New Orleans and coffee have an ages-old relationship.
According to a city directory from the 1850s, during that time the city boasted more than 300 coffeehouses. Coffee itself was also a key player. Café brûlot, a brandy-spiked coffee drink, was created at Antoine’s in the 1890s, and later served as a foible to disguise alcohol during Prohibition.
Café au lait and coffee with chicory are both synonymous with the city, and it is widely considered that the coffee break originated here during the early 20th century.
Coffee roasters such as Orleans Coffee, Try-Me, French Market, Community Coffee and others have long catered to the local taste for dark roasts, and all have all made their mark cultivating devotees for deep, bold coffees both here and abroad.
But these coffee roasters aren’t stuck on past successes; they’re smartly addressing current coffee trends for lighter roasts, single-origin coffees and bottled cold brews. Like local craft-beer brewing, specialty coffee roasting is now getting a jolt of its own.
Right now, eyes are focused on the newcomers, small-batch roasters and specialty shops focused more strictly on bagged coffee, coffee drinks and minimal food offerings. Slick modern machines, high-tech grinders and fancy latte art have become coffee shop standards. The openings are frequent, and their numbers are growing.
Three years ago, Geoffrey Meeker’s French Truck forged a path as the city’s first micro-roaster, its bright yellow Citroen trucks handling wholesale restaurant and retail home-delivery of fresh-roasted whole-bean and ground coffee. When Meeker opened his Lower Garden District storefront, coffee lovers poured in. Fine coffees and his killer cold brew iced coffee concentrate dominate. French Truck products are now also stocked by local grocers.
Lauren Fink, of Cherry Coffee, recently transitioned her coffee stand inside Stein’s Market & Deli to a brick-and-mortar spot further Uptown. Fink began roasting her own coffee in a small, in-home machine, and her love for coffee is reflected in the beautiful espressos she pulls, using a variety of craft coffees from established roasters across the U.S.
Hey! Café & Coffee Roastery hired former French Truck coffee guy Max Rowdon to put his stamp on green beans he sources and buys in small quantities to “shop” or “nano” roast. Shop-roasting is thought to be the next coffee-business wave, as more cafés purchase small machines to roast beans in-house. Hey! Café is New Orleans’ first nano-roaster, and its busy shop is a great stop for a cup of brewed coffee and a bag of specialty roasted beans, such as the citrusy “Mexico Oaxaca” or the dark and delicious “Hello Espresso.”
The newest roaster to New Orleans is Congregation. Owners Eliot Guthrie (a Seattle native) and Ian Barrilleaux (a native son) chose the name for its reference to community and also because it is the name given to a group of alligators. Small-batch roasting from Guthrie’s home, the duo currently sells online and retails exclusively at Coutelier. Their not-too-dark roast makes a great morning cup with rich caramel and cocoa notes.
Though coffee has historically played a role in the flavor of New Orleans, the next wave is craft roasting. A rich, delicious business is brewing.
628 N. Rampart St., 504.410.5647
2207 Magazine St. (inside Stein’s Deli), 985.250.0466
1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 504.638.0032
French Truck Coffee
1200 Magazine St., 504.298.1115
4332 Magazine St., 504.891.8682
Mojo Coffee House
1500 Magazine St., 504.525.2244
637 Tchoupitoulas St., no phone
1301 Poland Ave., 504.408.1377
627 St. Peter St., 225.384.0655