You might might say 2015 has been the year of Revelator. Technically, the Birmingham-based company opened their first café at the end of 2014, but in a span of less than 12 months Revelator Coffee has opened five cafes in as many cities- with a sixth one on the way. We’ve long considered Nashville the South’s coffee capital, so we weren’t surprised that Revelator picked Music City as the site of their fifth café.
When the tech-funded roaster declared their ambition to be the “Blue Bottle of the South”, more than a few eye-brows were raised. Specialty coffee historically has been a DIY, grassroots movement, but venture capital has allowed Revelator to out-scale and out-pace their competitors in a fraction of the time. Time will tell the merits of the business model, but as humble coffee bloggers we are more interested in what their coffee tastes like. As such, when the opportunity came to café-crawl Nashville with some of our closest coffee friends we made sure Revelator was on the itinerary.
A disadvantage of visiting a café with 10 other coffee professionals is that it’s impossible to remain anonymous. Normally when we review a café we try to fly under the radar to get the same experience as our readers would likely get; plus things get weird when people know you’re a blogger. But coffee people like to hook other coffee people up, and the first thing the team at Revelator told us was everything was on the house, and they proceeded to serve each of us a pour-over, espresso, and a handful of cappuccinos. So read the rest of this review knowing that it wouldn’t fly by any sort of journalistic ethical standard.
For a company that is unapologetically trying to be a regional chain, Revelator Coffee has made some very interesting brand decisions. All filter coffees are manually brewed on Chemexes, single-origin espresso is prepared with a Slayer, and JD’s Country Milk, a grass-grazed option from nearby Kentucky, is used for cappuccinos and lattes. Perhaps most controversially, Revelator offers no modifications and a highly limited menu. If you want a sweetened drink cane syrup and chocolate are your two options.
We started out with a Chemex of the Santa Maria, Costa Rica. The coffee was well roasted and brewed, with a nice sweetness and crisp acidity. We were equally pleased with the espresso, which was sweet and dense- the sort of shot that tastes great in milk or plain.
What makes Revelator is not the coffee, but the thoughtful sense of space. Whether it’s the irregularities of the Louisville Stoneware vessels or the luminescence of the matte white everything, the attention to detail is immaculate. One might wonder whether Revelator has read their target audience. The stark white interior feels more Scandinavian than Southern. But we think Revelator knows exactly what they’re doing. The new urban South is well-traveled and epicurean. Although Revelator Coffee won’t appeal to everyone, a growing number of Southerners are looking for craft products in a refined atmosphere. Judging by the full café we saw in Nashville, they’re finding it at Revelator.