As Lineage Coffee manager Luke Allen offers a small cup of coffee, he suggests smelling and taking in the flavors of the light roast Colombian beans.
“You can sense the blueberry,” he said. “You wouldn’t be able to detect that with the dark roast that you get at the chain coffee shops.”
With light blends, pour-over drinks and focus on bean origin, the newest wave of cafes in the region are trying to bring the latest coffee trends to Florida and wrestle locals back from the explosive growth of national chains Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Known as “third-wave” roasters, such shops treat coffee like sommeliers treat wine, looking for undercurrents of flavor and unique small batches. National chains are taking notice, buying up popular third-wave shops. An example is Peet’s Coffee buying up Chicago’s Intelligentsia in 2015, with plans to expand.
A handful of Central Florida shops are taking up the challenge, hoping to cut through the crowd of sugar-and-cream laden drinks and bring coffee back to its roots.
” Orlando has definitely been one of the slowest evolving cities in terms of coffee,” said Joey Chase, who runs Orlando roasting company Coffee Roasters Alliance. “But even in the last year or two, you have seen a big difference. Two years ago, you would have had a harder time opening an independent coffee shop in Orlando.”
The U.S. coffeehouse industry is worth about $23.4 billion, according to research group Mintel, reflecting 41 percent growth since 2011. While growth is plateauing nationally to the slowest rate, Central Florida’s population growth and booming tourism industry are spurring chain coffee shops to proliferate.
Orlando’s fast-growing and transient population also presents a challenge, Chase said, because people need time to develop loyalty to a local brand. But after years of exposure to chains such as Starbucks serving premium coffee, he said, consumers are ready for variety.
Lineage gained local recognition with a small shop inside East End Market that opened three years ago. It opened a larger location east of downtown Orlando on Colonial Drive in December. Winter Park-based Foxtail Coffee is preparing to open its third location in Altamonte Springs this fall.
Tyson Robertson of Orlando has been a fan of Vespr Coffeebar in the Waterford Lakes area, another third-wave company.
“I am not a coffee snob, so although I think a well-crafted cup can taste different than a regular cup of coffee, they are both good,” said Robertson, who co-owns a photo and video studio. “That being said, I think you can tell a difference — but it did take me a while to discern.”
Vespr owner Eduardo Siu said his shop has evolved since it opened five years ago to meet customer tastes.
The “pour over” is a big part of the third wave. Instead of brewing coffee in large quantities in a machine, baristas pour hot water over about an ounce of ground coffee, letting it drip through into a cup. Time and the quantity of water are carefully measured for a method intended to bring out the subtle differences in coffee beans.
Lineage still serves cappuccinos, mochas and lattes, but likes to give customers the choice of using beans from different sources. The menu says the Ethiopian bean coffee tastes like stewed peaches and red berries.
Foxtail Coffee, which opened a year ago in Winter Park, plans its Altamonte Springs location with a drive-through that will be its biggest challenge, co-founder Iain Yeakle said. It also has plans for new shops in Lake Nona and Downtown South.
“We want to make craft coffee more accessible with a drive-through, and we’ve taken a few risks in that sense,” he said.
Lineage’s owners spend a few months each year visiting coffee farms throughout the world, trying to make connections with farmers to get the best beans, said Jarrett Johnson, owner of Lineage Craft Coffee Roasting.
This kind of coffee making does have its challenges, though. Early morning to-go business has been slow at Lineage locations, but it picks up in late morning through the afternoon with young professionals working on laptops. Summers are slow, too.
Cold brews are helping to boost warm-weather traffic, Johnson said. Cold-brew coffee is steeped longer at cooler temperatures and can be bottled for sale. He said the same attention to flavors can be applied to cold brew as hot coffees.
“Cold brew is kind of what put us on the map because everyone was obsessed with our bottles,” Johnson said. “Hopefully it will help summer months.”
By Kyle Arnold, Orlando Sentinel
(c)2018 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.