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Coffee & Culture

Coffee & Culture
Silver Grizzly Espresso

A vanilla latte ar Silver Grizzly Espresso on Wednesday October 6, 2021. (Michael Cavazos/ETX View Photo)

Coffee.

It’s a rich, dark liquid that we love. It’s part of our daily life and we enjoy it from morning to night.

But our love for coffee isn’t just about the taste and the caffeine. It’s about the coffee shops themselves that are a home away from home for many people.

A few years ago, downtown Tyler, downtown Longview and downtown Marshall began transforming and revitalizing into the thriving communities they are today.

There was a common thread in those three separate revitalization stories. Each downtown was impacted by a modern, craft coffee shop that opened its doors to welcome the community inside.

“We wanted to bring good coffee to the scene and we wanted people to gather in a way that there was a sense of belonging,” said Connor Walters, one of four co-founders of Silver Grizzly Espresso in downtown Longview. “Out of that sense of belonging people start connecting with others, creating more, having more business ideas, having more meetings. It starts that cycle of creativity and people investing on the cultural level.”

Five years after Silver Grizzly Espresso opened its doors, downtown Longview is booming with more than a dozen new local businesses and increased foot traffic as people come to meet up, shop and create in the heart of the city.

The Foundry Coffee House in Tyler and Joe Pine Coffee Co. in Marshall also have led to similar stories in their respective downtowns as they offer a unique cultural environment in which people can gather.

Some years later, more craft coffee shops are popping up across East Texas, each reaching new demographics and introducing more people to the world of specialty coffee.

This is a look at a few of our favorite coffee shops in East Texas.

Silver Grizzly Espresso

When Silver Grizzly Espresso first opened its doors in Longview in 2016, downtown Longview was a virtual ghost town. There were few businesses open and little foot traffic on a day to day basis.

Today, downtown Longview is bustling with activity as people flock to the area to enjoy the local offerings. Dozens of new businesses have opened in the past two years, largely spurred by the volume of people now visiting downtown Longview.

Much of that traffic can be attributed to Silver Grizzly Espresso, which opened five years ago with a goal of bringing craft coffee and a community meeting place to Longview. The coffee shop was made possible by four business partners – Connor Walters, Vincent Purvis, David Samford and Vance Freeman – who had different backgrounds but a common thread. All four grew up in and around Longview and wanted to invest in their community.

“There are a lot of really good career-type jobs here but there weren’t a lot of ‘third-place’ type of places. ‘Third places’ are spaces that bring people together and make a city enjoyable to live in,” Walters said. “If you look at really enjoyable cities, they have places where you can meet together and belong. … They have a really nice coffee shop, a brewery, a park where you can take your dogs, your kids and go for a run, they have museums.”

The four men wanted to see Longview revitalize and wanted to bring a community meeting space – a “third place” business – to this community. The idea began in 2014 as the men sought to fill two primary voids in the community. They wanted the coffee shop to serve as a gathering place for the community, but they also wanted to bring specialty coffee to Longview. There were a couple of craft coffee shops arising on the scene in Tyler but there were none in Longview at the time.

“Personally, I was always struck by the incredible amount of people that were doing great things elsewhere,” Walters said.

The stories of those people were all too familiar. People would grow up in Longview and feel the urge to leave the community to start their careers because options were fairly limited in the city. If people did stay in Longview, there weren’t many options for activities outside of work, Walters said.

“Our families are here. Our community is here,” he said. “We wanted to invest in this area and make it a space where people enjoyed living and felt a sense of belonging.”

While they were a bit hesitant to open downtown because it was relatively dead at the time, Walters said they researched the impact local coffee shops can have on the city’s central hub.

“One of the foundational components to revitalization in any area is that it almost always starts on the back of a specialty coffee shop or a microbrewery done really well,” he said. “If they’re done really well, and specifically built as destination locations versus serving volume (like drive-thru locations), then it’s a place that people come for an experience. People will travel for an experience.”

That was what they sought to build in downtown Longview anyway and seeing research that showed it could help spur downtown revitalization overall added to their mission.

After two years as a concept, Silver Grizzly Espresso opened its doors in 2016 at the corner of Tyler and Center streets. Within about six months, the business began seeing more and more patrons visit for the craft coffee and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere. On a cultural level, Silver Grizzly gave people a place to meet and feel like they belonged. Its patrons brought friends and family to visit and, in time, business was booming.

“We were intentionally hoping to build foot traffic here and we had a vision for other people to be encouraged to start their work here and for their places to actually succeed off the back of places like this and Oil Horse,” Walters said. Oil Horse Brewing Co. is located across the street from Silver Grizzly Espresso.

Today, downtown Longview is thriving thanks to businesses that opened after Silver Grizzly and Oil Horse. Today, people visit downtown Longview to shop, eat, enjoy craft beer and coffee.

As for the coffee itself, Silver Grizzly remains committed to offering a high quality product. Walters explained Silver Grizzly is part of the “third wave” of coffee. The first wave occurred about 60-70 years ago when instant coffee came into people’s homes thanks to companies like Folgers. The second wave occurred when chain coffee companies opened across the country, introducing people to “the idea of coffee,” Walters explained.

The third wave of coffee encompasses many of the craft coffee shops present today. This wave is focused on transparency of the supply chain.

“You’re connecting with farmers and paying people a proper wage but also doing justice to the coffee itself and really marrying science with coffee in a very intentional way,” Walters said. “ Food and science have been married for a long time, but coffee and science have really only been married in a much stronger way over the last 20 years.”

At Silver Grizzly, coffee beans are ethically sourced and Walters works with individuals he knows who visit farms in other countries, such as Guatemala and Ethiopia, during harvest season.

“It’s really awesome to work with importers who have the same eye for quality that we would if we were in a position to be able to do that job,” he said.

Silver Grizzly purchases green coffee. It’s the pit of a coffee cherry that starts out green and is turned brown during the roasting process. In 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, Silver Grizzly opened its own roastery at which it roasts the beans to create its coffee.

The roastery hasn’t been open to the public but a focus for the business in 2022 is to make the roastery more available. Walters said he’d like to see them offer coffee cuppings, which are tastings similar to wine and beer flights.

“You can taste a wide range of coffees that you might not normally get to side by side and you can see how your coffee’s actually produced and learn about the process,” he said.

Silver Grizzly sells its coffee online and it’s now shipping across the U.S. A focus on wholesale accounts is helping to stabilize business so the downtown Longview coffee shop stays open long-term.

At the coffee shop itself, Walters said the most popular drinks tend to be lattes paired with one of Silver Grizzly’s house-made syrups. Latte art tends to delight customers.

“We’re trying to continue to curate a really good experience at the shop,” Walters said. “And a lot of our focus continues to be on the roastery. … Our big focus at the moment is to grow our wholesale accounts and retail online. In doing that, it’s going to help stabilize our business for the long run. The more we can stabilize staff and start to create career opportunities, the more that we can stabilize our team here which allows us to invest better into the community and do a better job.”

To learn more about Silver Grizzly Espresso, visit silvergrizzlyespresso.com.


Evergreen Coffee & Dessert

Another Longview coffee shop is contributing to revitalization in the city – but in a different neighborhood.

Evergreen Coffee and Dessert opened in March 2020 in Longview’s Pine Tree neighborhood. It quickly became one of the most popular hangouts in Pine Tree and the coffee shop is thriving today.

It and surrounding businesses have brought renewed life to the Royal Forest Shopping Center off Gilmer Road and have sparked a community hub where young residents can gather to study, work, create art, talk and cultivate ideas.

“I didn’t expect it to be this busy or grow this fast, but I’m really happy,” said Seajin Kim, owner and founder of Evergreen Coffee and Dessert. “I’m just trying my best to bring quality service and product to this area and offer a new place for people to come. A lot of people are trying to support local right now, and they’re bringing their friends and spreading the word. This community has been amazing.”

He began working on Evergreen Coffee and Dessert in October 2019, making all of the coffee shop’s modern, wooden tables by hand and piecing together eclectic pieces of art combined with macrame wall hangings, dreamcatchers and string lights. It all combined to bring a warm, modern, trendy vibe to the Pine Tree area.

The coffee shop opened in March 2020. Shortly after opening, Kim and his staff had to quickly adapt to curbside service only as the COVID-19 pandemic began and businesses were asked to close to in-person dining.

“When we first opened, it was crazy. We were worried, but we got a lot of support from the community,” Kim said.

He believes the community responded to the quality of the drinks and options that Evergreen offers.

Evergreen offers traditional coffee options, including staples like lattes and cappuccinos. Caramel macchiatos and Evergreen’s custom Tiger Latte are top sellers. But the coffee shop also features a wide variety of other drinks for those who may not like coffee or may want something different. The shop offers smoothies and teas, but its bubble — or boba — tea remains one of the top sellers.

In addition to beverages, Evergreen also offers a variety of desserts, including macaroons that come from Dallas, many dessert offerings from Edible Art and banana pudding made in house.

To learn more about Evergreen Coffee and Dessert, visit www.facebook.com/evergreencoffee.longview/.


Crema Coffee Co.

One of the newest specialty coffee houses in Tyler is catering to East Texas residents who are gluten free.

Crema Coffee Co., which opened in July on Three Lakes Parkway, serves an exclusively gluten-free menu of both food and beverages. Crema’s owner and founder Michaela Ta has Celiac disease, which causes an immune reaction to consuming gluten.

“She wanted to be able to have everything on the menu and she wanted to bring that to town for other people,” said her husband, Eric Ta, who also serves at the coffee shop. “It’s great for people to come by. People almost break down when they realize, ‘I can have whatever I want. I don’t have to second-guess everything.’ It’s great to give people that and to hear their reaction.”

Michaela Ta was a barista for seven years, working at an independent coffee shop and a chain coffee shop, prior to opening Crema. During the pandemic, she decided she wanted to start a coffee blog to teach people how to make specialty drinks at home. She gathered recipes and equipment for her endeavor.

Then, one day, she and her husband drove by Three Lakes Parkway and noticed a business had closed down. They began looking at the space and began envisioning a coffee shop in it.

“We just fell in love with the spot and she did what she could to renovate and make it look the way she wanted,” Eric Ta said. “Then, all the recipes that were going to be on the blog ended up being on the menu here.”

Crema Coffee Co. features traditional drinks and a unique signature menu. The coffee shop’s top three sellers are the Carmellia, a latte with caramel sauce, caramel syrup and vanilla syrup topped with house made whipped cream and caramel sauce; the Irish de Leche, a house cold brew with chocolate undertones sweetened with Irish cream and topped with dulce de leche cold foam; and the Cookies and Cream Cold Foam Cold Brew, a house cold brew with chocolate undertones sweetened with light vanilla syrup and topped with cookies and cream cold foam.

“We can do a pourover or anything like that, but we like to mix and match things and create drinks that you won’t find anywhere else,” Ta said.

In addition to its drinks, Crema features pastries created by a local pastry chef and a relaxed atmosphere where people can come to work or relax.

For more information about Crema Coffee Co., visit www.facebook.com/cremacoffeecotylertx.


The Foundry Coffee House

Seven years ago, Bethel Bible Church had a dream to serve people and the community while also playing a role in helping to revitalize downtown Tyler.

The church, whose original location was in South Tyler, acquired property downtown for a new location and chose to use the first floor of that space to open a coffee shop that would serve as a community meeting space.

With its modern décor and inviting atmosphere, The Foundry Coffee House quickly became one of the most popular coffee shops in the city. Today, The Foundry is continuing to offer new programs and is, in a sense, re-introducing itself to the community.

“We’re working really hard to reintroduce ourselves,” said Loren Roe, who manages The Foundry. “We’re certainly the oldest craft coffee shop in East Texas. There’s a lot of really exciting stuff happening today in terms of craft coffee with more shops popping up, which is good. The new shops are bringing new things to the table and meeting different demographics. There’s more than enough room for everybody, but for us, this period of time is almost like a re-introduction.”

In the past few months, The Foundry has worked to freshen up its space by repainting the front of the building, buying some new furniture and having a mural painted in its outdoor patio garden. With an outdoor stage to host live bands, The Foundry held its annual garden party this fall which featured a lineup of several bands.

“Our next pivot and what we’re working on for the spring is lining up an actual concert series,” Roe said. “In the era of COVID, we found that it’s good to have an outdoor music venue that is in the shade. We have that and we can fit a few hundred people out there comfortably. So we’re really working on developing that and engaging the community in different ways.”

The staple of The Foundry is, of course, its quality coffee.

When Bethel Bible Church opened the coffee shop in 2014, the church hoped to offer the best coffee in East Texas in a space that would engage the community.

Prior to 2014, Bethel Bible Church had just one location in South Tyler. The church was experiencing rapid growth and decided to pursue a multi-site model so it could engage various communities, Roe explained. Today, the church has five campuses. Three are in Tyler; one is in Whitehouse; one is in Henderson.

The downtown location, which opened in 2014, was the church’s second. At the time, downtown Tyler was virtually dead with limited foot traffic. A few local businesses existed but there were many empty spaces.

Similar to other craft coffee shops, the church hoped The Foundry could serve as an inspiration for downtown revitalization.

“We wanted to serve the best coffee in East Texas, but more than that we really wanted a place that would serve people well and that would bring life back to downtown,” Roe said.

In offering a community meeting space, The Foundry sought to be a “third place” for the community. Two primary social environments are the home and the workplace; a “third place” is a community space where people can come to socialize outside of work and the home.

With a large building, The Foundry has space that can be reserved or rented throughout the week. Day to day, the coffee shop becomes a second home for business professionals, college students, community leaders and a wide variety of patrons.

“It’s really exciting,” Roe said. “We’ve always opened our doors to be hospitable and to have a place where people can meet.”

The Foundry’s menu features a variety of popular coffee drinks, particularly traditional favorites. Its most popular drinks tend to be lattes with one of The Foundry’s scratch-made syrups, which include mocha and vanilla flavors. In addition to traditional favorites, The Foundry also features some non-traditional drinks. The shaken cappuccino, for example, started as a seasonal beverage but became so popular that the coffee shop decided to keep it on the regular menu.

Additionally, The Foundry features pastries made from scratch in an off-site kitchen. The pastry menu changes seasonally, but in the fall, it featured such items as a cinnamon pumpkin donut, pumpkin cream cheese donut and a variety of cookies.

“Vanilla lattes and quiche are probably our biggest sellers,” Roe said.

The Foundry is selective about where it sources its coffee. It primarily uses coffee crafted by Porch Culture Coffee Roasters, which rents space inside The Foundry. Porch Culture ethically sources its coffee beans, which Roe said is also important to The Foundry.

“We know the story of where our product is coming from. That’s very important,” he said.

In addition to quality craft coffee and a meeting space, The Foundry also features a small art gallery featuring works by local artists. The exhibits change out every couple of months and offer a way to highlight emerging East Texas artists.

To learn more about The Foundry Coffee House, visit foundry-coffee.com.


Big Shot Coffee House