Photos by Pamela Denney
Loma Pongmee, Micaela Watts, Brendan Larkin, and Jimmy Lewis are ready to bring pour overs, espresso drinks, and morning pastries to Tillman Avenue.
On a very hot Memphis day last week, about mid-morning, I stopped by Relevant Roasters on Tillman near Broad to meet Brendan Larkin, the new sales and marketing director for the specialty wholesale coffee roaster. With buoyant good manners, he offered me a coffee, and although I initially demurred, he insisted I try the blend specifically developed for cold brews. “Even people who don’t like cold brews like this one,” he said. “It’s half Ethiopian and half Brazilian.”
Served in a tall glass with plenty of ice, the coffee smelled like dark chocolate with hints of malt. Unaltered, it tasted like a stout. With a liberal pour of milk, the coffee turned creamy and dreamy like a summer shake for grownups. I loved it.
“The chocolate is a little more dominant because most people will add milk, but the Ethiopian is bright and fruity, so you get both flavors,” Larkin said, spinning through flavor profiles like an experienced sommelier.
If, like me, you are a little sketchy about third wave coffee and the intricacies of procuring and roasting beans, add the soon-to-open coffee bar at Relevant Roasters to your morning or mid-day routine. Larkin, along with barista Loma Pongmee, roaster Micaela Watts, and owner Jimmy Lewis, are more than happy to explain why their coffee tastes so good.
“We want to do a lot of educating,” Larkin said. “Last month, we had a cupping, and it sold out. We’d like to offer cuppings more regularly, maybe even every week.” Much like a wine tasting, participants at coffee cuppings compare the aroma, taste, and quality of different brews.
Operating since November, Relevant Roasters is now wholesaling 11 different roasts from its warehouse just north of The Rec Room, a video game arcade also located in the Broad Avenue Historic Arts District. Together, the businesses add a vibrant pop to the east end of the neighborhood.
The new coffee bar, scheduled to open in mid-July from 7 a.m. until after lunch, is positioned at the entrance of the warehouse, offering an industrial chic space with merchandise, bar tables, and a window view of the coffee roasting process. The menu is still evolving, but look for a rotating selection of single origin pour overs, drip coffee for customers in a hurry, espresso drinks such as cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, and Americanos, and croissants and scones from Cooper-Young’s Tart bakery.
Relevant Roasters Coffee Bar, 584 Tillman, Suite 1 (901) 606-0471
Micaela Watts prepares to roast beans at Relevant Roasters, a specialty coffee wholesaler in Memphis offering 11 different varieties of beans.