Say you're in Lafayette, Louisiana and you wanna get some regional fare. You'd head to Johnson's Boucanière for some delicious hot boudin. But if you want to keep moving after consuming such a Cajun delicacy, you might need some caffeine to help fend off a nap.
Luckily, Rêve Coffee Roasters is less than a mile away. Situated in a former auto shop (after moving from its original Pinhook location in fall 2015), Rêve is right in the middle of downtown Lafayette. The building still bears the hallmarks of its former life, such as in the marquee above the front entrance.
“It's gone through so many different evolutions [with] the culture of this downtown area,” says Mark Whitney, Rêve's manager and creative director (and also barista). “It's been a really cool thing for us to be able to make it our own. Having things like the roll-up door in the back, where they used to bring the cars in, is perfect for us to have coffee. Having the big doors in the front is great for whenever we have music.”
Rêve Coffee began three years ago through the efforts of co-owners Nathanael Johnson and Christopher Pickle. They both worked in coffee shops around town and wanted to “really get their hands dirty” by starting a specialty roaster and cafe, according to Whitney. Johnson and Pickle handle roasting and wholesale sales, while Whitney, who is a Specialty Coffee Association of America-certified barista, was brought in to help train and handle responsibilities in the front of house.
Sunlight is in surplus at Rêve as two sides have windows as well as a skylight. In full sight in the back is the 35-kilogram US Roaster Corp machine and green coffee storage. Espresso responsibilities are assigned to a two-group Slayer espresso machine and Compak grinders. There's a batch brew option to complement the AeroPress, Chemex, and Hario V60 pour-overs. Four taps contain cold-brew and nitro coffees, house-made kombucha, and black tea from Piper & Leaf. A pastry case entices those standing in line, and there's a small kitchen menu, which features the Tornado: pastry dough stuffed with eggs, cheese, and local sausage.
According to Whitney, other than a simple cup of coffee, the most requested drink at Rêve is a cafe au lait. Not too surprising, since Lafayette is only two hours away from New Orleans in Acadiana, the Cajun region of Louisiana making up 34 percent of the state's parishes. But cafe au laits means chicory coffee is also in the mix. Enter the Voodoo Elixir, a Third Wave take on a classic drink: a cup of ice flanked on one side by half and half and on the other by a chicory-infused iced coffee with cinnamon-infused honey. Customers can add the parts together however they choose.
Rêve's coffee selections themselves are streamlined, with two single-origin options for pour-overs, cold brew, and espresso drinks: one to satisfy requests for darker roasts, such as fuller-bodied coffees from Brazil, Colombia, or Java, and a second from the opposite end of the spectrum, like the lighter and brighter coffees from Ethiopia or Kenya. The batch brew and nitro coffees are house blends.
“The rest of the roaster is kind of our experiment,” Whitney explains. “We [roast] a bunch of other different coffees that we'll sell in bags, but [for] the cafe itself we like to keep things very focused—we want to be able to hit something that we know you're going to enjoy.”
Looking down the road, Rêve aims to keep the interest in specialty coffee growing in the region. Other shops have opened in town and adopted a Third Wave mindset toward drink choices and brew methods. Whitney embraces the challenge, saying newer shops keep the team “on their toes.” He adds that the future for specialty coffee around the South “has long legs,” and is excited for the future.
“Everybody throws around the term ‘Southern hospitality,' ” he says. “I think that what specialty coffee has done is kind of taken that to a really serious level. Not only are we able to give you service with a smile, with a lot of happiness, [but] we're also able to give you an excellent product. We're trying our best to really give you the full package. We want you to walk out of here [feeling] like you're a part of our family.”
Evan C. Jones is a Sprudge.com contributor based in St. Louis. Read more Evan C. Jones on Sprudge.