Local Spotlight: Katz Coffee

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WHAT: Coffee with a conscience, roasted right here in Houston.

When Avi Katz graduated from the University of Houston's well regarded Hotel and Restaurant Management program, he had no idea what he wanted to do -- but he did know that he didn't want to move back to New York. So he took a job with Martin Diedrich of Diedrich Coffee, flew to California, and had the good fortune of an intensive year-long training from one of the industry's most respected. He tasted, cupped, smelled, roasted, networked, and tasted some more. He learned to distinguish the various grades of coffee. He learned the roasting process. He learned how to source the best beans. But most of all he learned that he loved coffee: the process, the people, the sheer pleasure of it.

Katz gained an enviable expertise, which he only amplified later as he worked to transform two local roasters -- Houston's Lola Savannah and then Fontana Coffee Roasters -- before starting Katz Coffee on a shoestring in 2003. Seven years later, Katz Coffee has become the kind of hot-damn-that's-awesome success story you don't read about every day. Simply put, it's a company that combines good people with sound practices to create a product that's as pleasing to the palate as it is to the environment.

What makes Katz Coffee a local all-star? Three reasons, aside from the taste:

  • It's successful and savvy: The business-minded among you should be interested to hear that Katz Coffee has grown at least 25% every year since its inception in 2003 -- and a staggering 37% since June of last year. The business has developed responsibly, steadily increasing supply to meet the exploding demand.
  • It's globally conscious: The best coffee beans grow at high elevations around the tropics, but the mountainous terrain makes them difficult to harvest, driving up the price. Major players, like Folgers and Maxwell House, reap their beans cheaply at low altitudes. Others attain the coveted high-altitude coffee, but exploit the local farmers by not offering them proper compensation for their labor. Companies like Katz have joined the "fair trade" movement, which purchases premium goods directly from the farmers at a pre-determined fair price. So Katz Coffee earns lower margins -- but engages in fulfilling, ethical business practices.
  • It gives back: Katz Coffee weaves philanthropy right into its core values. To that end, the company features three flagship "cause coffees:" Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Friends of Enchanted Rock, and Austin's Bat Conservation International. Each organization has its own specialty coffee, and 50 cents of every pound sold goes directly to that charity. Want to start a custom blend for your org? "Set up a tasting," says the affable Katz. We like it.

WHERE: You'll find Katz ground and whole-bean coffee at the downtown Spec's, plus most Central Market, Whole Foods, and HEB locations. Or check out the Web site to purchase online. Looking for a fresh cup? Scores of restaurants, coffee shops, and farmers' markets around town serve up sleeve after sleeve of Katz Coffee. Click here to check out the extensive list.

For more on Katz Coffee and how the import business is shaping Houston's future as a coffee capital, check out Robb Walsh's feature: City of Coffee.

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