Oh, the golden days of the 1980s and ’90s, and locally-owned, independent coffee shops in Brevard.
They could be found virtually anywhere, and multiples in downtown districts; you could relax, extol the grandeur of a Costa Rican single-origin or a Tanzanian peaberry, have a bit of conversation, discover that a Milky Way could indeed be made in a cup.
Alas, with the growth of national chains and the high cost of keeping their businesses open, many local owners shuttered their shops, leaving a few sturdy diehards like Indian River Coffee Co. and Sun Shoppe Café in Melbourne, and Juice ‘N Java in Cocoa Beach, but that is not the end of the story.
Thanks to renewed interest, increased sophistication of palates, a newfound insistence on superiority in comestibles and an affinity for laid-back atmospheres, the independent coffee shop has made a comeback here, with at least 11 new coffee-centric shops having opened in the past five years. They include:
- Anaya, 1414 Highland Ave., Melbourne (2015)
- Black Coffee and Donuts, 301 Delannoy Ave., Cocoa (2019)
- Bold Cup, 2271 Town Center Ave., Viera (2017)
- Bula Café, 24 N. N. Orlando Ave., Cocoa Beach (2016)
- Crescent Coffee Co., 311 S. Washington Ave., Titusville (2018)
- Drippers Vape & Coffee, 3002 W. New Haven Ave., West Melbourne (2017)
- Mima’s Tea & Coffee Shop, 1400 N. Highway A1A., Indialantic (2018)
- Open Mike’s Coffee Lounge, 454 N. Harbor City Blvd., Melbourne (2014/15)
- Port St. Java, 4195 Fay Blvd., Port St. John (2014)
- River Road Coffee and Popsicles, 9 Rosa L. Parks Drive, Cocoa (2019)
- The Tilted Cup, 1 Orange Ave., Rockledge (2017)
“There’s definitely a boom in independent coffee shops. It’s something people like and it is a business model people can enjoy because it involves things they like: coffee, conversation, people coming together,” said Alex Flores, who owns Bold Cup in The Avenue Viera.
“People are looking for quality,” said Jamie Luna, owner of Crescent Coffee in downtown Titusville, where the beans are single-origin, direct trade and all syrups and flavorings are made in-house.
Rodney Temple, who owns the Tilted Cup, believes part of the rediscovery is due to the maturity of consumers.
“The millennial has grown up,” he said. “Starbucks (and chains like it) has never had just a plain, good cup of coffee. We have that. I learned to drink coffee while in Costa Rica,and that coffee was so good. I never imagined coffee could be that good, and I thought, ‘If I ever open a coffee shop, that is what I am going to have.’ So, we have Costa Rican coffees, and we do not bring in a lot at one time. Sure, we could buy cheaper beans. But we don’t.”
He added that part of the process is educational. Temple has been known to bring a pour-over (hot water dripped through ground beans via a vessel placed over a cup) to a customer anything but enthusiastic about it. Those customers invariably return for pour-overs, he says.
Most of the shops do flavored specialty beverages that include coffee, hot or cold; some, frozen. Others, like Bold Cup and the Tilted Cup in Rockledge, prefer to stick to the classics.
“When we opened, the first question we always got was, ‘Do you have a Frappuccino?’ We see ourselves as reinventing the idea of the modern coffee shop, of going back to basics. Coffee is more than sweetened beverages,” said Flores, whose best-selling beverage now is no pastel-colored, cream-topped, sprinkled frozen drink, but café con leche.
Still, proprietors of the shops that have withstood the ups and downs of the industry, say they’re doing just fine with specialty beverages as well as roasted beans and cups of the coffee of the day, wherever it is from.
Jenny Pruett of Juice ‘N Java, which has roasted and served coffee since the mid-1990s, called her restaurant “more than a coffee shop; more like a community hub. We have an environment nobody else has in town. … It’s rough when you have all the trendy stuff that comes and goes, and to be here for the long haul. But we’re not going anywhere.”
Dale Longstreet of Indian River Coffee Co., a mainstay in Brevard since 1996, said that when the shop opened in Suntree, “We were spending most of our days explaining what cappuccinos and lattes were.” Now, about 24 to 28 percent of Indian River’s business is in coffee beans; the rest is in iced and hot beverages, he said.
Still, his business roasted about 20,000 pounds of coffee last year, “And we roast all day, every day.”
People are willing to pay too. Regular drip coffee at Bold Cup costs $2.60; a 12-ounce pour-over, Chemex, AeroPress (a device in which coffee is steeped and then forced through a brewer by a plunger), French press, Hario (a Japanese pour-over label) or syphon costs $3.80. At Tilted Cup, a cup of the coffee of the day is $2.50, a pour-over, $3. Other shops’ prices mainly are in that neighborhood.
“I think people want something innovative; they are looking for better coffee,” Flores said as he poured water into a Chemex flask to make a cup of Brazil Yellow Bourbon, one of the world’s best loved, milder roasts.
“People are are taking time, slowing down and choosing quality over quantity,” Luna said. “They want to come in, sit down, talk and drink coffee.”
“I love that this coffee shop helps bring people together,” Kat Pittman of Suntree said of Bold Cup. “I think that’s what makes it succeed.”