Grizzly Brew Coffee Co. owner Antonio Lopez comes from a family of “coffee hounds.”
His new business mostly is online (with in-person deliveries), but Jan. 13, he began setting up at the St. Andrews Waterfront Farmers Market — a cold day that called for a hot coffee.
“I had a fantastic time,” said Lopez, 29, who was back at Smith’s Yacht Basin from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 20. “This is my dream.”
Lopez brings a basket of 1-pound bags of whole and ground coffee and lines up his four blends on the table with sample cups.
“Because honestly the taste is what sells it. Everything is smoother,” said Lopez, a Panama City native. “I wanted to get rid of the harshness of coffee. I got rid of the bitterness of a black cup. It’s all simple to drink.”
In just one month’s time, he already has devoted fans.
Snowbirds Steve and Mary Lou Zagorski, who spend the warmer months in Nashville, Tenn., were back for more Jan. 20 after going through their first bag over the past week.
“Last week we tried all four,” said Mary Lou Zagorski. “Hibernation Evacuation is really good and we bought some last week and have already been using it. I like the other two as well, but it’s a good medium for both of us.”
From light to dark, Grizzly Brew offers Bear-ly Roasted, Mountain Blend, Hibernation Evacuation, and McAdams Espresso Blend — the top-seller.
While Steve usually prefers a darker roast, Hibernation is one they can both agree on.
“She’s a Starbucks Blonde, a Veranda Blonde roast,” Steve said. “We own our own business, too, so we like to support small business. I have to do everything locally, and that’s good coffee.”
After graduating from Gulf Coast State College in August with an associate’s degree in business administration/management, Lopez is now attending Florida State University Panama City for entrepreneurship.
“I teamed up with FSU because I’m a student, and they’ve hired me to do catering,” said Lopez, who has set up on campus. “I’ve always loved coffee. I’m a Gold Card at Starbucks. … What do I know that sells? I love coffee. Everybody loves coffee.”
The name also has been a hit.
“I was at work one day talking to a friend, and in the middle of talking, saw an old friend who told me my beard was growing out and I looked like a bear,” Lopez said. ‘Then I started thinking about a grizzly bear, strong and ferocious, full of flavor.”
Some friends have even seen the resemblance between Lopez and the grizzly bear with glasses the logo he created.
“I’m just excited for him,” said mom Sheryl Tripp. “I like the Bear-ly Roasted, but I was able to taste each one without putting a lot of sugar in it.”
While I liked the Bear-ly roasted, it had more of a tea quality — good on its own or with a little honey or cream. It was hard for me to pick a favorite, but Mountain and Hibernation were top contenders.
The Bear-ly Roasted also has the most caffeine per scoop. Beans lose mass in the roasting process, so the lighter blend is denser.
“Thinking the strong has the most is a common misconception,” said Lopez, who blends all of the coffee by hand. “I take origins, then blend them together from six different countries — a lot of Central America and Africa. … I worked with outsourcing company who does importing of beans. As I blended them, I tried different roast levels. I went through 15 different countries before I found the six countries.”
Often, Lopez uses the term “we” when talking about Grizzly Brew, referring to himself and the coffee.
“I weigh it out on a scale and sit down with a big spoon in a bowl and start putting it into a bag or grinding it. … When you order a bag online, we grind everything fresh, mix it fresh just for you from the McAdams Espresso Blend all the way down to the light roast, a breakfast coffee,” Lopez said. “It’s strong as a bear but lightly roasted.”
By Jan Waddy,
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