Cuvée Coffee Roasting Company, Texas’ premier coffee roaster, is getting into the restaurant business. Known for providing independent coffeehouses throughout Texas with only the highest quality, sustainable, precision-roasted specialty coffees, Cuvée Coffee can now be found on the menus of several discerning restaurants throughout the Lone Star State, including Austin restaurants Bess Bistro, Walton’s Fancy and Staple, and Chef Shawn Cirkiel’s popular parkside.
Focused on roasting the finest quality coffee, selling top-of-the-line coffee equipment, and educating the coffee community by conducting professional barista training, Cuvée Coffee is changing the way restaurants think about a cup of joe – and it’s amounting to much more than a hill of coffee beans.
“Restaurants pay so much time and attention to the food they serve,” Cuvée CEO Mike McKim says. “But when customers order a cup of coffee or espresso after a meal – the last impression they will have of a restaurant – it’s often the worst experience a diner has because of the low quality of coffee served. We’re working to change that. Over the last three years or so, we’ve seen restaurateurs and chefs become more selective, approaching coffee much more like they approach a wine list: They want fresh, seasonal coffee offerings.”
Cuvée is serious about providing its wholesale coffeehouse and restaurant clients with the highest quality coffee sourced personally by McKim from the African, Central American, and South American farmers who grow the beans. Cuvée does not offer custom blends like many other roasters.
“The problem with custom blends is that coffee is dynamic and they may not have a shelf life of more than six months. So months or years down the road, a restaurant might have a custom blend that doesn’t taste great anymore,” McKim says. “That’s why our focus is on the most fresh, the most seasonal coffees.”
Though Cuvée is a small company, employing only four coffee and roasting experts, the business has grown steadily during the past 12 years and is expected to bring in $1 million in revenue in 2010, due, in part, to its growing restaurant segment. Currently available throughout Texas in restaurants such as Eno’s Pizza Tavern and the soon-to-be-open Oddfellows in Dallas, as well as Liberty Bar in San Antonio and coffeehouses like Stir Coffee in Dallas and Thunderbird Coffee in Austin, Cuvée Coffee is breaking new ground in the restaurant industry.
“My relationship with Cuvée is one of the best coffee relationships I’ve ever had,” says Chris Cusack, owner of both Thunderbird Coffee locations in Austinand the new Down House restaurant, bar, and coffeehouse in Houston, all of which serve Cuvée’s single-origin coffees. “I’m really excited to bring Cuvée into the new restaurant, and it’s great that people are starting to see that high-quality, direct-trade coffee is available in Texas. Cuvée is really one of the first to make that happen."
Cuvée’s McKim personally works with restaurant and coffeehouse owners to establish a coffee menu that best suits his clients’ businesses, providing specialty coffees that customers come back for again and again.
“Cuvée Coffee has been completely fundamental in our business from the beginning,” saysVanessa Peters, whose Stir Coffee espresso bar, located within a gourmet taqueria in Dallas, features several top-of-the-line pieces of coffee equipment from Cuvée, as well as Cuvée’s Meritage Espresso Blend. “Our menu is very Cuvée-centered. We’re hoping that with Cuvée’s help, we can introduce Dallasto the kind of coffee culture that has taken off in places like Austinand New York City.”
For McKim, who founded Cuvée Coffee 12 years ago in Dallas before relocating the business to the Austin area, the growth of the company – particularly in cities like Dallas and segments like the restaurant industry – speaks to the evolution of the coffee business, and consumers’ demand for higher quality products.
“The whole point is that we’re taking a totally different approach to how coffee has always been looked at, especially in restaurants,” McKim says. “It’s a slow road, and the restaurant industry is never going to be a giant profit center for Cuvée, but hopefully we’ll get to a point where diners can go into their favorite restaurant, get good food and good service, and then finish their meal with a great cup of coffee or espresso. If we can do that, we have succeeded.”