As New Orleans’ coffee culture has evolved through the past few decades, Tom Oliver has had a hand in it. Now he's at the helm of his own new coffee house.
Coffee Science (410 S. Broad St.) is slated to open by the end of January, pending inspections.
It will be 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.
Oliver had developed the 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 once managed Kaldi’s, a long-gone but still-lamented French Quarter cafe, 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 intends to roll together everything he’s learned about make 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,” Oliver said, 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 will serve a small food menu of donuts and pastries, cold sandwiches and ready-made salads, but the focus is on coffee.
“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 their beans retail as well.
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. That includes the mocha frosted coffee and the Bavarian iced coffee.
“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.
He was drawn to the location for the traffic volume along Broad Street and for the momentum building from other nearby redevelopment projects, many of which are restaurants. Right before Christmas, a new Ruby Slipper Café 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,” he said.
410 S. Broad St.
Projected opening: late January
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