I mentioned in my last post that I attended a pipeline conference in Houston, TX, where I sought the latest news on crude oil pipeline and rail expansions from giant oil magnates for my job. Around one hundred analysts, reporters, traders, businessmen etc. gathered in the city where most every company with an oil trading desk has an office. Five Greenway Plaza Houston, TX, has been seared in my mind through reading company filings, permits, environmental studies, and various literature since I began research in the oil industry a little over a year ago. The high security, sterile environ that houses offices for such giants as Oxy, Exxon, and Shell is also home to the storefront for a growing name in the coffee industry: Greenway Coffee Company.
Positioned in the plaza basement next to the food court, Greenway Coffee’s store front flashes “Tuscany PREMIUM COFFEES” emblazoned in bright red letters — a sign yet to be removed from the previous store. Adjacent the shop you can spot a bright sky dome that gives the space a sense of openness. The limited bar seating feels comfortable with finished natural wood countertops inviting the customer to chat with the barista. The space feels not quite done, but the craft coffee experience provided by owner David Buehrer is world class.
As we begin to see higher standards of green coffee sourcing, roasting, and brewing become more universal, hospitality will be what sets really great cafes apart. At Greenway, hospitality is woven into its very fabric. I had only been in Houston for roughly 72 hours, so I didn’t expect the red carpet treatment, but Dave Buehrer and Greenway coffee roaster Ecky Prabanto welcomed me with all the Southern hospitality anyone could hope for, and then some.
I started out at 5 Greenway Plaza, where I was served a single shot cappuccino coupled with a single shot espresso of “The Veldt Espresso (mid)Summer 2012” (40% Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia, 40% Dukunde Kawa, Rwanda, 20% Amaro Gayo, Ethiopia). Named after the Ray Bradbury tale, the espresso is one of three rotating seasonal blends the shop offers. Each year brings new blends. “It gets the customers excited for what’s next,” Dave explained. The shot was mellow, sweet, and fruity dark chocolate. These drinks were accompanied with elation from finding Greenway and the shock of being served craft coffee in a foreign land, but the subsequent Chemex of the Kiambaa Cooperative, Kiambu Kenya found my palette ready to critique. It was a rich, heavy bodied coffee with a tangerine acidity and flavor. I couldn’t sense any defects; a solid brew.
Perhaps more interesting than his Greenway Plaza storefront is the distribution of accounts and relationships Dave has engendered through Greenway. Dave and Ecky took me to Montrose where we ate at their absolute favorite spot: Paulie’s Restaurant. The place is amply supplied to also act as a cafe featuring a La Marzocco Linea and a full service espresso and pourover menu. Everyone who serves coffee at Paulie’s is personally trained by the Greenway Coffee staff. The food is handcrafted and delicious. And Paulie’s recently received high praise; it was deemed “Favorite Coffee Shop” at the 2012 Houston Culinary Awards. The Canestri alla Funghi (add meatballs) I consumed easily contended with the best food I’ve had in Louisville.
Because Dave didn’t want me to see Houston’s Greenway scene exclusively but rather the coffee scene at large, he took me to Catalina Coffee. If I lived in Houston, I could imagine Catalina being a shop to frequent often. The location was inviting and beautiful, and they even had a Kyoto cold brew tower. The coffee is worth the stop, but you’ll have to check it out for yourself if you want the fine details.
After Catalina, we headed over to Revival Market, another account of Greenway. The shop expresses itself as an “interpretation of a responsible 21st century market [with] everything you need to cook a meal at home from locally raised meats and vegetables, as well as a lot of extra goodies, all sourced from 150 miles whenever possible.” Saturday mornings highlight breakfast items, and when I went the cafe was serving Greenway coffee on cold brew. However, the place functions as a full cafe with a full espresso menu where baristas operate a throwback Faema E61.
The Future of Greenway Coffee
The plaza storefront is currently home for Greenway the shop, but their newest storefront “Blacksmith” is set to open up sometime at a later undetermined date. They currently roast at a recently acquired offsite warehouse, and will look to potentially transform this into a training center, while maintaining roasting operations. Blacksmith will incorporate food, but the focus, Buehrer says, will revolve around coffee, crafted with the same level of care as the food crafted in the businesses where he displays Greenway Coffee.
In case you’re having a tough time finding it here’s a map:
UPDATE: Greenway opened Blacksmith on January 21st, 2013.