Back in 2015 I had the opportunity to make it to Nashville. It’s a city that I had long wanted to visit (not for the country music…I can’t stand it) but for the growing coffee culture that I knew was one that I needed to experience.
I arrived at the airport and went to grab my rental car…and was told that due to a processing error, the only car that they were able to give me was a Camaro! So I quickly said YES, since I had originally booked their econo-option…and proceeded to rip around the city. Life was good. So far Nashville was treating me right.
I had done some research already into what the city’s coffee scene looked like and had a few ideas as to what shops I wanted to visit. Top on my list was Barista Parlor. And it didn’t disappoint. There wasn’t a day that went by over the course of the four days I was in town where I didn’t stop by once if not twice to one of their cafes, especially their Golden Sound location. Their staff were so incredible, the coffee was amazing, and that experience has stuck with me all these years.
So I am thrilled to get the chance to share more of the story of Barista Parlor with you as my Coffee Roaster of the Month. I had the chance to connect with Brennan McKissick from their team who was more than gracious to chat with me.
Hey Barista Parlor, so great to get the chance to connect with you! So, tell us a little more about yourself. – How did this all begin?
I’ve worked in specialty coffee for 25 years now and 15 years into that I knew that I wanted a space to design to be different. I wanted a place of my own to call home and being a long-time resident of East Nashville, I knew this was the place to begin that journey. Barista Parlor grew beyond our imagination and allowed us to open more spaces and eventually begin roasting our own coffee. We only wanted to serve the best coffee from around the world so we found that sourcing, sampling and roasting the coffee ourselves gave us the quality and control we needed.”
Q: Why the name Barista Parlor?
It all goes back to designing a different kind of space. We wanted to create an intersection between art and commerce where the barista is the main attraction. We felt this name really personified what we were trying to communicate with our shops.
Q: When did your first roastery/café open?
May 2012 so we are coming up on 10 years in business at the time of writing this!
How many cafes do you have now in Nashville?
Right now we have 5 cafes that will be expanding to 8 by 2022! Not all in the Nashville area either…
When I had the chance to visit your Golden Sound location on several occasions a few years back I remember falling in love with your coffee. Can you share more about what equipment you roast on, and tell us about your philosophy when it comes to roasting?
We use a Diedrich DR25 for all of our production roasting and a Diedrich IR1 for all of our sample roasting. When we roast, we aim to get the most sweetness and acidity while keeping them balanced together.
In your opinion, what’s the specialty coffee community like in Nashville? What do you love?
Nashville is a city that’s rapidly growing and the coffee community is growing just as quick. There’s so many unique shops opening up with different vibes and it’s great because it pushes us to continue to innovate to be a leader in the area.
Earlier this year you launched a gorgeous re-design of your packaging. What was the inspiration for this? Who designed them? And perhaps share about your seasonal boxes, because those are just eye-candy!
So, we wanted our re-design to really match the overarching theme of our company; “Explore a World of Possibilities.” Speaking about the box, we didn’t want just another bag. We really wanted the experience of opening a well designed and thought out product. We go through all the effort of sourcing amazing beans and spending so much time dialing in our roasts and feel that product packaging and design should have the same amount of effort put into it.
We worked with Bryce McCloud at Isle of Printing who is a long time friend of ours on creating *everything.* We worked with him to develop our new mascot, B.E.A.N. which stands for Barista, Earth, Air and Nautical. All of our locations have an Earth, air or nautical theme to them so we wanted B.E.A.N to be our personification of exploring the world of coffee. Bryce is an absolutely outstanding designer who worked super hard to bring our seasonal boxes to life and we can’t wait to share the rest of them with the community.
So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
We’re sourcing lots of new beans this year and my personal, recent favourite has been Drima Zede from Ninety Plus which is a hot anaerobic natural from Panama that’s super fun and unique. I really enjoy it through an Origami dripper!
Looking forward beyond COVID-19 what do you see as some of the emerging trends or new initiatives that will shape the future of specialty coffee?
I think with the pandemic it really altered the way everyone does business. We hadn’t explored order ahead because we strive to make sure that every coffee that leaves our bar to be exceptional. The other major thing that we have found is that there are many people who now want to brew specialty coffee at home!
During 2020 and lockdowns I think that people were looking for new hobbies and things they could enjoy inside that they used to do when they were out. One of those is specialty coffee. It’s obviously a very niche thing but I believe that it made people want to try it themselves at home since they couldn’t head out to their favorite cafe to sit and enjoy coffee.
You have done much to help shape the specialty coffee culture. What would love to see change as it pertains to specialty coffee?
We’d really like for specialty coffee to be more approachable. We feel, at least in our area, that specialty coffee definitely has this perception of being “pretentious.” If you’re new to coffee and you stroll into a specialty coffee shop it can be intimidating when you don’t see the sweet stuff you’re used to seeing at Dunkin’ or Starbucks. We’d like to see more outreach into communities and share how much work goes into that single cup of coffee they’re about to consume. Specialty coffee doesn’t have to be like that. You can even get good coffee from a batch brewer if you prepare everything correctly and that’s something we’ve done to bring more people into our shops and help ease them into the world of coffee.
Tell the readers of Commonly Coffee about some of your recent accomplishments. Or any upcoming announcements.
Hmmmm, well we do have a new partnership with W Hotels here in Nashville that we’re really looking forward to. W Hotels are the luxury lifestyle branded arm of Marriott so we are pumped to see where that goes and how our location does at the new Nashville location. Honestly, just surviving the pandemic and continuing to bring new coffees to market has been fantastic for us.
We decided in 2020 that we wanted to make 2021 a big year for us so we moved to create our 4 seasonal blends, 2 holiday blends (one for Halloween and another for Christmas), a wider variety of rotating single origin coffees, more Gold Box coffees which are micro-lot and nano-lot coffees and a few other experimental beverages like Snapchilled Coffee, Steeped Coffee and maybe an instant coffee for ultra light campers and hikers.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
We hope to be apart of a coffee community that creates an inviting space for anyone of any level of coffee experience. We want to help everyone enjoy what used to be a very niche hobby.
Find their beans: If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting!
I just want to say a huge thank you to Brennan & the entire team for sharing about Barista Parlor and for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in Nashville. Keep up the great work!