.
Adding to the menagerie that is the coffee scene in Texas's largest city is a brand new outfit, Tenfold Coffee Company. After spending well over a decade as a coffee professional in Seattle and Melbourne, owner Jacob Ibarra opted to head down south and break ground on a coffee company of his own. Building off his time in big name coffee markets, Ibarra states his goal is to increase coffee education and accessibility in ways that haven't yet been done in Houston. This will come via a completely refinished 3,000-square-foot warehouse expected to open some time in September. To learn more about Tenfold Coffee, we spoke with Jacob Ibarra digitally.
As told to Sprudge by Jacob Ibarra.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
At the heart of it all, what we are trying to do is build better supply chains. We want to be advocates and great partners for the producers we step into relationships with, but believe to make it sustainable and profitable for all involved there has to be some strategy behind it. Practically, we understand that if we want the good we hope to do to be long lasting and profitable we need the consuming side to buy in. Thus, as our first step we are building a cafe/roastery that is more akin to a craft brewery. In Houston, there are just a few who readily invite people into the craft of coffee making and we believe no one has stepped into education and making coffee accessible like we plan. The hope is that with all this we begin to build an audience and customer base that is committed to the craft and genuinely curious about coffee at large. From here we hope this helps us take them on a coffee journey that leads to Tenfold creating better supply chains and more hopeful producer relationships.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Our warehouse is within a three building development in a great, inner-city Houston neighborhood, the Heights. Currently there is an existing craft cocktail bar and in construction are a gym and barber shop in another building. We have the third building which is a 3,000-square-foot warehouse that has been ‘”re-skinned”. We will be taking over the interior and plan to finish it in a modern, yet fun way—taking many cues from the many years I spent in the Australian cafe scene. We have lots of natural light—nearly three whole walls—which gives the space warmth and great perspective. Also, we have a side room attached to the main space that is being converted into a lab. The lab and the main cafe/roastery space is attached by a deck, which will have a very clean yet artistic pergola and seating area that welcomes the neighborhood from the street and invites consumers to enjoy the outdoors.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Wow. Big question but as I have been hiring I have been sharing these three words a lot: quality, sustainability, and hospitality. We have named the company Tenfold because we believe it speaks to excellence. We want everything we produce, including those experiences we give a customer, to speak quality. Quality is a leading way we can distinguish ourselves from the rest of the coffee market. Regarding sustainability, I'd say that Houston is generally behind the curve from the cities I have been in over the last 15 years—Seattle and Melbourne. But, I come at it from a procurement perspective and it would clearly be ironic for me to tell farmers to take care of their land and then trash it with improper practices and culture on the consuming side. Thus, we are taking steps to have a sustainable lens in all the we do and am excited to see how we will grow in this. As for hospitality, I have witnessed too many specialty coffee shops forget the notion that we actually exist in the hospitality industry. At the core of it, we are called to be hospitable and if we can do this well, I fully believe we can progress our vision and aims within specialty coffee.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
On the main bar we will have a Marco Uber Boiler, two Nuova Simonelli Mythos Two grinders, a Mahlkönig EK43 grinder, Curtis G4 batch brewer, and the new La Marzocco KB90. The lab will have a Uber Boiler, La Marzocco Linea PB, Mythos One, two Baratza Settes, and an Ikawa sample roaster.
How is your project considering sustainability?
As mentioned previously, this is one of the bigger lens we are trying to look through. Also, we are trying to do this quite holistically. We are soon to start the B Corp “Pending” process, which is geared toward early stage businesses. We have a lot of respect for the B Corp community and know it will help shape our business practices. On the roastery/production side, we have picked up some newer technology called a VortX. Via this machine we will reduce our roasting production gas usage by more than half. The VortX uses water to cleanse exhaust from the roaster instead of a traditional natural gas burning afterburner. In the cafe we will heavily promote and incentivize customers to buy and utilize reusable cups. We are in discussion with Huskee and Frank Green to use and sell in the cafe and retail shelves. Both of these products do a tremendous job of blending beauty with function and in the cafe we will discount orders from those customers who utilize a reusable cup. Also, if you buy a reusable cup from our retail shelves we will grant the customer a free cup of coffee with that purchase. The last thing I will mention is that we will be exploring a “Greater Heights” series of merchandise where all proceeds go to a sustainable endeavor at origin and within one of the coffee communities we work with. I am quite close to the Long Miles Project of Burundi, and Ben Carlson is one my investors and strategic leaders at Tenfold. Ben is leading a new 50 year project to plants trees and re-flourish the Kibira National Forest. The Kibira forest is losing trees at an alarming rate and will change the environmental landscape for coffee farmers so dramatically that production might cease to exist in the province. We want to help and thus for the foreseeable future the proceeds from the the Greater Heights series will head to Burundi and the Trees for Kibira project.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Yes, Swerdt Design Group was my architect. Fly Wheel Co collaborated on my brand identity and packaging. Vanessa Farris (who is actually also training to be our roaster) is a woodworker and building a number of our larger more communal tables.
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Photos by Vincent Mercer Jr