Paula Neyman got into the coffee business the way many entrepreneurs do: She had a passion for the product. After a 26-year career in sales and marketing at American Airlines, Neyman started to think that perhaps she could do what Starbucks was doing. Which was, at the time, luring her in twice a day for coffee.
After researching the market, she decided to take an early retirement from American and open her coffee house on the corner of Rufe Snow and North Tarrant Parkway. And now, 10 years later, Brew’n Blues is proof that the independent coffee shop is alive and well here in North Texas.
“It was a struggle at the beginning,” Neyman admits. But from the start, she focused tirelessly on delivering customers a good product and a good experience. At Brew’n Blues, that meant consistent, great-tasting coffee and a pleasant, jazz-themed environment, including comfortable leather chairs and a fireplace with two seats perched in front of it, a spot Neyman says is popular once the temperature starts to dip.
But many of Brew’n Blues’ customers don’t even come into the coffee house. More than half of their business, Neyman says, is from the drive-thru window. And when it comes to serving their drive-thru customers, the emphasis is not just on quality coffee, but speed. Neyman points to what appears to be a clock on the wall, showing the numbers 3:00, to emphasize that last point. It is not a clock but rather a timer, showing just how little it takes for one of her customers to get through the drive-thru line.
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“Three minutes is about the longest,” she says.
Scooter’s Coffee on Keller Parkway also tries to get their customers through the drive-thru quickly and to give them a delicious cup of coffee, one that will keep them coming back. For hours after the drive-thru-only coffee spot opens at 6 a.m., a steady stream of commuters — including high school students and teachers — come through to get anything from drip coffees to one of their signature “Caramelicious” concoctions, hot or iced lattes with creamy caramel sauce topped with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle.
Asked what keeps the cars coming through every day, Scooter’s Coffee manager Maegan Padilla says it’s both the speed of the drive-thru and the quality of their coffee. “Our coffee, the way we roast it, just tastes a lot better.”
Down the street on FM 1709, Buon Giorno Cafe, which opened earlier this year, also sees their fair share of Keller commuters stopping in for coffee on their way to work. But with comfortable sofas, chairs and a library-like feel to it, the coffee house invites customers to come in and linger.
“We have free Wifi, so many of our customers will come in, find a spot, do their work, or even have meetings here,” says David Clarke, one of the owners of the newest Buon Girono (there are also two other outposts, in Grapevine and Fort Worth). “Coffee,” he says, “brings people together.”
Indeed, throughout coffee’s history it has been a drink that has connected people. In the 15th century, coffee houses were popular in the Arabian Peninsula, and people frequented them for all kinds of social activity. Coffee made its way to Europe in the 17th century, and by mid-century, there were more than 300 coffee houses in the city of London.
Today, Starbucks alone has more than 24,000 stores worldwide, and coffee is still growing in popularity here in the U.S. According to the National Coffee Association, coffee consumption is up this year, with 62 percent of the American population saying they drink coffee every day, a statistic they attribute to both an increase in the younger generation drinking coffee and growing consumer enthusiasm toward gourmet coffee drinks.
Scott Gonzales opened Gather Cafe & Coffee at the start of the year, in part because he wanted to bring artisanal coffee — as well as a menu of made-from-scratch, often locally sourced food — to his neighborhood. Knowing his coffee customers would be discriminating, he decided on Avoca, a Fort Worth-based coffee roaster, as the source for Gather’s coffee beans.
“Everyone is leaning toward craft coffee, made, with care, by artisans,” says Gonzales. That trend, he adds, “is just going to continue to grow.”
Artisan coffee is also the specialty at Sojourn Roasting Company, which sells its beans at the Keller Farmer’s Market each Saturday. Owners Becky and Steve Sandfort offer coffee that they roast from beans grown by small farms around the world. One of the coffee farms, located in Honduras, that they purchase beans from even supports an orphan-care mission.
When the Sandforts visited this farm in Honduras, one of the things that struck Steve Sandfort was how the Old-World methods were being used to make coffee at the farm — “Just a kettle with filter on top,” he says. Not only were they making the best tasting coffee, but they were also the methods that have been seeing a resurgence with American coffee drinkers.
“We are returning to how coffee used to be made,” says Sandfort. Pour over brewers such as the trendy Chemex maker, he says, give a richer flavor with bolder notes and less acidity.
Coffee houses are also touting the newly popular “cold brew” method, in which coffee is steeped with cold water (instead of the traditional hot water) for a longer period of time, usually 24 hours. Sandfort says this method is good because the coffee does not get bitter.
While “cold brew” may be a trendy term at the moment, Neyman says she has been cold brewing coffee for many years, and agrees that this method produces the best coffee for their cold coffee beverages.
With fall on the calendar, if not in the air quite yet, coffee houses like Brew’n Blues, Scooter’s Coffee and yes, even Starbucks entice customers with the scents and tastes of the season in the form of pumpkin spice-flavored drinks. Scooter’s introduced a pumpkin version of their popular Caramelicious drink in September, while Buon Giorno serves a hot caramel apple cider.
At Brew’n Blues, Neyman keeps the pumpkin-spice coffee drinks, including the decadent pumpkin caramel pecan latte, on the menu year-round. “It’s something our regulars like,” she says. And after 10 years of serving them, Neyman should know.
• Brew’n Blues, 841 N Tarrant Pkwy #100
• Buon Giorno Coffee, 1901 W. Southlake Blvd., Southlake
• Gather Cafe & Coffee, 12420 Timberland Blvd #400, Fort Worth
• Scooter’s Coffee, 1570 Keller Pkwy
• Sojourn Roasting Company, www.sojournroasting.com