Where to find “third-wave” coffee in town
Of late, the City Different is becoming a more viable place to enjoy the “third wave” of coffee — beans with heart and soul, along with an actual origin story.
If you’ve spent time in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, or New York lately, you might have noticed that the so-called “third wave” is becoming ubiquitous. The artisanal movement that pays close attention to all stages of coffee making (growing, harvesting, processing, roasting, and brewing) has exploded to such a point that even your clueless Aunt Dot might now know where to get a good single-origin pour-over in her neighborhood.
Until recently, Santa Fe had some catching up to do, with just a select few local roasters (Ohori’s Coffee, Aroma Coffee) to choose from and no emporiums for coffee snobs to share tasting notes and enjoy small- batch, fair-trade beans. Independently owned stalwarts like Ecco Espresso & Gelato, Downtown Subscription, Tribes Coffee House, and others have consistently provided customers with a strong heartbeat. But of late, the City Different is becoming an even more viable place to escape Starbucks’ dominion and enjoy beans with heart and soul, along with an actual origin story.
Iconik Coffee Roasters is a logical place to seek out the best cup in town, having significantly changed the coffee landscape since opening in 2013. Iconik has wholesale accounts all over Santa Fe, and the owners are earnest in their mission to introduce more sophisticated beans and brewing methods. The airy, eclectic warehouse- style space just off Second Street doesn’t have a bad seat in the house, which is usually packed with a young, hip crowd. On one visit, the pourover Sumatra Takengon Mandheling advertised notes of yellow bell pepper, fig, and tobacco; packed with flavor, the cup was bright and intense, and I missed it when it was gone. One realizes why third-wavers use terms akin to sommeliers’ in describing beans — this is complex, heady, rewarding stuff. More straightforward is the cold brew, which contained some pleasant dark- chocolate notes and put a spring in my step. An already-prepared cold brew might be the most time- efficient order at Iconik, where wait times can be inexplicably long (and seemingly because of nothing other than a lackadaisical workflow). Still, the product is superior, and I admire Iconik’s commitment to flavor and transparency. Plus, the chocolate-caramel cookie is a gooey, crunchy revelation.
The Betterday Coffee Shop serves up Portland’s Stumptown Coffee along with a hippie-grunge neighborhood vibe. Adjacent to La Montañita Co-op, Betterday’s well-worn, Art Brut-ish space is no-frills, complete with a garage door that rolls up to let the sun shine in. I counted five shaggy dogs (and their owners) hanging out at the patio tables when I stopped by for a latte, which combined rich, bitter espresso with sweet well-steamed milk — no sugar necessary. Stumptown’s espresso, Hair Bender, can be temperamental and overly bitter, but Betterday’s edgy baristas are well trained, and the result is a dependable extraction done by capable hands. The chocolate- chip cookie was more dry than I would have liked, but the true joy of Betterday comes from knowing that the same locals go there almost every day to get the same great cup of coffee. It’s a comfortable, hometown kind of place.
Speaking of comfort, it’s a wonder that Bill Deutsch, owner of Holy Spirit Espresso, has been operating out of his cramped converted lobby on San Francisco Street for more than 20 years. But then you order a double espresso, and you stop wondering. The bandana-clad Deutsch has the magic touch. He pulls his shots — some of the more generous in town — with tender care. He uses Caffé D’Arte espresso from Seattle — on my visit, he greeted a new shipment with the enthusiasm of a fledgling barista — and his breezy charm, along with his meticulously brewed pours, has an uplifting effect on locals and tourists alike. The Siler Road location of Java Joe’s is a hidden gem among auto-body shops and warehouses. Its industrial interior is clean and spacious, t he perfect place for a quiet meeting. Were I a laptop lurker, this would be my chosen spot, especially after sampling the Azteca de Oro, a standout Mexican mocha with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of chile. I have found that Java Joe’s on Rodeo Road offers the most reliably great lattes around, and it’s a relief to find that the quality is controlled across locations. Java Joe’s roasts and sells beans under the Groovy Bean label, and both stores remain solid places to grab a straightforward drink or bag. I’d also happily revisit the flaky, tasty, locally made ham-and- cheese croissant any time.
You might get disoriented and think you’re in some yuppie corner of Austin while browsing Modern General’s wellheeled, sun-flooded quarters. The coffee by Cuvée, a roaster from the Texas capital, furthers that illusion. Modern General takes some ribbing for its precious artisan general-store approach to everything from peanut butter to rakes, but this place is home to one of the most dependably good cups of coffee in town. The Cuvée is more easygoing than Iconik’s pour- overs — well balanced and full bodied, with very little acidity, it makes a fine companion to avocado toast with seedy semolina bread, lime, cilantro, and olive oil. Sipping my small black coffee, I spied the book Shop Class
as Soulcraft on a shelf. That title that might sum up Modern General’s — and indeed, the rest of these establishments’ — zealous commitment to handcrafted goodness.