May 1, 2018

Coffee - Coffee Shop Recomendations (And More!) by Barista and Actor Gerardo Velasquez

Friend Gerardo Velasquez who is at Retrospect Coffee Bar recently shared his opinions and recommendations for coffee in Houston and coffee in general. It was so interesting that I decided to share it here. It's pretty awesome. And here is a shout out to Retrospect, which is a terrific coffee bar (he was too modest to tout it...but I will). And if you are in the Sugarland area, absolutely go check out Blendin Coffee Club.

Retrospect Coffee Bar


Gerardo wrote:

" TL;DR Starbucks is hot garbage, support coffee from your hometown. 

H-town hol' it down. 

In honor of Starbucks closing its stores today for racial bias training, allow me to give you some much much better, locally owned, Houston alternatives. First of all, Starbucks coffee is commercially roasted, burnt trash and is pretty much the reason why a lot of people think they don't like coffee because that's all they've ever tried. The fancy interior of Starbucks is very misleading. The quality of the coffee is on par with that of McDonalds or gas station coffee. They just have a lot of fancy syrups and toppings to drown out that bitter taste of their over-roasted, low quality coffee and if that's what you like then STOP READING NOW. There are a lot of dope, locally owned, high-quality shops in Houston that do not call the police on people of color and are actually owned and operated by awesome, passionate people that just want to serve really really good coffee and after some time working in the coffee industry, travelling a bit and experiencing the coffee scene in other cities, I can tell you that Houston's local coffee scene is FIRE and they deserve your support and friendship! 

First off: My favorite shop of all time and the shop I had the great pleasure of working for: 

Throughgood Coffee. Throughgood has only been open for a year but has quickly risen in the ranks as one of the best shops in town. It's owned by Pastor Rudy WHO FREAKING OFFICIATED BEYONCE AND JAY Z'S WEDDING and who also happens to be the nicest, most understanding person I've ever had the pleasure of working for. Their bar lead, who also happens to be named Rudy (Rodolfo Hernandez) is extremely passionate about coffee and super detail oriented. One of his biggest focal points is the attention given to hospitality, and this immediately jumps out at you as soon as you walk in. It really set the shop apart from others when I first started going there. Everyone there makes an effort to chat with you and if you come in regularly, they will do their best to learn your name and treat you like family. They serve super high-quality coffee from Amaya, which is an amazing Houston coffee roaster and they're constantly improving their recipes and techniques. Also, it has a little dog park and SOUL TACO is set up right outside (which serves the dopest breakfast tacos I've ever had). 

Catalina: This shop has gotta be one of the most O.G. Houston shops out there. They opened like 10 years ago and have since been one of the front-runners of Houston coffee. Most of the furniture in this beautiful space was built by the owner Max Gonzalez HIMSELF. They serve nothing but Amaya which is also Max's coffee roasting company so it's 100% fire all the time. They also have NO WIFI so you have to talk to people and be a human here. 

Boomtown: 100% H-town coffee all damn day. Boomtown is owned by a cool dude named Matt who (if I'm remembering the legend correctly) started out by ROASTING COFFEE IN A POPCORN MACHINE CAUSE HE LOVED COFFEE THAT MUCH. They have a nice space with lots of seating and a beautiful bar to sit at where the baristas will chat with you and serve you amazing espresso from their crazy from-the-future Modbar. Their original location is in the Heights on historic W 19th St. and they also just acquired Honeymoon downtown so they have a new location downtown on Main St. as well (re-opened as Boomtown, June 1, 2018)! They roast and provide their dope coffee in other shops too so keep your eyes peeled! 

Blacksmith: These are the coffee big bois. Greenway Coffee. Housing some serious latte art champs and owned by David Buehrer who is a super down-to-earth dude, Blacksmith is known throughout the U.S. as one of the best coffee shops in the state/region/country. David showed up to a halloween latte art throwdown in a clown costume and poured beautiful latte art into AN ICE CREAM CUP AND WON THE ROUND. 

Here follow all the other Greenway shops:

Morningstar: DOPE DONUTS AND BREAKFAST FOODS AND SUPER NICE PEOPLE like Destiny Villazana

Prelude: Absolutely sleek and gorgeous and high class AND MY BEST FRIEND Emilee Bryant WORKS THERE A LOT 

Coral Sword: BOARD GAMES AND VIDEO GAMES AND NERD STUFF

GREENWAY: IT'S GREENWAY! 

That's it for Greenway, they're dope. 

Southside: Super cute, cozy little shop. They serve cool beers as well and they're open late! Serving Fusion beans. 

A 2nd Cup: They have a HUGE open space and they rotate their roasters all the time! They also help by donating a portion of their proceeds to ending human trafficking! 

Tea and Victory: They're the new kids on the block and they have a ton of cool beer and boardgames as well as a sick new espresso machine that they serve fire on. 

Xela: I have to give Xela a special shoutout even though they don't have a shop (yet) because they are an amazing, newish roaster in Houston. Benji Aguilar and Kaitlin O'Brien are super driven, passionate young coffee roasters who are just laid back and friendly as heck. They make fire cold brew and sell it in PROMETHAZINE BOTTLES which is the most gangster coffee craziness I've ever seen. They make an espresso blend called SCREWSTON. So keep an eye out for their coffees. Show them tons of love. 

Siphon: They use siphons and it blows my mind cause they're basically mad scientist coffee brewers that utilize FIRE. But they also serve great food and they have a huge selction of retail coffee beans to choose from and the whole staff is SO nice. 

I saw in an article from KHOU that mentioned Fellini and Agora. These are just pretty-looking spaces that do not serve locally roasted Houston coffee and do not run quality coffee programs. I've been to Agora so many times and it's a super cool space but the coffee is not good. And I've met some staff from Fellini (they would come into a shop I managed to get coffee) and they've literally told me that no one trains them on coffee. 

Sorry if I missed any! Feel free to mention any other great shops and ask me questions!

You don't have to read everything, just read the names and go there. Sorry this is so long, I love coffee and all my coffee people.

Here follow, comments from friends who read the above article on his FB page:

"Serene bean in Katy is awesome."

"I've never been there but I have been to Laikh House in Katy and that's much better than any Starbucks lol. And it's like...tiki themed. And they have burgers."

Gerardo : "THANKS FOR READING, YOU GUYS. I didn't think anyone would read this cause it's really long but I figured I'd write it anyway cause I know so many people who are all about Houston Pride but they don't support any Houston coffee. And I know it's intimidating to go into new places sometimes but I guarantee you, no one is more happy to answer your coffee questions than coffee people, so ask away when you do visit these places!"

"Thanks for this list, Gerardo! I’m writing a book and tend to hang out in coffee shops and libraries. Thanks for a new list of writing places! Have you been to Luce Avenue Coffee Roasters yet?"

Gerardo: "That's wonderful! These are all perfect places to hang out and get creative. Yes, Luce Ave is great, but I've only ever been there once. They are owned and operated by passionate coffee people and they serve some good Xela stuff too!"

"The beginning explanation is SO TRUE. People don’t think they can drink good coffee without drowning it in sugar and milk because they think all coffee tastes like K cups and Folgers. I never tire of introducing good Chemex or French Press to friends and family who previously thought black coffee was burnt trash. Their reactions are priceless!! Keep up the good fight, and next time I’m down in H Town you know I’m coming to Throughgood Coffee."


Respect to coffee freshness, Gerardo writes: "Basically anything past like three weeks will start to get stale and taste baggy. So about four or five days after roast date is that sweet spot because coffee also needs time to de-gas, so there also is such a thing as too fresh. Whenever we get coffee shipments at the shop, we usually refrain from serving coffee that's been roasted the day before because it will be hard to work with. So as long as it's not month-old coffee, you should be fine."

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