If you’ve ever been to Nashville and had the inclination to find a good cafe, there’s a good chance you came across Crema in your search for the best coffee in town. Started by Rachel and Ben Lehman 11 years ago, Crema has grown to be one of Nashville’s most beloved coffee shops. In those years, they’ve also gained national notoriety and have become zero waste with the aim of eventually being carbon neutral. One of the hallmarks of Crema is their careful approach to growth, which is why the opening of their second location–nestled on Duke Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in East Nashville– is so exciting and remarkable.
Part takeaway cafe and part roasting space, Crema purchased the Duke Street building last year. In Ben’s words, “It was literally a function of budget. What drove the decision was sustainability.” Many cafes rent their space, and the original Crema is no different. Ben said they wanted to purchase real estate to ensure the longevity of Crema amid Nashville’s rising rent prices. When they got into the space and started renovating, they realized they had more space than they needed for roasting. “Rachel had the idea for a takeaway cafe,” Ben said. One year later, that vision has come to fruition.
The response to the opening has been one of excitement. Rachel shared that she’s had several conversations with customers discussing the more technical elements of coffee. “The customers here already know the philosophy of our shop when they come in,” she said. The space is smaller and feels more intimate than their original location, so it feels natural to make conversation with the barista while they’re making your drink. Mark Lemley, the general manager of the new location, said there have been a lot of Crema regulars who live in the neighborhood excited to find the new outpost in their own neighborhood. “What’s happened like three times now, people who have been in the neighborhood for a long time are stopping their car in the middle of the road and running in saying ‘what’s going on?!’”
The menu is also pared down with fewer specialty drinks and a smaller food menu that doesn’t require prep. They wanted to provide a specifically take-away experience. You can hang out for a bit at their outdoor tables or standing ledges by the window or get in and out quickly, say, on your way to the airport. Foregoing pour overs to save time and counter space, they dial in each coffee on their Fetco, making for reliably delicious filter coffee. “I want to showcase the thing that we’re best at, which is our coffee,” Rachel said. As for other equipment, they chose to stick with the La Marzocco Linea PB at this location, a Peak grinder, and an EK43 grinder for filter coffee.
Regulars of the original Crema will find the space and menu to be familiar, but fresh. I had a cortado made with their Santa Rosa Costa Rica, which is a really fun red honey process coffee from a longstanding relationship partner, Luis Monge. It’s the perfect spot to run in for a quick filter coffee or post up at the standing bar in the window and enjoy a cappuccino with a Dozen croissant (or Jonny and Conny donut if you’re there on the weekend). This new location showcases the craft that Crema has been perfecting for the last 11 years. Stop in and see for yourself Monday-Saturday 7-3 at 226 Duke Street.
Photos by Missi Calvert