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Restaurants / Openings

Houston’s Hottest New Coffee Shops

A New Wave of Unique Caffeine Havens is Keeping Space City Buzzed

BY // 05.16.18

oOne of the perks of living in Clutch City? Tons and tons of coffee shops. There’s something for everyone, whether you want to pore over a book while drinking a pour over, or if you want to grab an iced coffee on a hot afternoon with a friend.

Coffee brings the community together like no other. Some neighborhoods can look forward to becoming even more tight-knit, thanks to just-opened caffeine havens or a few on the horizon. These are the hottest new Houston coffee shops.

From The Heights all the way to The Woodlands, it looks like coffee drinkers are covered.

 

Giant Leap Coffee

Houston, we have a new coffee shop. Giant Leap Coffee has landed in the East End at 3302 Canal, in co-working office space Headquarters. Logan Beck, Lauren Ferrante and Eric Hester had the idea for a Space City themed coffee shop in the back of their mind for years, and they got serious in January of 2017.

Why the space theme? “It’s an amazing part of our city’s history. Something I feel doesn’t get highlighted nearly enough,” Beck says.

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Giant Leap is certainly bucking that trend with its NASA image-heavy social media accounts and futuristic architecture.

The space-age interior is fit for any sci-fi movie. Beck runs another business, rootlab, a design and fabrication company. Their projects run the gamut of commercial design, architectural pieces for residential and even some restaurant build outs.

“The coffee shop work always ended up being some of my favorites,” Beck says. So he ended up creating one of his own.

For Giant Leap, the space theme allows Beck the opportunity “to get a little bit weird,” he notes. “We were able to make this kind of retro future vibe that I love from old sci-fi movies and Star Trek. What they thought the future would look like in the 1960s.”

You could say they’ve done a lot with their space — no pun intended. “I didn’t want to put in a boring ceiling,” Beck says. So rootlab parametrically designed a faceted structure that’s all laser cut steel. In other words, it’s a badass convex and concave white geometric canopy.

It hangs over the bar, the crown jewel of the 600-square-foot space. “It’s not only fun to watch (the coffee made) but beautiful when someone who is great at it is doing it,” Beck says.

The Great Leap baristas will make you a great espresso from classic Bayou City roaster Amaya, and they’ll serve it to you in a handmade cup, next to a shot of Topo Chico all on a sculpted wood board.

Beck’s big into cold brew and iced coffee, initially inspired by Japanese-style hot brewed concentrate iced coffee.

“We ended up developing a cold brew that’s out of this world,” he laughs.

Star Cruiser is made with Cruiser beans, the only roaster Giant Leap uses outside of Amaya. “It’s deeper, punchier with more flavor than any of the medium roasts,” Beck says.

Giant Leap was created to bring the community of the East End together, but Beck also had some selfish motivations. “It’s really great to have a deep and pure stream of caffeine when we need it.”

Amaya Coffee

Catalina Coffee fans, rejoice. The beans you know and love are headed to Finn Hall, the highly-anticipated new food hall in The Jones on Main in the JPMorgan Chase & Co. Building at 712 Main Street. Amaya Roasting, Catalina’s provider, is opening Amaya Coffee, its first foray into direct retail in Finn Hall. It’s scheduled to debut this summer.

“I want to show what I’ve been doing behind the scenes for a decade,” owner Max Gonzalez says. His roasts can also be found at Caracol, Xochi, Siphon and beyond.

“A lot of people don’t realize how coffee gets to us, gets to your cup. I have an opportunity to showcase that gap,” Gonzalez notes.

Roasting is fulfilling, allowing him to travel to source coffee directly from farmers. But it’s time for the next stage of Amaya’s evolution.

As a roaster, Gonzalez brings a unique perspective and comprehensive plan to running a coffee shop. All beans will be freshly harvested and seasonal. The roasts will rotate regularly.

“Our entire approach for coffee is it’s produce,” Gonzalez says. “It’s the seed of a fruit.”

You’ll notice that dark roasting really isn’t Amaya’s scene. “We buy extremely high-end coffees and roast them in a manner that highlights the seed of the coffee itself, without adding a roasted or burnt flavor to it,” Gonzalez says. “We really just want to highlight the hard work of the coffee farmer.”

That hard work will show up across a broad array of drinks, with all your favorites from Catalina making the journey. The Cortado is a rave-worthy one, a Spanish mix of espresso and flat steamed milk.

That’s not to say there won’t be some exciting newbies at Amaya Coffee. Their affogato will be innovative, espresso poured over none other than their specialty collab coffee ice cream with Fat Cat Creamery.

Finn Hall was the obvious choice for Amaya Coffee’s debut. “As a longtime Houstonian, I’ve never seen downtown have this kind of momentum. It’s really exciting for us to be a part of the development that’s happening,” Gonzalez says. “We want to be part of the changing landscape of the city.”

Not to mention the gorgeous background of Finn Hall itself in The Jones tower.

“It’s one of my all-time favorite buildings in Houston. I recommend it just for a day trip for hanging out in Houston,” Gonzalez says. “The art deco design is absolutely stunning. I don’t think you’ll see much construction in this manner ever again.”

The Yellow Cup Coffee & Tea

For this coffee shop, it’s all about living — and sipping — in the moment. “The shop is based on our belief of simply being happy and being present,” The Yellow Cup co-owner David Chin says.

The name was inspired by that feeling of presence and focus when you approach a yellow traffic light. “You have to be completely focused for that fraction of a second. We take that yellow light with us. Customers take in that yellow light,” Chin says.

But you won’t find a sun-kissed interior at 6001 Washington. The sleek digs are grays and whites with the occasional pop of dandelion, courtesy of co-owner Zenaida Mesick. She was responsible for the decor and overall vibe. She’s the heart of The Yellow Cup, and Chin, a former oil and gas engineer, is the brains.

The business partners blended the best aspects of his corporate experience and Mesick’s warm persona.

“It’s a little bit more structured, but still a mom-and-pop kind of thing,” Chin says.

Mesick agrees. “We’re giving to the community. We’re helping people get together,” she says. “You never known who’s going to come to your place and look into your eyes. You can make their day. It might change their life.”

That goes for anyone. There’s no target demographic. The Yellow Cup welcomes people of all ages, millennials on laptops, baby boomers with their newspapers, even small children with their parents. There’s a pint-sized area for the little ones, with scaled down versions of the chairs and tables throughout the shop. Chin’s son is developing a kid’s menu.

Coffee yellow cup
Co-owner Zenaida Mesick designed The Yellow Cup’s fresh look.

The coffee bar is open and spacious, run by approachable baristas. No pretentiousness here. You can see how everything is done, and you can feel free to ask questions.

“Sometimes I would go to a coffee shop and be kind of intimidated by baristas. Here, we want to be more open,” Mesick says.

“There’s no right or proper way to drink your coffee. We understand people drink coffee different ways. Our focus is to provide it the best way — with no doubt whether it’s made great,” Chin adds.

While they may not be hipsters, their beans come straight from hipster haven Brooklyn. West Bean — Mesick’s favorite — tastes like chocolate, like almonds, like “tiramisu in your mouth.” Other beans cover the fruity notes some coffee drinkers crave.

Blue Door Coffee Company

It’s about time The Woodlands got a new artisanal coffee shop. Nycki Sorensen, owner of the new  Blue Door Coffee Company has been brewing an idea to bring something a little more homegrown to the neighborhood for a few years now. It’s slated to open in late summer at 21 Waterway Ave.

“We’re in The Woodlands. There’s a Starbucks on every corner, basically,” Sorensen says.

She’s out to plug the “hole in the coffee shop and cafe area” with the opposite of a mass chain, corporate feel.

“My son is going to be my all-knowing guy, he’ll be running the coffee part of it,” Sorensen says. Her son selected Parlor Coffee Roasters in Brooklyn to source Blue Door’s beans.

The roaster has built personal relationships with the farmers he uses, Sorensen says. Think Costa Rica, Guatemala and beyond. “It’s a friendly way of creating relationships across borders. It’s jobs for people in the fair market,” Sorensen says.

Blue Door will offer your standard espresso drinks, all different sorts of more artisan coffee and its distinctive cold brew toddy.

Coffee blue door
The Blue Door Coffee Company opens late summer in The Woodlands.

Coffee won’t be the only avenue to a much-needed caffeine fix. Blue Door is teaming up with Teema Tea, a local company with roots in Thailand. The farm in Southeast Asia is run completely by women. It hits home for Sorensen.

“They employ so many of the people in their village,” she says. The huge range of teas at Blue Door will include black tea, green tea, herbal teas, as well as a signature iced tea.

Breakfast and lunch will be on the menu, with salads, sandwiches and quiches. “It’ll be all kinds of goodness, gourmet biscuits for breakfast. Baked goods, pastries, and all of our food done in house,” Sorensen says.

She looks forward to the community aspect, planning to showcase paintings from local artists and partner with local farms as much as possible.

“It’s just a little different from what we have around here,” she says.

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