Is there any better mode of summer travel than road-tripping? Cramming into a car one more friend than can comfortably fit, concocting entire meals out of convenience store junk food, listening to old ska albums you’d be too ashamed to admit you never stopped loving: these are the the social mores of the four-wheeled party box, and that’s what makes road trips so amazing. There is also something inherently romantic about watching the landscape transform over the course of an eight hour drive, especially in Texas, where 500 miles can bring about drastic scenery changes but no state borders.
Yet, the road trip isn’t without its drawbacks. Unless your final destination is a metropolitan area, the chances of finding a really good cup of coffee are slim to none.
Now, a reasonable solution to this conundrum would be to pack an AeroPress, hand grinder, and a bag of coffee. I am not a reasonable person. So when the staggeringly beautiful Southwest Texas desert sang to me its siren song, I made sure to grab way too much coffee and any equipment I could find, including Pretty Matt, my best friend and ex-barista at Cherry Street Coffee House in Seattle. We opened a pop-up in Marfa, Texas.
Perhaps best known as the filming locale for No Country for Old Men, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, and Giant, James Dean’s final movie, Marfa is a small town about an hour north of the Mexican border. It's become somewhat of a tourist destination, as the mysterious Marfa Lights, contemporary art museums, and Prada Marfa, the pop art exhibit/fake retail store in the middle of the desert, attract thousands of artistically-inclined beauty seekers each year.
Our pop-up, No Cream No Chigurh Slow Bar, was stationed outside a red Airstream trailer at El Cosmico, a hotel and campground comprised of trailers and teepees located at the edge of town. It was an ideal location, providing scenic views and a captive audience of campers and hipsters, families and free spirits, all willing to accept complimentary cups of coffee.
No Cream’s setup was robust: one Comandante C40 hand grinder, two Hario manual brew scales, two gooseneck kettles, three brew methods (V60, AeroPress, and Tiamo), and five coffees. For coffee options, attendees could choose between Pilot Coffee Roasters' (Toronto, ON) Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Zero, Populace Coffee‘s (Bay City, MI) LoudMouth blend, Cultivar’s (Dallas, TX) Colombia La Sierra, Verve Coffee Roasters’ (Santa Cruz, CA) Kenya Karatina, and PT’s Coffee Roasting Co.'s (Topeka, KS) Colombia Santa Maria.
Attendance was slow at first, as hot coffee under the desert sun can be a tough sell, even if it is free. But eventually things picked up and a small crowd formed around our curious little stand. We met the neighbors inhabiting adjacent trailers; I was able to trade a V60 of Yirgacheffe for some granola. We served some really great coffees, which came at the cost of tired muscles from working the hand grinder. Matt and I relived the glory days of being deep in the weeds, and realized that maybe our desk jobs have their merits after all. Three hours and two and half pounds of coffee later, it was all over. It was fun and it was hectic, and overall, a success.
For anyone unwilling to bring an entire brewing arsenal with them, El Cosmico has a stellar coffee setup. In each Airstream, they provide a Chemex, Moka pot, Hario gooseneck kettle, and Cuvee Coffee Roasters’ (Austin, TX) Jo’s Blend. The coffee comes pre-ground, but if you ask nicely, they’ll give you whole bean. PRO TIP: Save your bottled water and use their tap water to make coffee. In a side-by-side comparison, the coffee made with tap water blew away the coffee made with purified water.
This wouldn't be our last adventure in Marfa, not by half. Stay tuned, and keep watching the skies…
Photos by Cara Michelle Smith for Sprudge.com.