We Texans aren’t generally known for our measured approaches to just about anything. We’re more of a jump-first-ask-questions-later sort of people; it’s part of our charm. Which is why I don’t find it surprising that so many established coffee bars across the state are shaking hands and saying “thanks for the memories” with their former wholesale partners, before heading out into the great blue yonder to open their very own coffee roasteries.
None of these new roasters share sobriquets with their cafe forebearers, but instead operate as sister companies (a Texas tradition perhaps started by Tweed Coffee, the roasting arm of the Austin/Dallas Houndstooth cafe brand). These may be new roaster names, but they’re also old souls in the coffee world, inextricably tied to their home cafes yet forging a new path and identity. These three new-ish roasters are worth keeping an eye on.
Austin’s Wild Gift is chock-full of reputable names from the Austin coffee scene. The roastery is a collaboration between three industry vets: Rob and Jenée Ovitt, the owner-operators of South Austin’s Once Over Coffee Bar, and Clancy Rose, the 2008 South Central Regional Barista Champion. Rose cut his roasting teeth at Cuvee before teaming with the Ovitts to start Wild Gift, where he has since gone on to take second at this year’s U.S. Roasters Choice Championship. Roasting on a 2014 Diedrich IR-12—“that whole antique roaster thing is so over,” Rose states—Wild Gift’s roasting mindset is one of experimentation. “Our approach to roasting is to buy and roast the best damn coffee possible,” Rose tells me. “A lot of people mystify roasting…but we test roast a lot and even when we find an excellent roast for a coffee, we’ll continue to tinker as though it hasn’t truly been unlocked yet.”
Back at the end of 2013 when we last visited Waco, a city equidistant from Dallas and Austin, the folks at Dichotomy dropped a few off the records hints that the multi-roaster/cocktail bar wanted to open their own roastery. But at the time, they had only been open for a month, so any such comments could only be taken as pie in the sky wishes. Two years later, the pipe dream has become a reality. Apex is Brett Jameson and Cody Ferguson—the owner and a founding member of Dichotomy, respectively—along with head roaster Zach Sanger. With a name inspired by Formula One racing, it should come as no surprise that their Diedrich IR-12 is tricked out with a custom baby blue and orange paint job, an homage to the Gulf Oils race cars. Flashy aesthetics aside, Jameson states that Apex’s goals are a little more down to earth, “We want to have relationships with the majority of the cafes in the greater Waco area and help foster the further growth of coffee culture in the area.” And, you know, have your roaster look like it’s tearin’ ass even when it’s sitting still.
San Antonio’s Local Coffee is an old dog on the scene at this point, opening its doors back in 2009—“Right before ‘local’ came into full force as a food industry buzzword,” owner Robby Grubbs tells me. Like Dichotomy, Local started out as a multi-roaster but wanted to get more involved in the production side of coffee. So Grubbs and co-owner Bill Ellis purchased a Probat P12 and Merit Coffee was born. They have enlisted help from a bevy of big names in the coffee industry to make sure this endeavor gets off on the right foot: Irving Farms’ Dan Streetman, Ben Kaminsky Consulting’s Ben Kaminsky, and coffee author extraordinaire Scott Rao have all chipped in on anything from profile consulting to probe size and placement. But you know what they say, “It takes a village of high-profile industry vets to raise a fledgling roastery.”
So there you have it, three new Texas roasters, all coincidently residing right off of I-35, which I have dubbed the backbone of Texas’ “Coffee Corridor” (though I’m guessing folks in Houston would beg to differ). Even with all these new roasters popping up, vying for their small slice of the pie, Texas is a very, very large pie-shaped foodstuff, with more than enough to go around. Dig in.
Zac Cadwalader is a Sprudge staff writer based in Dallas, Texas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.