Dive into Houston’s specialty-coffee scene with these end-of-summer flavors.
BY EDDIE P. GOMEZ
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Featured photo by Trace Hudson via Pexels
From old school Tex-Mex to fusion-inspired Texas barbecue, Houston’s food and beverage circles have gained national attention in recent years. Specialty coffee is no exception. Houston may have jumped into the specialty-coffee game later than other regions, but a boom of activity has transformed the city into a buzz-worthy coffee destination. We recently went in search of five amazing coffee drinks to beat the end-of-season Texas heat.
Blacksmith Coffee, 1018 Westheimer Road
Blacksmith Coffee in Houston is a partner shop of Greenway Coffee, a regional powerhouse that champions strong relationships in coffee. The café is located in the Montrose section of the city and driven by a dedication to hand-crafted food and top-tier coffee in a relaxed environment. Latte art champion and long-time Houston coffee pro Antoine “Twizz” Franklin oversees the shop. He encourages the barista staff to use their creative talents to design the shop’s signature coffee drinks.
The Johnny Orange is an ice-cold, shaken espresso drink anchored by Greenway’s Contemporary Blend. The blend features a fruity brightness with chocolate and spice undertones. Blacksmith’s popular orange syrup reduction and—are you ready for this?—house-made almond milk round out the list of hand-crafted ingredients. The result is a minimal number of flavors that end up tasting (and looking) sophisticated. The espresso blend remains the headliner, but the drink’s silk-like texture, lingering presence of orange, and mellow almond nuttiness elevate the Johnny Orange to incredible heights.
Citrus Iced Americano
Un Caffè, 3217 Milam St.
Un Caffè in Midtown Houston has become a favorite destination for locals, coffee professionals, and visitors to the city. The recently opened roastery cafè is the manifestation of Soonkack Kook’s passion and his pursuit of an expansive coffee education. Several of Soonkack’s SCA certifications, inconspicuously displayed, remind guests that a consideration for craft at the shop goes beyond the drink menu to include the high-quality coffees roasted on site.
The Citrus Iced Americano is the perfect antidote for the lingering heat. This crowd favorite is a tasty and refreshing mix of the Heavyweights blend—coffees from Colombia, Brazil, and Ethiopia—iced tea, and a citrus slush. The richness of the combined espresso and tea crescendos with a tangy, lime-driven burst of the citrus slush. The slush is made to order in a blender with fresh ingredients and persists as a chewable treat long after its coffee components are gone. That the Citrus Iced Americano comes topped with the cutest-ever cold-brew ice bear removes all doubt about the shop’s attention to detail.
Cold Brew Shandy
Tenfold Coffee, 101 Aurora St.
Searching for a bit of coffee adventure on Sunday morning, I signed up for a class on home brewing at Tenfold Coffee. While coffee educator Whitney Lewellen walked us through the basics of making a pourover, I couldn’t help but notice how much the cafè buzzed with activity. The fast-moving line snaked out the door and a food truck stood at the ready in the parking lot. The scene felt pre-pandemic, reminiscent of a time when roastery cafés came alive with cuppings, classes, and activities that ranged from open mic nights to latte art throwdowns.
Tenfold Coffee was started by Jacob Ibarra, Euseng Teo, and Donovan McLagan, seasoned coffee pros whose aim is simply to produce “a beautiful cup of coffee.” The café opened in June 2020 and flourished with unwavering support from the Heights section of the city. Several regulars mentioned having been instantly smitten by the shop’s neighborhood vibe.
I spoke with Jacob about what makes the Tenfold Cold Brew Shandy so lip-smackingly delicious. He casually offered: “We use My Shout Blend and the Sancoffee Peaberry from Brazil, but most importantly, we put a big effort into and highlight our cold brew. It is not a secondary product for us. For the lemonade part, we get the freshest stuff around,” which reminds anyone whose thirst has ever been quenched by cold brew or lemonade that craft and quality of ingredients are uncompromising qualities.
Horchata Cold Brew
Oso Coffee, 2603 Navigation Blvd.
The neighborhood affectionately known by locals as EaDo or East End (Second Ward) has benefited from investments in infrastructure, arts, and culture. This former industrial warehouse district has transformed into a hotbed of emerging restaurants and cafés. Oso Coffee, which sits across from the Esplanade at Navigation, held its grand opening in early July. The café has a welcoming vibe—it is the type of place where regulars are easygoing, and eventually “everybody knows your name.” The shop is housed in a once-nondescript home that was painstakingly refurbished by Hector Garcia, a longtime Houston graphic design and branding specialist.
The cold-brew horchata is made with Oso Sabroso El Mezcal, a medium-roasted coffee from Chiapas, Mexico. It presents a dessert-on-the-go equivalent, combining the smooth refreshment of cold brew and the Mexican spice aromatics of cinnamon and vanilla for which horchata is known. The cold brew and horchata are made by the barista staff several times a week using traditional recipes. That visitors can pair the drink with some delicious pan dulce that will leave them satisfied and ready to take on life in the city.
Red Velvet Iced Mocha
Campesino Coffee House, 2602 Waugh Drive
Campesino Coffee is set in a restyled single family home that recalls the Montrose neighborhood’s earlier days. The coffeehouse oozes charm, and the vintage decor makes visitors want to grab a coffee and sink into one the couches. The café also features a Latin-centric food menu, with items such as picadillo empanadas and Salvadoran-style tamales. The barista staff is friendly, laid back, and ready to help guests find the right drink, which is how the Red Velvet Iced Mocha caught my attention.
The mocha tastes decadent, but it also brings the feel-good wholesomeness of a health drink. The freshly extracted beet juice elevates the other ingredients without dominating them. It has all the deliciousness of your typical mocha: Nicaragua Jinotega espresso, milk, and Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate Sauce, yet the beet juice imparts a balanced root vegetable earthiness. I returned twice more just to sip a Red Velvet Iced Mocha on the sunlit porch.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eddie P. Gomez (he/him) is a freelance writer based in Modesto, Calif. When he is not substitute teaching kindergarten classes, he wanders from city to city, perfecting the art of the food and coffee adventure.
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