With so much great coffee happening throughout the United States right this very moment, people living in the country’s bigger markets might be daunted by the time and travel it takes simply getting to know their own variety of local specialty roasters. This holds especially true in the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex, which constitutes the fourth largest metro market in the country, and is notoriously sprawling to boot.
Thankfully this Saturday, Oct. 15 will mark the return of Dallas Coffee Day, bringing together 10 of the area’s most reputable roasters for tastings, talks, food and general coffee-centered conviviality at Life in Deep Ellum, at 2803 Taylor St. The event has been expanded to include more roasters and more space after selling out in its debut last year.
“When planning the first Dallas Coffee Day, we said we would consider it a success if 50 people showed up,” said event co-founder Zac Cadwalader, who is also the news editor and Texas desk writer for Sprudge.com and founder of the Dallas Coffee Collective. “After we sold all 350 tickets a week before the event, we knew this was something people were actually excited about, which was really amazing.”
The original DCD idea came from co-founder Liz Goulding, who formerly covered coffee for the Dallas Observer and currently works as a barista at Houndstooth Coffee. “Not to exaggerate, but I was totally blown away,” Goulding said of year one. “I think the success was less about us being amazing event planners, but more about a growing interest in specialty coffee and a desire for an event that was beyond one company/brand.”
Daily Coffee News asked Cadwalader and Goulding via email more about Dallas Coffee, the event’s origins and its growth in year two (click here for ticketing info and specifics):
How did the inaugural event come together? And for how long did it incubate?
ZC: This is Liz’s brainchild. I’m just the guy with the social media presence and the bad ideas. I’m a really bad planner and not much of a go-getter, so this event would never have happened without Liz. The DFW Metroplex is so sprawling that it’s really difficult for people to try new coffee shops or roasters. Even the most adventurous probably only go to 4 or 5 shops. Dallas Coffee Day is a way to get all the roasters under one roof for folks to try their coffees side-by-side. It’s about exposing the people of Dallas to all the roasters as well as giving them a chance to maybe learn what they like and don’t like in coffee.
LG: Zac, that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said about me and I’m going to hold on to it forever, particularly the next time we are arguing about what our panel discussion should cover or who is going to send out the next email. In all seriousness though, I think our skill sets complement each other really well. Zac brings a level of technical knowledge that I don’t have. His willingness to volunteer a lot of hours for this event has been invaluable. I always feel weird saying that I came up with the idea for Dallas Coffee Day because it is so simple. I just thought about how you can go to festivals and taste all different kinds of beer or chocolate or cheese, and how there should be one for coffee, too. There are great things happening with coffee all over the place, and it would great to get people more connected to the specialty coffee being roasted in their own community in a way that was fun and not stuffy.
How specifically Dallas is Dallas Coffee Day?
ZC: Both Forth Worth and Denton — our neighbor to the north — are represented at Dallas Coffee Day, by Avoca and West Oak, respectively. The event is really for the entire Metroplex, but most roasters are within the Dallas city limits. And ‘Dallas Coffee Day’ has a nice ring to it.
From your perspective, does Dallas or North Texas have a distinct kind of coffee culture? How would you describe the scene, so to speak? What’s growing right now?
ZC: The Dallas coffee scene is still growing. I wouldn’t say it has really settled on any certain culture or ideology. The only prevalent mode, at least as it seems to me and others in Dallas may disagree, is the espresso is king here. It’s not that pour over isn’t a thing here or that it isn’t done well. It’s more that many of the roasters prefer espresso so that’s how they roast. There are definitely some nice filter coffees being produced in Dallas, but you can pick up just about any bag of coffee roasted here and it’ll be amazing as espresso.
Is Dallas coffee under-reported or under-appreciated by the coffee community at large? Is that a ridiculous question?
ZC: I don’t think so. Most roasters may not be as well known nationally as they could or should be, but a lot of that is a function of the roasters themselves. Many choose to operate locally, so they aren’t necessarily trying to get their coffee across state lines in any major way.
LG: I don’t think it is a ridiculous question at all, but I don’t really care what the answer is. I don’t think the eyes of the coffee world are turned to Dallas, and that’s okay. I’m interested in seeing people that are working hard here in Dallas to roast good specialty coffee find customers that are excited about what they are serving. I’m interested in seeing the specialty coffee customer base grow in numbers and knowledge so they can better discern what they like and why.
What are some of the specific offerings/programs/moments that the really hardcore serious coffee consumers will be most excited about for the day?
ZC: The thing that I think will be most interesting for the serious coffee geeks and the casual drinker alike is just drinking all the coffees in short order. Most home users struggle with the ‘why can’t my coffee taste like it did at the shop?’ feeling and it really keeps them from being able to truly compare and contrast to see what they like. At Dallas Coffee Day, each roaster has full control over their coffee; they choose the brew method, the ratios, which coffees they bring, etc. They’ll even be bringing their own water from their roasteries. Attendees will get to try the coffees at their best from 10 different roasters, which can be pretty informative for the hardcore coffee fan. Or it can just be a fun day of drinking really good coffee if you’re not looking to nerd out.
LG: I think one of the great things about this event is that it has something to offer people just beginning to explore specialty coffee, as well as to those who have been interested in it for years. But for people that fall on the serious end, I think that in addition to tasting a variety of coffees, they will enjoy talking directly with the roaster and people involved with production. Many of these people primarily work behind the scenes and are rarely customer-facing.
On a personal note, last year I really enjoyed watching all the industry people there tasting each other’s coffee and drinking beer together, so I can’t wait for that again. Many of them are so busy they rarely get a chance to see what other folks are up to. I hope giving them an opportunity to be in the same space on a professional but informal level is a small step towards furthering the coffee conversation here in Dallas.
Dallas Coffee Day Event Details
What’s included in admission?
- Dallas Coffee Day logo mug and tote bag designed by Houndstooth’s Natalie Hasty.
- Unlimited coffee tastings from all roasters
- Coffee cuppings: the practice of tasting coffees to evaluate things like body, sweetness, and acidity. Participants will be guided through the process and will have a chance to see how cupping helps industry professionals evaluate coffees.
- Latte art throwdown: monthly competitions that take place in cafes around the world where baristas go to show off their milk pouring skills. The foundation of good latte art is good milk steaming, and participants are judged on contrast, symmetry, and overall aesthetics.
- Espresso bar: offering cortados and cappuccinos from a rotating selection of roasters throughout the day
- Coffee origin talk: a panel discussion featuring several roasters who have been to origin (coffee farms); why/how those trips are important to their business
Will there be food?
Like last year, Oak Cliff Trompo (recently named to Bon Appetite’s list of the top 50 new restaurants in the U.S) will be serving up delicious eats for all Dallas Coffee Day attendees. Tacos are not included in the ticket price, so bring extra money to grab some of the best street tacos in the city.
Who will be there?