This post is part of my Must Eat A to Z series as I cover the alphabet sharing my favorite Must Eat experiences from around the world. Read all about it and join in on the fun!
Orlando Bike Tours Coffee Crawl explores the best Orlando Coffee
You could assume I was a coffee drinker and you would be wrong. By virtue of location association, I should be addicted to coffee. Having grown up in two coffee-centric cities, Portland Oregon, home of umpteen independent coffee houses despite having a Starbucks on every corner, and Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic, where a “tacita de cafe” – small cup of coffee – is a morning, noon and night tradition, with coffee so strong it can only be administered in small shots, caffeine should have been coursing through my veins since birth. Even years in the hospitality industry, working from dark to dark, didn’t convert me to the dark side, until recently.
My sense of adventure.
My GO Epicurista mission to #MakeSomedayHappen, and the desire to do all the things I’ve postponed to that elusive “someday”, has led me to say “YES, Let’s GO!”, regardless of the question. Yes to exploring new places, new tastes and new experiences. And, yes, that included coffee.
When a foodie friend, a fellow Dominican I met via Instagram due to our shared love of food (and taking “foodporn” worthy pictures) invited me to GO on a Coffee Crawl around Orlando, the answer was YES. Frankly, I thought I was just going along for the ride, more for the camaraderie than the coffee tasting. The caffeine fueled day that followed was enlightening, surprising, and actually an out-of-body experience.
Coffee is big. We may have Starbucks to thank for our addiction to blended coffee drinks – I can’t deny I’ve become hooked on Caramel Macchiatos – however, it is independent coffee houses that are pushing to educate consumers, like me, teaching us that not all coffee tastes the same, which for me was in the category of ‘bitter’ and ‘nasty’.
My apologies to all coffee growers and baristas out there. Those were my first impressions of coffee, which sadly turned me away for years. I wonder how many of you out there have had the same experience? Every coffee cup I sampled, was either a watery hot mess or thick as mud. Not pleasant, unless I added loads of sugar. Then, it just tasted like a sweet hot mess.
Looking at my Facebook feed every morning, filled with dozens of coffee memes proclaiming the love of java, or better yet the absolute need for this dark beverage, I honestly couldn’t understand the coffee addiction, until recently. I have local artisan coffee roaster, Javatino, to thank for my first introduction to the art of fine coffee. The Orlando Coffee Crawl helped further my appreciation.
Coffee is serious business. Coffee sommeliers can now be found in fine restaurants to guide our java selection and coffee pairings. Our guide on this fun bike ride / coffee tasting experience, Jimmy Sherfey of Abeja Coffee is a coffee journalist reporting on all things coffee. He filled us with knowledge about coffee growing and production, roasting and tasting.
I learned coffee, like wine, is as varied as the location it comes from and the people who make it. My curiosity was peeked. Coffee from Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Dominican Republic all tastes different. Sounds obvious but a non-coffee drinker can easily miss those nuances. I once thought all wine tasted like a liquid two by four with a stick of butter (oh those dreaded cheap chardonnays). Not until I took a wine course did I begin to appreciate the differences and basically the “hey this stuff is really good” aspect of wine. It’s now coffee’s turn to gain my appreciation.
A Coffee Education On Wheels
Orlando Bike Tours, a new startup operation by Sarah Peerani, a local entrepreneur whose mission is to promote Orlando’s vibrant food, wellness and culture scene, all via bicycle, conducted a fun tour on a beautiful Saturday morning with visits to four local independent Orlando coffee vendors. I love doing food tours and on a bike you cover more territory, exercise, spend time outdoors and eat. Those are all things I could dig into.
The Orlando Coffee scene is not quite at the same coffee-drinking seriousness level as Portland, but you wouldn’t know it looking at the Orlando coffee shops we visited. There is more to Orlando than tourists and theme parks and this tour proved it. “Orlando Doesn’t Suck” was emblazoned on one tour participant’s t-shirt and that proved to be a sentiment we all shared after this tour.
If you are looking for a great cup of coffee in Orlando, these coffee shops should be on your Must Eat List in Orlando (or should I say Must Drink?).
Our caffeine-fueled day began at Downtown Credo’s newest location next to Florida Hospital. Immediately walking into the two-story space, with tons of natural light and understated sleek decor, reminded me of Portland.
With their philosophy of pay what you can afford and a menu with suggested prices, Downtown Credo’s “Think Global, Act Local” mission promotes relationship coffee and social responsibility. The challenges faced by coffee growers around the world, and the instability of the market, drives Downtown Credo to make an impact for good by maintaining relationships with growers and paying well above the market fair trade price, a practice shared with the other Orlando coffee vendors on this tour. They host various programs and workshops to further grow their relationship with the Orlando community.
My first cup of joe was a Guatemalan fine ground roast, brewed using an AeroPress. This is a quick method using a hand-held device, considered a modified French press, which provides the same flavor oils for a smooth and velvety morning coffee, in less time. If you’re in a hurry this is the cup for you.
Downtown Credo’s original location at 706 W Smith Street, in College Park, has been popular since opening in 2010. This new location at 550 E. Rollins St, Orlando is bound to follow suit.
After an informative talk with Jimmy and Nicole Higgins from Downtown Credo and the first cup of coffee in my system, I hopped on my bright green bike rental from Orlando Bike Share and followed the group to our next stop. This was conveniently included in the price of the tour ($25pp) for the non-bike owners, or you could bring your own ride ($20pp). I found out, in a branding move, the green bikes are being replaced with orange ones and the company will now be called “Juice” to honor Central Florida’s citrus heritage. Pretty cool way to make Orlando a little more hipster.
We rode past Orlando’s cultural hub including the Orlando Science Center and Orlando Museum of Art, along the tree-lined streets of Loch Haven Park and into the surrounding neighborhoods.
I’ve lived here for 18 years and had never truly admired the beauty of this lush green area. With the wind in my hair, I felt like a kid exploring my own back yard. It’s great to be a tourist in your hometown.
Lineage at East End Market
Our next stop was East End Market, an Epicurista dream come true. This neighborhood market and culinary mini mecca, featuring restaurants and local artisans, selling everything from incredible cheeses at La Femme du Fromage, to fresh bread from Olde Hearth Bread Company, to Italian homemade treats at Fatto in Casa, to craft coffee at Lineage Coffee Roasting and so much more is a Must Eat stop in Orlando as well.
Many of the vendors here, like Lineage Coffee Roasting, started out at local farmers markets and once they set up shop at East End Market, their popularity sky rocketed, gaining national attention. Alton Brown was a recent visitor proclaiming East End Market and Lineage as one of his #ABRoadEats favorites in Orlando. Downtown Credo made his list too!
My second cup of the day was an Ethiopian Adado, brewed using the pour over method, the latest craze in the craft coffee movement. Hot water is slowly poured directly over the grounds held in a paper filter to extract bolder flavors. There is an art to this method, for the coffee to “bloom” (you like that coffee terminology?) and the Lineage team are eager to master it. This coffee had less acidity and a fruity, blueberry, tea-like quality to it. I drank it black, which was a first for me, and surprisingly drank most of the full cup. My usual “bitter/nasty” coffee-descriptors did not come to mind, even though the Florida heat was beginning to get the best of me.
We sat outdoors, in the expansive gravel-floored patio, amidst beautiful plants from Porch Therapy as Ryan Wilcox, the resident education and quality control director at Lineage, shared stories of his recent trip to Colombia. He took part in a competition judging 60 coffees from the region and spent time with local growers as part of their mission to source top quality product. Ryan frequently hosts educational sessions at Lineage so if you’re looking for some coffee education of your own without the cycling, be sure to check out their website. Here’s a great article from our guide, Jimmy Sherfey, about Lineage featured on Eater.
We sipped our brew and nibbled on quinoa muffins prepared by Emma Bean, a pop up caterer making a splash in the local food movement. These were so good I may have eaten nearly a half-dozen. I confess I couldn’t resist. The fresh-baked pear and the moistness of these mini bites were a perfect match to the coffee.
East End Market, located at 3201 Corrine Drive in Winter Park, features a prominent vegetable garden at their front entrance and actively promotes urban farming. And wouldn’t you know it? You meet the coolest people on these tours. One of the coffee crawl participants is part of a new initiative in Orlando called Fleet Farming, which uses volunteers to set up home gardens and pedal power to bring the produce to the community. They host monthly SWARM rides to teach urbanites all about farming our yards. The coffee, the bikes and the urban farming and I’m definitely loving the west coast invasion.
Feeling properly refueled, we headed along Corrine drive, past the beautiful Leu Gardens, to Propagation, a new furniture store in The Mills 50 district, with a penchant for great coffee.
Brittany and Travis Reed, Orlando natives, just opened this ultra hipster furniture store /coffee-house where you can buy everything you see, from the couch, the chairs, the beautiful vintage consoles, to the mini succulent plants, all while enjoying an expertly crafted coffee drink from their rockin’ gold Italian coffee machine. They use Lavazza coffee from Italy to prepare their espresso drinks, offering everything from a cortado – espresso with a small shot of steamed milk – to an affogato, an Italian dessert of vanilla ice cream topped with a shot of espresso. This ice cream lover has to try that next time! I also hear they are now carrying Lineage Coffee, which goes to show what a great local community collaboration Orlando is creating.
What started out with a successful Etsy store is now brick and mortar and the space couldn’t be more beautiful. The Reed’s hope to invigorate the area offering a selection of pretty things. I have to say that Travis and Brittany have that hipster look that just adds to the cool factor of this place. If I lived in the neighborhood, it would certainly be a favorite hangout. Check out their awesome Instagram feed and GO in for a visit. Located at 1221 North Mills Street, Orlando.
Blacksmith Brew Works
The theme of the day was coffee on the GO, and husband and wife team, Ross and Brittany Smith of Blacksmith Brew Works did not disappoint.
They set up their mobile brew cart at the entrance of Propagation and served us a delicious cold brewed coffee directly from a nitrogen-chilled keg. They will happily jazz up your special events with an even bigger artisan coffee bar on wheels!
My third cup of the day was an Ethiopia Agaro processed in the wash method. Ross prefers roasting in small batches to preserve quality and showcase the true features of the coffee. It had floral, black tea aromas without any bitterness due to the cold brewing. The coffee is steeped cold for 14 hours resulting in low acidity. It is then transferred to kegs powered with Nitrogen, which was quite a unique experience. Milk and sugar have always been necessities in coffee for me but I happily finished a full cup of this black cold brew. You can find them at Thornton Park Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market in Dr. Phillips.
The coffee education on wheels was quite extensive during the Orlando Coffee Crawl. Each stop featured coffee made with a different method of brewing, from aeropress, to pour over, to cold brew, which I discovered to be my favorite due to having less bite.
We sampled natural dry processed and wash processed coffee and it was interesting to learn how the production method used impacts the acidity and body of the coffee we drank. The dry process is more costly, as the coffee cherries are dried with the fruit and beans inside resulting in a natural fermentation that has to be carefully monitored or it can easily spoil the product. The result however is worth it for coffee aficionados with a more dense and exotic or intense flavor. The wash method is more commonly used, where the cherry is picked once ripened and removed immediately, leaving only the seed to be dried produces a higher acidity, clean, bright and mild flavor product.
After hanging out at Propagation, soaking in the cool vibes, chatting and commenting on how much Orlando indeed does not suck, we hopped on our bikes and returned to our starting point. I am certain I pedaled back a bit faster than normal, propelled by what felt like rocket fuel coursing through my veins. Is this what drinking coffee feels like?
This is where the out-of-body experience comes in.
Driving home after this fun day, very pleased with myself for having explored and gained a new appreciation for coffee, I felt like I could have run the 24 miles across town, all while pushing my car in the style of those tough-man competitions you see on TV.
Holy cow! Wow!
Three cups of coffee may have been a bit much for a non-coffee consumer like me, but I felt great. I could conquer the world!
Then, I got home and took a nap. (no joke, I was knackered!)
It was a great afternoon meeting new friends, learning new things, exploring new tastes, supporting local businesses and being a tourist in my own town.
Whether you GO with a group of friends or GO solo and make new ones, a bike crawl with Orlando Bike Tours is fun way to spend an afternoon. Don’t worry if you don’t own a bike, just reserve your spot early to get one of the Bike Shares available. Each tour has a different theme and they are held every first and third Saturday of the month. Follow them on Facebook for details.
Don’t forget to add these four coffee artisans: Downtown Credo, Lineage, Propagation and Blacksmith to your Must Eat List for Orlando Coffee, or rather a Must Drink List. These local folks know how to roast and brew the perfect cup of coffee, served with a side of warm hospitality.
Are you a coffee pro or amateur like me? I would love to hear about your coffee experiences, please share in the comments below and let’s chat.
C is for Orlando Coffee Crawl. Do you have a favorite Must Eat dining experience that starts with the letter C? Please share in the comments and join me on the Must Eat A to Z adventure.
Check out Must Eat in New York: A is for Big Apple and Must Eat in Berlin: B is for Berlin Currywurst and Beer. I promise they will make you drool and plan your next trip to these delicious destinations.