On June 4th, Seventh Flag Coffee officially opened their storefront at 1506 South 1st Street in Austin, flying their new coffee flag over Texas. Quick history lesson for anyone not living within the borders of the great nation of Texas–throughout the course of its history, six countries have expressed sovereignty over at least some part of Texas. Spain, France, and Mexico all tried to tame the Wild West, and they all failed. The last non-Betsy Ross designed flag to fly overhead was that of the Confederate States of America in 1865, the only blemish in Texas’s otherwise flawless decision-making record. Thanks in part to the Missouri Compromise and our brash Texan-ness, this last foible cost Texas the 170 mile stretch of land currently known as the Oklahoma Panhandle. Now, almost 150 years after that last flag was added, Seventh Flag has arrived on the scene to carve out a niche for themselves. Only this time, they aren’t vying for governing power or land titles, but rather looking to stake a claim in South Austin’s ever-expanding coffee scene.
The South 1st neighborhood in which Seventh Flag resides is no stranger to specialty coffee. Across the street sits Elizabeth Street Café, a French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant serving Stumptown, and less than a half mile south is another classic neighborhood hangout, Once Over Coffee Bar. But like with most thriving coffee cities, there’s always room for more, and Seventh Flag’s Managing Partner Zach Biderman and Coffee Manager Tyler Cutbirth are happy to oblige.
Biderman, Cutbirth, and the rest of the crew at Seventh Flag opted to start from scratch, stripping the 100 year-old home the shop occupies to the studs. They completely changed the structure and feel of the building; by knocking out all the walls and raising the ceiling, they transformed a multi-room house to a single, wide open store front. The color palette for the inside is simple and clean–whites and greys with lots of wood accents. Large windows throughout introduce a lot of natural light, and the clear pine-paneled vaulted ceiling makes the whole space feel much larger than it actually is.
Tables of various sizes are scattered throughout the building, all custom made from locally sourced, repurposed cedar and pine by Jordan Goetz of Growler Domestics. To the left of the entry, a 10-person banquet table points directly to Seventh Flag’s centerpiece–a massive 7.5’ x 5’ black flag hanging over the light grey fireplace. Seven white stars inscribe a circle on the flag with the words “our country of friends” underneath, giving historical context for the shop’s name as well as clearly defining its mission statement.
The building’s understated design continues behind the coffee bar. Situated in the northern corner of the shop is the white granite bar. The La Marzocco Linea three-group espresso sits inset in the counter, flanked to its right by a black Mazzer Major E grinder, topped up with the Meritage blend from Austin’s Cuvee Coffee Roasters. There are plans to introduce guest roasters in the future, but Biderman tells me Cuvee will remain the anchor of the Seventh Flag coffee program.
Affixed to the grey tiled wall is the manual brew station. Posted at the far left end of the brew bar is the black Mahlkönig Guatemala grinder Seventh Flag uses for all brewed coffee. Through it, they offer Cuvee’s Hunapu from Guatemala, Laguna Las Ranas from El Salvador, and Spicewood 71 Classic blend, all of which can be brewed with either a Chemex or a French press. They also offer Cuvee’s Black & Blue, a much-discussed velvety nitrogenated cold brew on tap.
Perhaps the most captivating part of Seventh Flag is their espresso presentation. Served on a wooden tray, with a white porcelain Ancap demitasse cup with the Seventh Flag logo printed along the front, your espresso is accompanied by tall shot glasses: one filled with the aggressively bubbly Topo Chico mineral water and the other with Tibetan Tiger, a black tea created by T Salon from New York, NY.
“When we first started working with this espresso, our goal was to create an amazing pairing that would complement the intricate flavors of the coffee. We were concurrently tasting our array of teas, and the Tibetan Tiger was hands down the crowd favorite,” Cutbirth told me. “The similarity in flavor profiles between the espresso and Tibetan Tiger, both with hints of brown sugar, chocolate, vanilla, and caramel, stood out as the perfect fit.” The pairing is an intriguing re-imagining of the espresso experience, allowing Seventh Flag to distinguish their service from that of other cafes around Austin, where the Meritage blend receives a lot of action. As they experiment with serving Cuvee’s single origins and introduce guest roasters into the fold, Biderman and Cutbirth will change the tea pairing to best suit the current espresso offering.
Beyond the thoughtful concept and purposeful finish-out, at its core, Seventh Flag is a neighborhood shop. From the abundant seating both inside and out, a near necessity in a town comprised of college students and business startups, to the bocce ball setup in the spacious front yard, Seventh Flag is striving to be a third place for South Austinites. The namesake flag and accompanying slogan are more than just clever references drawn from the well of bravado known as Texas history: they are an ethos that Biderman, Cutbirth, and the rest of Seventh Flag take to heart. Yet, unlike the six other flags, conversion to the new regime won’t come under musket fire or cannon blast, but from staring down the business end of a demitasse.
Photos by Frank Maulit.