Did it really happen? Was it all just a fever dream? Were those three days that felt like two weeks but also like two seconds really occur outside of my own consciousness? Indeed they did. That or Sprudge has some pretty sophisticated mental imaging that recorded my frenzied state.
From March 10th through 12th, 12 coffee brands (and Briggo) descended upon Austin, Texas, to be part of the first-ever Roaster's Village at South By Southwest as part of SouthBites, the food and beverage portion kicking off the weeklong arts, music, tech, and entertainment festival. We worked behind the scenes with SXSW over the past few months to curate a cadre of local, national and international coffee brands for the inaugural endeavor and it was truly a magical experience. We activated, we partied, we podcasted repeatedly, and we even splashed a few splashes. It was a hell of a time.
We have a lot of cool content from the Roaster's Village that we'll be releasing over the next few weeks—an interview or two, podcasts aplenty—but for now, let's take a look back at the heart of what made it a smashing success: the coffee brands that took part in South By Southwest's first-ever Roaster's Village.
For all of our coverage of South By Southwest, visit our Roaster's Village portal on Sprudgelive.com.
Any inaugural Texas coffee event wouldn’t be complete without Tweed Coffee Roasters, the Austin via Dallas-based roasting arm of Houndstooth Coffee. In true Tweed fashion, their booth was simple and well-executed, including two Clever brewed hot coffee options—the washed Red Bourbon Kibuye from Gitega, Burundi and the washed Bourbon, Caturra, and Typica Araguaney from the Aprocassi Coop in Peru—and a flash chilled iced coffee—the Los Romerillos in Ecuador. That flash chilled option was a hot commodity in the South By heat.
Tweed is going to be all over Austin this weekend, being part of some delicious coffee cocktails at all three Houndstooth locations. If you’re willing to wait in the 30-minute line, they’ll make it well worth your wait.
Slingshot Coffee Roasters + Oatly
For the hottest day expected during the three-day SouthBites outdoor pavilion, cold coffee drinks are a must-have. And Slingshot Coffee is probably one of the hottest cold coffee brands out there right now. You’ll be seeing them in grocers on the West Coast very soon, and their East Coast presence is about to receive a major boost now that they will be debuting at Publix. The North Carolina-based RTD maker came armed to the teeth with tasty cold coffee beverages, ready to battle the heat wave.
Along with their classic cascara tea on top (with very cool and maybe a little dangerous slingshot tap handles) and cascara tonic made with Jack Rudy tonic, Slingshot debuted a few new offerings, including a blueberry jasmine cascara drink, made with 100% blueberry juice and dried jasmine flower. They also brought their new Cascarnold, a cascara-based take on the Arnold Palmer and the Slingshotte, a cold brew and Oatly concoction (WOW! No cow!). With all the tasty SouthBy-exclusive cold brew concoctions being whipped up around the Roaster’s Village, I found myself trying to pocket a few bottles of Slingshot for some later time drinking, that may or may not include a little whiskey.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
While most booths were serving drinks and scooting attendees along, Portland’s Stumptown Coffee invited attendees to come in and take a load off. Their very chill hang out space was just the sort of respite needed when the sun came bearing down. Offering all manner of cold brew—canned, tapped, nitro'd, mocha-fied, you name it—the small little seating section was a great way to enjoy a tasty beverage while perusing city guides from Wildsam, an Austin-based maker of pocket-sized travel hot spots for some of America’s great cities, including Austin (obvz), New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn.
And if a nice espresso was what you are looking for, Stumptown also brought a La Marzocco Linea Mini for traditional cafe-type drinks. Of all the booths, this was the closest to an actual coffee shop experience and we are here for it.
Irving Farm Coffee Roasters
Not to be outdone, NYC’s Irving Farm brought a very non-mobile espresso setup, including a two-group La Marzocco GB5 and a Mazzer Major espresso grinder. They brought with them the Los Alisos from producer Sergio Palermo in the Chirinos region, a coffee from Peru that made for a really balanced espresso, sweet but with a really nice body.
But what really stole the show at the Irving Farm booth was their Cold Brew Cola. A take on the Manhattan Special, Irving Farm topped off their tasty cold brew with a cascara syrup foam, peppermint, lavender, and rosemary, finished off with a garnish of Amarena cherries, one of which was dipped in real gold. REAL GOLD! The way it glimmered in the sun made me think twice about eating it. But I still ate it and now the net worth of my body is a little higher than it was before. The Cold Brew Cola was probably the most complex coffee cocktail I had today at the Roaster’s Village; the layers of herby, floral, sweet, effervescent flavors kept me gulping it down, even though it was legitimately my 12th coffee in about a two-hour stretch.
Chicago’s Intelligentsia really showed out for the Roaster’s Village. On top of a full-service espresso bar—serving Honey Badger espresso on a two-group La Marzocco Linea and Mahlkönig K30 grinder—the Intelli crew came with a full roster of Kilogram Teas, both iced and hot, chai lattes, and the Limelight, a cocktail consisting of cold coffee on tap, lime juice, and simple syrup all shaken together and topped with a splash of tonic.
It was the perfectly zippy drink I needed to perk me up after maybe getting a little too activated at all the SXSW parties the night previous.
To truly love coffee, you must love it in all its iterations. Including decaf. And Swiss Water is making it easy for even caffeine fiends to admit they like decaf, thanks to their nitro cold brew floats. With a Stumptown-roasted coffee from Colombia in tow, Swiss Water is soft-serving their way into attendees’ hearts.
There is very little in the way of signage at the Swiss Water booth to let folks know that what they are drinking is indeed uncaffeinated, so it was always fun to watch the reactions when the big reveal is made mid-float. There were more than a few raised eyebrows and some very deep looks inward: “Do I like decaf?” Yes. Yes you do.
Vega Coffee operates under an entirely different coffee business model. All their coffees are roasted at origin and then shipped to consumers worldwide within five days from the roast date. Originally only offering coffee from their home base in Estelí, Nicaragua, Vega has very recently—like, a month ago—opened a second operation in Popayán, Colombia.
This farmer direct model allows Vega to pay workers at origin four to five times what they would normally make, co-founder Rob Terenzi told me as I was munching on some delicious 70% cacao Nicaraguan dark chocolate Vega had on offer at their booth. One such person is Diego Lopez Perez, one of the producers in Nicaragua who, thanks to financial support from Fabretto, was able to come to Austin and engage with the coffee-consuming public, with Terenzi acting as translator.
Tiny House Coffee
A last minute addition to the Roaster’s Village, Austin’s Tiny House Coffee is looking to shift perceptions about where you can find good coffee. Now in their second year of existence, Tiny House isn’t a roaster you’re going to find on the guest program at a multi-roaster cafe; they’re going to be in your offices, gas stations, CrossFit gyms, places where everyone drinks coffee but maybe not always the best coffee. “We think unconventional places are the frontier of specialty coffee,” co-founder Blake Thomas stated.
And indeed, Tiny House is meeting customers where they are, both literally and figuratively. Along with kegged nitro as well as bagged cold brew (and concentrate), Tiny House offers a variety of roast levels to ease coffee acolytes into more modern profiles. Folks may start their journey with Tiny House’s dark roasted Rwanda before getting adventurous and moving towards the medium roast, currently a coffee from Huila, Colombia. And then finally, they’re going full light roast with the lovely Ethiopia Limmu Kossa. Coffee is a journey, and Tiny House is there with you every step of the way.
Third Wave Water
Coffee is 98% water, so of course we needed someone here to give some love to the majority of what’s in all these cups. After a successful trip to the Shark Tank, Third Wave Water came out to help attendees make better coffee at home. Giving out samples of both their standard and espresso profile packets, TWW was probably the most recognizable booth at the festival, thanks to their 11 to 12 foot tall Third Wave Water tower.
Those brave enough to let their curiosity lead them toward the tower were rewarded with a refreshing quaff of that hydrating elixir at the Third Wave Water fountain, dispensing ideal water for coffee, of course. As of press time, nearly 500 plastic bottles had been saved from finding their way to a landfill thanks thank to the TWWFountain.
Brooklyn-based Upruit doesn’t consider themselves to be a coffee company; they are a carbonated tonic beverage company, who happens to have coffee in all their refreshing elixirs. With flavor options like Meyer Lemonade, Ginger Hibiscus, and Mint Grapefruit, Upruit offers a delicious ready-to-drink option that will be crucial in the coming summer months.
There’s a lot coming down the pipe for Upruit. Along with a fourth flavor currently still in R&D, Upruit will be launching a guest roaster subscription box program, where they will be working with different roasters to come up with new drink options delivered directly to the consumer’s door. Upruit is currently available at stockists in the Northeast, Amazon, and through their website.
Portland is the sneaker capitol of the world. Deadstock Coffee in Portland then, it stands to reason, is the sneaker coffee shop capitol of the world. For their corner of the Roaster’s Village, Deadstock came with custom burnt orange Nike Vandals, designed in collaboration with Mike Nerlino, a Deadstock customer from PDX who made the trip out here with owner Ian Williams and the rest of his uniformed crew. Always keeping a watchful eye for the stylishly shod, Williams was always out front, handing out Jason Markk Quick Wipes (a must-have for keeping your sneakers looking clean in the dusty pavilion) and pulling in folks to snap Polaroids of their sneakers, which will be posted on the Deadstock Instagram once they make it back to Portland.
Folks were equally mesmerized by what Williams calls (non-alcoholic) “adult Capri Suns,” pouch-style coffee drinks like the Lebronald Palmer—a black tea, coffee, and lemon based reinterpretation of the Arnold Palmer—and the Charged Up, with green tea, peach, and mango. I came for the Deadstock merch, specifically their crewneck sweatshirt, and stayed for a few splashes of the Lebronald. Both the drink and its namesake are the GOAT. Sorry Kobe.
Hailing all the way from Berlin, Five Elephant made its way to Austin via Alpine, Texas, a town known mostly for its proximity to Marfa. Working the Five Elephant booth were the folks from Cedar Coffee & Supply, perhaps the best place to get coffee that far south and west in Texas.
And that's a wrap! Coffee's maiden voyage at #SXSW is in the books, but the content activation continues across Sprudge Media Network in the coming days. Look for much more coverage of the Roaster's Village right here on Sprudge.com.
Special thanks to all the participating brands, event crews, guests, pedi-cab drivers, the entire crew at SXSW (but especially Brett Cannon, Brittani Mathis and Amy Wanke), and the teams at Port of Mokha, Department of Brewology and Caffe Medici for collaboarting with us on a big Monday night podcast party. Extra special thanks to Liz Turner and Wade Michael at Stumptown for letting us set up podcast remotes in their chill dessert lounge, and to Falcon Coffees for supporting this year's coverage.