Joel and Leticia Pollock start every day with an espresso. But for them, it's not just the usual pick-me-up. The couple, who founded Panther Coffee in 2011, constantly analyze the aromas in their single-origin brews. For instance, they seek out the sugar-cane finish in their East Coast blend.
"Tasting and evaluating is part of our daily life," Joel says.
Leticia can't even remember the last time she had a cup without analyzing it.
Joel and Leticia Pollock
And Miami has certainly benefited from all this thoughtful drinking. When the Pollocks launched their Wynwood flagship two years ago, the city lacked specialty coffee roasters. The arts district was more warehouses and thrift shops than boutiques and galleries. Now, Panther Coffee is considered a pioneer. The coffee shop has helped usher in a new era of Miami dining that includes small-batch production and dedicated craftsmanship.
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The couple's love for java is rooted firmly in the past. Leticia grew up in Brazil, where she started drinking sugary cups at age 3. She eventually became a barista trainer and crossed paths with Joel at a Specialty Coffee Association of America exposition in Minneapolis. Joel, who was born in Michigan, was a roaster in Portland, Oregon, at the time.
After the expo, Leticia scored a job at a coffee shop near Joel's place. Soon, the two began making plans for a business of their own. "We started traveling and realized that Miami really needed specialty coffee," Leticia says. They packed their belongings, moved to South Florida, and signed a lease in the now-famed rectangular building on NW Second Avenue.
Today, Panther Coffee is flourishing. The Pollocks supply beans to the best restaurants in the city. They've earned accolades from the New York Times and won the Good Food Award, a prestigious prize for responsibly produced foods. Their second location popped up in Sunset Harbour six months ago. They also recently announced a third outpost, which is scheduled to open in MiMo next year.
So what drives their success? It's simple: "We drink about four cups of coffee a day," Joel says.