For Roasters & Retailers

A New Orleans coffee pro’s new project, and a mocha frosted blast from the past

At modern bars, it’s common to find vintage cocktails brought back from the history books. On South Broad Street in Mid-City, a new café has done the same trick with a coffee drink that once had its own following in New Orleans.

The mocha frosted coffee was a signature of Kaldi’s Coffeehouse and Coffee Museum, a long-gone fixture from the French Quarter. It’s a frozen mix of ice cream, espresso and whipped cream that still elicits warm memories.

It’s now back at Coffee Science, 410 S. Broad St., a cafe opened in January by a seasoned pro in the business.

Tom Oliver developed the specialty coffee shop as the next phase in a long career in New Orleans coffee, going back to the late 1980s. He’s sold beans, trained baristas and serviced equipment. He was once a manager at Kaldi’s, and he was later a co-owner of Orleans Coffee, which roasts and supplies beans for coffee houses around the area.

Coffee Science is Oliver’s own independent project. Here, he’s rolling together everything he’s learned about making a great cup of coffee and running a shop with a dual appeal for coffee aficionados and those who just want their fixes fast.

“It was my job through the years to help coffee shops. I basically spent my life trying to find answers to whatever problems they were having,” said Oliver, whose other calling is as a musician, playing in local rock outfit the Royal Pendletons.

For instance, if two shops were buying the same beans, but the coffee at one was turning out consistently better, Oliver would delve into the details of equipment, production and process to find the differences. It taught him the intricacies that go into the seemingly simple task of making coffee and how the right methodology can ensure consistency. There’s a science behind the craft, and that helped inspire the framework for Coffee Science.

“It’s all about stability and repeatability,” he said. “Every time you get the drink, it should be identical.”

Coffee Science serves a small food menu of donuts and bagels, grab-and-go sandwiches and Latin-style pastries from Norma’s. Coffee is clearly the focus.

“My rule for any food we have here is you have to be able to hold your coffee in one hand and the food in the other,” he said.

Beans will come from a rotation of local roasters, and the shop will sell its beans retail.

At Coffee Science, Oliver also plans to bring back a few drinks from his days at Kaldi’s, which was a fixture of lower Decatur Street from 1990 to 2000. He’s working on the Bavarian iced coffee, for instance, in addition to that mocha frosted.

“There are only a few of us still around who know that recipe,” Oliver said.

Coffee Science is in a century-old, Craftsman-style cottage that was vacant for years and was recently slated for demolition. But Oliver was able to buy the place before it met that fate, and he’s completed a gleaming renovation. The café extends through a series of rooms to a back deck and a long yard, which Oliver plans to eventually develop as a patio. Coffee Science has a parking lot on an adjacent lot on Banks Street that leads to this yard.

It’s the latest addition to a growing cluster of new businesses taking root along this stretch of Mid-City, near the courthouse complex at Tulane and Broad and the massive new hospitals. Right before Christmas, a new Ruby Slipper Cafe opened down the street, and a cluster of smaller eateries has been growing in nearby blocks.

“I feel like Broad Street is coming into its own,” Oliver said.


By Ian McNulty

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