Oil that is. Black gold. Texas tea.
Maybe these words sound familiar if you grew up watching the Beverly Hillbillies when you were a kid. While it goes without saying that everything is bigger in Texas, and if you don’t like the heat you might as well move, the fact remains that this is a state where the specialty coffee scene is really beginning to take off. Texas is much more than just “Texas-Tea”.
It was for this reason I was excited to visit Texas recently and had the chance to stop in at a number of coffee shops (11 to be exact) along the I-35 from Dallas to San Antonio and everywhere in between.
One spot in particular I made sure to visit is this month’s “Coffee Roaster of the Month”. I must be honest, my connection to this coffee roaster goes back a few years. But it’s that connection that begun my dream of visiting this state one day, and discovering in person all that Texas has to offer.
So this month I am excited to introduce to you, Novel Coffee Roasters from Dallas. I reached out to the team and am excited to share with you more about them.
Before I go any further, let me take you back almost 2.5 years ago. If you have never heard of the Third Wave Wichteln, it is an international coffee exchange program that happens every year around Christmas. Participants sign up to exchange coffee with the person they are randomly assigned. Lucky for me, the folks who got my name were Ryan & Kevin from Novel Coffee Roasters. Not only did they send me a bag of their coffee, they hooked me up with a t-shirt, stickers, and a really nice hand-written note. It was at that point that I began to do some more research into the specialty coffee scene in Texas. After learning more about the incredible coffee community in cities like Dallas, Austin & San Antonio, I knew one day I would have to get down there. And this past June it finally happened.
While I was in Dallas I made sure to carve out time to visit Novel Coffee’s flagship cafe in Flower Mound (a suburb in the north end of the city.) Featuring a gorgeous Slayer Steam on the bar and a beautiful and spacious layout, this cafe really is a must-visit for anyone travelling to the Dallas-Forth Worth area.
So let me share with you more about Novel Coffee Roasters so you can discover for yourself the great work they are up to! I reached out to Kevin to have him share more with me about Novel.
Q: So who is the team behind Novel Coffee Roasters?
Novel Coffee Roasters was co-founded in early 2013 by myself–Kevin Betts and Ryan Smith. We are both from the Dallas area.
Tell us a bit of your backstory in coffee
I (Kevin) got started with home brewing around 2010 and eventually became a barista at a coffee shop called Roots Coffee house in the Fort Worth suburbs around 2012. Ryan, my brother-in-law and business partner, started his journey also brewing at home around 2008. He then opened a coffee cart on the weekends at a local hangout, and my wife and I would visit regularly. We joined forces as home roasters late 2012 and formed Novel in early 2013. Novel began with a half-pallet of green coffee and rented time on another company’s roaster.
Q: So early on who were some of you influences?
The coffee landscape in Dallas around that time was kind of flat, so we mostly took inspiration from larger national brands like Counter Culture and the like. For the most part I like to think that we never really tried to replicate the roasting or aesthetic styles of other coffee brands—we mostly explored what was most enjoyable to us.
Tell us about a big of the history of Novel Coffee Roasters…like how did this all begin?
When I took up home roasting I had a lot of interest from some of our café customers. I felt a little weird about selling my coffee to the café’s customers directly so I asked the owner if I could stock some on her shelves. That gained a little bit of traction and kept me busy for a while. After several months of receiving unpalatable espresso from our coffee vendor at the café, the owner was interested in finding an alternative. Around this time, Ryan and I were roasting at his house and we pitched the owners of the café. We spent several months planning and looking for a company who would allow us to roast on their equipment. After we secured a place to roast we set about with some trial runs on creating an easy to use, balanced espresso. We called it Rogue Espresso, and we carry the blend to this day.
Q: How did you come up with the name “Novel?”
In 2012, at least locally in Dallas, most bags of coffee simply had farm names or just origins listed on them—Colombia, Jamaican Blue Mountain, such and such blend… We wanted to bring the humanity back to the coffee by telling the stories of the producers behind it as best we could. Thus, the tagline “Every Coffee Has a Story.” Back then, telling stories was a differentiator. These days it seems ubiquitous—which is fantastic. We love that the producers are getting more of the credit that they deserve.
I think its safe to say that Texas has quite an amazing emerging coffee culture. A lot of focus seems to be on Austin, but what does Dallas bring to the community that’s different than Austin?
For years I felt like Austin was the coffee Mecca of Texas. These days, not so much. Maybe it’s a matter of personal preference when it comes to roasting style, but I favour many of our Dallas roasters over most of Austin’s. Don’t @ me, haha. Because Austin was dominated by Cuvee coffee for so many years, I don’t think roasters in Austin really stood much of a chance of growing in both skill and experience without the ability to wholesale at a large enough scale. As Cuvee focused their efforts toward canned cold brew, we’ve seen a lot more roasters pop up in Austin. When we opened our doors in Dallas in 2013, we were specialty roaster number 5 (Houndstooth’s, Tweed is based here in Dallas, though the brand originates in Austin). Within 2 years we were at a local event in which 12(!) local roasters participated, and not even all who applied to the event were allowed in. That level of competition so early on in our careers really forced everybody to improve their skills quickly. The barrier to entry in Austin was so high for so many years with a powerhouse like Cuvee that, I think, it delayed the development of the roasting scene there. I admit, this is all observational, so take it with a grain of salt.
When I was down in Dallas I couldn’t not notice the new coffee bags (that look fantastic) on the shelves at the Flower Mound Cafe. Tell our readers how these came about.
We started working with an artist we found on Instagram around two years ago. We had a number of things going on over the past two years, including rebranding Trio as Novel Coffee Roasters and Ryan and his wife (my sister) having a baby. The project had a lot of starts and stops, but I’m glad that we took our time with them instead of rushing to print. It gave us the opportunity to really refine them.
So speaking of coffee…what are you drinking right now?
I’m of the opinion that I can never drink our own coffee too much. I try to experience other brands when I can, but we always have test and production batches that need refining. Today my focus was on our next release from Kenya that was tasting a little citrusy and green even at a 21.18% extraction—a pretty sure sign of underdevelopment. We roasted our second test batch of it today after doing our final analysis. Hoping for better results out of this batch. As far as enjoying? I have to admit, I don’t often enjoy coffee like I used to because I’m so obsessive about it. I recently had really wonderful espressos from Sweet Bloom and Counter Culture at Fleet Coffee in Austin.
Tell the readers of thebloom.coffee about some of your recent accomplishments. Or any upcoming announcements?
To me, the new bags seem like a bigger accomplishment than they probably really are. For years we had black stock bags with full size labels printed and applied to the front, side and back. These are so different and took so long that I’m probably going to ride that high for a while! We are working on some new projects now, but nothing I can talk about.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Thanks for reading!
Find their beans:
If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-shop for what they’re currently roasting!
Thank you again to Kevin for sharing with us more about Novel Coffee and for being a key part in the coffee culture in Dallas! Keep up the great work!