Mass shipping and micro-roasters
With such deeply entrenched traditions, it took New Orleans a little extra time to push beyond its aforementioned roots. Today, all aspects of the coffee trade are in play locally, from the importation of green coffee beans, which have been harvested but not roasted to the typical dark brown hue, to micro-roasters, companies that cure and roast beans on a very small scale. Large wholesale commercial roasting, as it happens, also takes place in New Orleans: According to the Port of New Orleans, the city has “14 warehouses, more than 5.5 million square feet of storage space and six roasting facilities within a 20-mile radius.”
The Dupuy Group started in 1936 as a coffee warehouse on South Peters St, and has grown into a storage, transportation, and logistics operation that works in ports throughout the South, opening the first green coffee silo in the country in 1992. Another large importing New Orleans-based operation, Silocaf USA, manages the largest automated silo plant for raw, green coffee beans in the world, located on Coffee Drive within the Port. Silocaf also supplies the largest coffee roasting facility in the world, Folgers in New Orleans East, with their beans.
Apart from these large-scale commercial corporations, New Orleans has smaller, consumer-forward micro-roasters throughout the city. Zephyr Coffee is an importer that works with a variety of roasters and emphasizes sustainability. Small-batch roasting has been growing rapidly over the past few years, with French Truck, Mojo Coffee Roasters, New Orleans Roast, Orleans Coffee, and Congregation Coffee all staking a claim to bring New Orleans local, high-quality beans.
And they’re doing it in a variety of ways. French Truck is a local roaster for wholesale accounts that’s moved to include direct retail sales in its shop on Magazine St and cafe on Dryades. Mojo Coffee ran two shops -- one on Freret St and one on Magazine -- for several years before expanding into the roasting game. New Orleans Roast, founded in 2008, and Orleans Coffee, founded in 1985, are both wholesale and online sales outlets.
Then there’s newcomer Congregation Coffee, which started in 2015 as a partnership between Seattle and New Orleans folks, and has quickly become the coffee of choice at all of Donald Link’s restaurants, not to mention Patois, Brennan’s, and Vessel. Congregation even collaborated with new brewery Urban South to create a winter seasonal coffee porter called Rectify.
Hey! Cafe is perhaps the smallest roasting operation in the city, calling itself New Orleans’ only “nano-roaster,” which means they roast very small batches, monitoring each one closely and controlling the process manually. They serve the beans they roast in their Magazine St cafe as well as other spots like Spitfire Coffee, and also collaborated with NOLA Brewing on a coffee saison.
The most visible signs of New Orleans’ evolving coffee culture are the specialized, third-wave cafes that have opened in the last few years: HiVolt, Revelator (a mini-chain based out of Alabama that also roasts its own beans in house), Cherry Espresso Bar, Mammoth Espresso, Arrow Cafe, Salon by Sucré, and Addiction Coffee. Each has breathed new life into the long-standing coffee culture of the Crescent City.
With coffee shops serving multiple purposes, like the new trend of hybrid cafes and bike shops in the Warehouse District’s Rouler, local coffee shop and brewery collaborations, coffee shop and bakeries, and coffee shop/bars, there’s no lack of creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and culinary chops in New Orleans to continue innovating to offer everyone who lives and visits to find their own niche, in the spot that the coffee break was allegedly born. We like to take a moment to think, reflect, and relax over a well-made cup, and the sheer number of places throughout the city to do so reflects that.
New Orleans is nothing if not a brew of different cultures over the last 300 years -- from France, Vietnam, and even Seattle. The geography and industry of a major port, the outlier social tendencies emphasizing relaxation and fun, a sophisticated palate, and an identity steeped in welcoming all have played a part in shaping not only the local coffee culture, but the city itself.