Roasting coffee beans is a skill honed over years of practice. Once mastered, it creates a product of perfect balance, flavor and aroma. Coffee roasting began in the 12th century and today, Americans drink more than 350 million cups of coffee per day. This means coffee is the second most valuable (legally) traded commodity next to oil—and Houston has a strong relationship with both of those natural resources.
Over the last 50 years, small batch coffee roasting, has grown from uncommon luxury to rapid-growth obsession (Thanks, Starbucks) to a simple expectation that, of course Houston has high-quality coffee.
All that care and attention to coffee beans, though, doesn’t come cheap. We contacted seven of Houston’s “boutique” coffee roasters to find out more about each, including their price ranges on whole coffee beans, as sold by the pound.
Amaya Roasting sources beans from select farms in Burundi, El Salvador Colombia and Costa Rica and the roasting process is guided by the harvest location. It’s served by more than two dozen of Houston’s most popular eateries including Backstreet Café, Hugo’s, Caracol, and Catalina (just to name a few). Amaya coffees can be purchased retail online or at the locations listed on their web site.
Lowest Price per Pound (Whole bean): $14.90 for Colombian Matambo
Highest Price per Pound (Whole bean): $18.60 for the Sonora Bourbon
Boomtown Coffee, Boomtown Café, 242 West 19th
Boomtown Coffee sources beans from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Kenya. The beans are roasted in small batches and only sold retail at their coffee shop, Boomtown Café in The Heights. Because of the limited quantities, call ahead to ensure beans are available for purchase. Fresh roasts are delivered daily and tend to go quickly.
Price per pound: $17.50 for all roasts
Fusion Beans, Southside Espresso, 904B Westheimer
One of Houston’s smallest coffee roasters, Fusion Beans is the only to specialize in beans from Yemen. Their home base is coffee shop Southside Espresso (next door to Uchi) where the beans are available for retail purchase. It’s Melange Creperie’s coffee of choice, which serves it at Conservatory downtown. Fusion Beans can also be purchased online.
Lowest price per pound (Whole bean): $15.00 for the Columbia Popayan roast
Highest price per pound (Whole bean): $16.75 for the Yemen Al-Ghayoul, Special Lot #3 roast
Greenway Coffee, 5 East Greenway Plaza
Greenway Coffee was founded in 2009 and for years was like a well-kept secret, known only to coffee adventurers who discovered them at a low-key food court in Greenway Plaza. These days, Greenway Coffee is served at some of Houston’s most respected restaurants, including Underbelly, Kata Robata, Pass & Provisions. Their coffee beans are available for retail purchase at Blacksmith and Morningstar and include select beans sourced from Columbia and Ethiopia. It’s also available online.
Price per pound: $17.00 for all roasts, including the Ethiopian Gedeb Chelchele Yirgacheffe
House Of Coffee Beans, 2348 Bissonnet
One of the first small-batch roasters in the city, House of Coffee Beans opened in the Rice Village in 1973. They offer a variety of single-origin beans (including from South American and Africa), blends and flavored coffees, as well as dark roast, espresso and decaf beans. Their coffees can also be purchased online.
Lowest Price per Pound (Whole bean): $12.45 for their House Blend or Guatemala Antigua
Highest Price per Pound (Whole bean): $17.75 for Kenya AA
Java Pura, 5250 Gulfton
Java Pura has grown a great deal since it was started at a kiosk in the Galleria and is run by native Houstonians Richard T. Colt and Fielding L. Cocke. The company puts beans from coffee-growing countries such as Brazil, Guatemala and Costa Rica through an intensive sampling process before even buying one bag. Barrel-aged coffee beans are a specialty here. Green beans are stored in oak barrels that previously held cabernet sauvignon (the Red series) or sauvignon blanc (the White series). During aging, the unroasted beans pick up the notes the wines have left behind. Java Pura’s coffees are available for retail purchase at their business office, Central Market, The Fresh Market and online at www.javapura.com
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Lowest Price per Pound (Whole bean): $14.00 for the Costa Rica Las Lajas Cascara single origin roast
Highest Price per Pound (Whole bean): $16.00 for all other roasts and blends, like the Panama Don Vincente Honey single origin roast
Lola Savannah, 1701 Commerce
Lola Savannah, located in downtown Houston, has been in business since 1995 and produces over 80 varieties of blended, flavored, dark roast and decaf coffees. Their pricing is extremely competitive. Select beans from South America, Indonesia and Africa are roasted in small batches specific to their characteristics. About a dozen area restaurants, including Empire Café and Vic & Anthony’s, serve their coffee. Consumers can buy Lola Savannah at major grocery stores including H-E-B, Central Market, Fiesta and on the company’s web site.
Lowest Price per Pound (Whole bean): $9.95 for Nicaraguan Matagalpa or Peruvian roast.
Highest Price per Pound (Whole bean): $11.00 for Kenya Peaberry or Kenya AA