Little City Coffee Roasters Makes Big Impact on Austin Coffee Drinkers
It was a little too early to wake the sleeping giant beside me that Sunday morning.
Just because I couldn’t go back to sleep didn’t mean I should disrupt the blessed zzzzzzs of my sweet, hormonally-balanced man.
I had already been awake for almost two hours. Thinking. Praying. Planning. Perusing Facebook on my phone. Being quiet.
It was Sunday. We can sleep in on Sundays, I reminded myself. You should go back to sleep, I self-instructed.
Oh, well, I can make it a few more minutes until the alarm goes off, I thought. Then, I can get up, guilt-free, and put on a pot of coffee.
Oh, how I love the smell of a brewing pot of coffee.
And the sound.
The gentle dripping sound of each darkly-brewed drop hitting its spot in the soon-to-be-filled glass carafe. That comforting swoosh of forced air at the end, when all the water in the reservoir is gone. The high-pitched beep, beep, beep, inviting the drinker to the waiting cup.
Do you remember the first time you inhaled the distinct aroma of a brewing pot of coffee?
Every morning of a whole spoiled-rotten week at my grandparents’ house in Elk City, I woke to the sound of coffee bubbling up through the electric percolator and the captivating smell of its earthiness, infusing the homey atmosphere in gentle, predictable puffs, like billowy little smoke signals, beckoning me to the kitchen with the methodical rhythm of a War Chief’s drum.
Groggy and content, I would kick off the crisp white sheet and thin summer blanket, pad my lanky self into the next room, and hear my Granddaddy say, from behind the biggest smile in the whole State of Oklahoma, “Good morning, Sugarfoot!”
If the Mayor had walked through the back door, I don’t believe he would have garnered any greater reception than I enjoyed from my beloved grandfather on those summer mornings at the breakfast table where he drank coffee and discussed the day with my grandmother before he left for work at Puckett’s Grocery Store.
And then, the glassy “clink” of cup on saucer.
Followed by the sizzle of bacon in skillet. Uh-oh. I must have eased back to dreamland there for just a second.
Maybe my knee jerked a little. Or perhaps my arm moved across the cool of the cotton sheets, making just enough of a rustle to wake my man.
“How long have you been awake?”
“Not that long.” “I’m sorry I woke you.” “No, you should have done it sooner. Do you want to try to go back to sleep or do you want to get up and walk to that new place we saw down by the Capitol for a cup of coffee?” (This could be the beginning of my first Austin Over Fifty romance novel, don’t you think?)
“What new place?” “You know – that new restaurant in the Aloft Hotel on Congress that we noticed when we were standing on the opposite corner watching the ROT Rally motorcycle parade. They have that nice outdoor seating.” “Oh, yeah – that place!”
I jump up (kinda) out of the bed, grabbing shorts, shirt, ball cap, socks and tennis shoes.
You don’t have to ask ME twice to walk somewhere I’ve never been for a cup of coffee – in this city of my adventurous dreams.
Even without my face on.
“I’ll take the raspberry cream cheese croissant, please,” I told the sweet, young girl behind the plentiful pastry counter.
“And coffee. Black.”
Black? Did I just say black? Since when do I order my coffee black? I mean, if I’m eating something decadent and sweet, I usually do prefer a non-sweetened cup of coffee with it; however, I always ask for cream.
Never just black. Actually, I really can’t even think of a time before that Sunday when you would have heard me order black coffee. Unless maybe I was on a detective mission and wanted to be very discreet and unnoticed.
“Eye. Private eye.” “Coffee. Black coffee.” (This could be the beginning of my first Austin Over Fifty deeply suspenseful mystery novel!)
Warner Bros Pictures
Oh, well, for whatever reason, I was on a carefree Sunday morning outing with my hubby, and I was in the mood for simple and forthright, not swirled and frothy.
“Wow, that was fantastic,” I say to that sweet girl behind the counter as we make our way out the door. “Especially the coffee. I may have to start drinking my coffee black more often. It was surprisingly wonderful.”
“Of course!” she said. “That’s coffee from Little City Roasters, right here in Austin.”
A continent away and three hours ahead, on a coffee farm known as Fazenda Recreio, a young Brazilian man named Diogo Dias has grown the beans that I now taste in my coffee.
Growing coffee beans is not just Diogo’s life’s work – it’s his life.
How fascinating to think that when you and I lay awake in the early, early hours of a Sunday morning, this young farmer has already enjoyed his own pour-over using ground beans grown on the family farm.
Day after day, those Brazilian beans make their way from plant to processor to pallet to package, in Austin – the city of Diogo’s commercial dreams.
Over on the east side of I-35, where ideas abound and creativity circulates like a panhandle whirlwind, there sits an inconspicuous metal building under an unassuming sign that reads: Casa Brasil.
Inside is a month’s supply of raw coffee beans, sealed in protective green plastic, encased in burlap bags, stacked like members of a uniformed choir, waiting for their chance at the stage.
This is not a big, fancy warehouse modeled after the precisioned supply chains of engineering classrooms.
It’s more like a nice, clean man-cave, where the man and his friends gather to talk shop and taste the daily brew. Only there’s no TV on the wall. But there is a story.
When Casa Brasil’s owner, Joel Shuler lived in South America while playing the soccer circuit, he grew to love Brazilian coffee.
A few years later, after knee injuries ended his soccer career, Joel found himself in Austin pursuing what everyone comes to Austin to find.
After searching for a reminiscent cup of Brazilian joe, Joel (how appropriate is that?) struck out. A local roaster even told him there was no such thing.
What? No such thing as good Brazilian coffee, even in Austin, Texas?
Joel Shuler knew better.
So, in 2005, Casa Brasil was born.
But it wasn’t easy. This young entrepreneur had to learn the business, make relationships with the growers, rent space, hire employees, come up with a name, design a logo, buy a roaster, purchase the beans and refine the process.
Whew! Good thing Joel knew how to stay caffeinated!
In 2011, Shuler added another dimension to his importing business when he saved Austin’s iconic Little City Roasters brand from extinction and began to purchase microlots of single origin coffees from other countries, like Myanmar.
Not one to start out too big and be forced to backtrack down the mountain, Joel and his team have operated at a slow and deliberate pace. Over the last 12 years, business has grown exponentially, but largely just by word of mouth (and by letting bloggers write about them, of course).
Joel has allowed his employees the time and opportunity to learn the industry while wrapping their hearts around the farmers who grow these little known Brazilian coffee beans.
Here at Little City, they’re as clear in their intention as the purified water poured over the beans.
These guys are not at all interested in impersonal marketing.
Instead, it’s all about the connection between the bean and the beaker. The coffee and the carafe. The adventure and the seeker.
That kind of business plan appears to be working just fine for Little City.
Beans are roasted to order and delivered every day of the week to supply local coffee shops and restaurants all over Austin – the city of Joel Shuler’s entrepreneurial dreams.