Justin Fox Burks
The best part of waking up doesn’t have to be Folger’s, thanks to Relevant Roasters, the first third-wave coffee shop in Memphis.
An extension of the company’s coffee roastery on Tillman, the coffee shop focuses on the culinary appreciation of coffee, a nutshell description of the third-wave coffee manifesto. “Our role is to enlighten people of the potential of coffee and to try to change some of the wild misconceptions, like coffee never goes bad,” says owner Jimmy Lewis, who opened the first natural foods supermarket in Memphis more than three decades ago. “Coffee gets stale, which is why we put the date our beans are roasted on every bag.”
Education and transparency distinguish Relevant Roasters from corporate coffee shops like
Starbucks. In fact, this business is so intent on coffee appreciation that customers can watch the roasting operation through a large picture window.
“A Starbucks store will see in 20 minutes the number of customers I see in my coffee shop in seven hours, “ Lewis says. “And that’s okay, because the essence of coffee for us has nothing to do with speed and consistency. We want to explore the idiosyncratic qualities of coffee instead.”
Relevant Roaster’s Brendan Larkin agrees. “We try to strip away syrups and get back to the coffee,” says Larkin, who handles logistical duties at the company. “Our market appeal is being locally roasted,” he says. “That is something unique to Memphis.”
Open since last summer, Relevant Roasters serves a menu of drips, cold brews, pour-overs, and espresso drinks. Coffee beans are imported from around the world, including Central and South America, Africa, and Indonesia. Lewis’ staff roasts the beans in-house, and packages single-origin coffees and blends. While traditional roasters use fire, Relevant Roasters prefers a convection method. “We are the only roasters in this region to use a Loring roaster,” says former roaster Micaela Watts. “We think the Loring gives an easy roast and a well-rounded taste.”
Justin Fox Burks
Owner Jimmy Lewis
Temperature matters, too. For a lighter taste, beans roast for about 12 to 13 minutes at a temperature in the low 400 degrees. For a darker roast, the Loring cranks up to about 450 degrees for a maximum of 16 minutes. Watts recommends that customers try the lighter roasts first for a more full-flavored experience.
Jess Ajoc has been a barista at Relevant Roasters since September and says she likes sharing her knowledge and love of coffee with others. “I get to enlighten people,” she says. “People do not always know what they want.” (Pamela Denney contributed to this story.)
584 Tillman Street, Suite 1 (901-458-5599)