“How do you take your coffee?” In New Orleans these days, the question invites more possibilities than ever. That’s because specialty coffee is now abundant in the city, receiving the attention usually devoted only to craft cocktails and fine wines.
Baristas are studying the variables that lead to an impeccable brew, from sourcing the coffee beans to measuring the grinds and finding the perfect pour-over method. At the same time, conscientious coffee lovers have become increasingly curious about where the contents of their macchiato come from, and how they are developed.
According to Jonathan Riethmaier, the owner of Mammoth Espresso and co-founder of the New Orleans Barista Social Club, these clients favor cafes that allow the wealth to trickle down to the farmer who grows the coffee beans — an attitude that improves farming communities and the quality of coffee.
“Great coffee has never been so prevalent in the world,” said Riethmaier. “That’s a special thing to be part of.”
And Riethmaier does indeed have company. Several new coffee shops, run by baristas and roasters who care deeply about coffee beans, have proliferated the local java scene.
At Mammoth Espresso in the Warehouse District, baristas create both common and obscure espresso-based drinks, including one that features Ethiopian espresso poured into a glass full of ice and Fentimans Tonic Water.
“Even though espresso is a minuscule drink, it can be a really big deal,” said Riethmaier. The shop’s moniker is based on this seeming paradox.
Coffee is prepared with a pour-over method, where hot and cold coffee beverages are produced by the cup, rather than in batches well before the customer arrives. Mammoth Espresso also established a multi-temperature steeping system that suits various types of tea. The teas are pre-dosed by precise measurements and steeped at set times in large glass globes, since tea bags can be constrictive.
“Teas like to branch out and unfold their leaves,” Riethmaier explained. “You get a full extraction that way.”
Scout bakery provides the pastries, which include croissants, biscotti, and canelés — French treats with a caramelized crust and a custard center.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters opened alongside the Ace Hotel to debut signature cold-brew drinks, mixed and poured from a seven-head brass and marble tap. The menu offerings include the “Cold Shot” — a cold-brewed espresso blend infused with nitrogen. This shot anchors other unique beverages, like the “Endless Summer” — a non-alcoholic, caffeinated take on the Mint Julep.
“We put a lot of work into thinking about those (drinks),” said Matt Lounsbury, the vice president of the Portland, Oregon-based Stumptown. “We’re proud of how great they taste and how simple they are to produce.”
The coffee shop is equipped with a La Marzocco espresso machine and a Mod Bar, where customers can receive any single-origin coffee on the menu, brewed to order.
Stumptown sells pastries from Port City Pantry and desserts from Josephine Estelle restaurant.
What started as a pop-up coffee bar in Stein’s Market & Deli is now a full-fledged coffee shop situated in an old firehouse, with exposed brick walls and high ceilings.
At Cherry Espresso Bar, owner Lauren Fink uses a multi-roaster program, sourcing coffees from roasters around the country and working directly with the farmers. The café offers a single-origin espresso and a blend, breakfast items, and savory meals, like healthy quinoa bowls.
“I want to show people what’s out there,” Fink said of her coffee collection. She still operates the coffee stand inside of Stein’s.
“I’m not a morning person, and I wake up at 5 a.m. everyday because I get to come drink coffee. I love coffee and community.”
Geoffrey Meeker has expanded his popular French Truck Coffee operation by opening French Truck Café, on the corner of Dryades and Cadiz. The airy café is housed in a marigold cottage with a wide porch, adorned with white rocking chairs and tables.
French Truck serves breakfast items, including a waffle sandwich topped with egg, prosciutto, and goat cheese; and lunch plates, like tarragon chicken salads; along with the same coffee and tea menu available at their Magazine Street location.
Meeker produces small-batch coffee in his micro-roastery, allowing him to oversee the entire roasting process from start to finish, ensuring that the coffee is roasted to perfection.