At the 2015 SCAA Event, we tasked Sprudge contributor Emily McIntyre with a series of interviews, highlighting coffee professionals from across the United States making their own subtle marks on the nation's coffee culture. This week, we'll be bringing you a new interview every day, each one a snapshot of the men and women behind American specialty coffee.
David Buehrer, Greenway Coffee Company, Blacksmith (Houston, Texas)
At 14, David Buehrer took home his first paycheck. “I was the youngest certified paraoptometric in Texas. I had the urge and will to work as soon as possible, so at sixteen, I took my first coffee job, and I also worked at a shoe store. Oh, and I delivered lost bags for Southwest Airlines. All at the same time, through high school.” Teen workaholic history aside, Buehrer’s checkered past was the perfect preparation for his current career. “I’ve sort of smooshed all those outside jobs into one career, but I still do a lot of stuff. I do tech work with a friend, I do green coffee buying, I work behind the bar making drinks, I’m collaborating on new concepts, roasting, and distributing. Work is engaging to me. I enjoy myself at work.”
Buehrer is a co-founder of Greenway Coffee Company, as well as Blacksmith, Greenway's dedicated coffee bar and kitchen in Houston's Montrose neighborhood, but that's just scratching the surface; he's involved with several other food and beverage destinations in the Houston scene. “My partner Ecky Probanto and I started Greenway seven years ago. By started, I mean we had the opportunity to purchase a 300-square foot espresso bar in an old business plaza in Houston for $20,000. That’s where it started. I got the phone call from a guy I’d trained to make smoothies a while back. We basically said yes, then figured it all out later. What happened was an immense amount of community outreach, where a lot of the city’s best sommeliers, chefs, and culinary professionals would come in to this weird plaza to get coffee, and they kept pushing us to distribute coffee to them. When Ecky said she wanted to roast, we moved ahead. Basically, we had plenty of accounts waiting when we started, which has a lot to do with the community and culture in Houston.”
It was through that community that Buehrer began working at Anvil, a cocktail bar owned by famed cocktail entrepreneur Bobby Heugel, and became deeply engrossed in the intersection of specialty coffee and other beverages. “We did a great brunch series for eight months where I’d come in with an espresso machine and we’d do coffee cocktails and tea cocktails. A couple were picked up by Imbibe, and it kind of catapulted me into the bar world.” Long story short, Blacksmith came to be, in Buehrer’s words, “A crossroads of relationships and quality and execution of concepts all coming together in what I consider the best location in Houston.”
A barista competitor now in his sixth competitive season, Buehrer is unabashed in his appreciation of craftsmanship in every field. “I try to surround myself with people who excel at what they do.” This passion has birthed a series of pop-up events at Blacksmith called “Made By Hands”, which highlights, so far, a tie-maker and a potter. It’s also led to one of Buehrer’s current projects, a collaboration with designer Yuki Matsuda that will result in a unique line of footwear. “I’ve found that everyone who’s good at what they do loves coffee,” David Buehrer tells me, “so it’s all about sharing and communicating quality and relationships.” Hear, hear.