Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 9 a.m.
Courtesy of Patrick Hieger
Coffee entrepreneur Patrick Hieger is committed to solving an admittedly First-World problem: where to find cold brew when Starbucks and Panther Coffee seem too far away. Though brands like Stumptown and Chameleon may stock the shelves at Whole Foods, Miami has long lacked a local alternative in the bottled cold-brew coffee scene. Until now.
Hieger has launched cold-brew coffee company Black Lightning. Bottles are sold out of his home, and orders can be placed through Instagram (@blacklightningcoldbrew), Facebook, or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A mostly underground enterprise, his fledgling coffee company has been compared to bootleggers selling spirits during Prohibition. The company moniker's nod to moonshine’s nickname — “white lightning” — even seems to hint at this. Hieger hopes that a Kickstarter campaign this month can help raise money so he can obtain the licensing and nutritional information needed to sell at farmers' markets and stores. “It’s a little clandestine right now,” he says, “but in a year or even a few months, I think it will be a different picture.”
The coffees are available in three flavors. Black Lightning has only two ingredients: water and a Guatemalan roast provided by Fort Lauderdale’s Calusa Coffee. Its simple, single origin provides a clear taste for those who appreciate coffee at its purest. However, its cousin, Thunder Crack, is for true caffeine addicts — the cocoa powder its brewed with gives it a bigger kick than most cups and a slight chocolatey aftertaste. Stormy Weather mixes in whole milk and raw cane syrup to create a sweet, dessert-like flavor profile. (Thunder Crack and Stormy Weather both use Calusa’s sweet orange blossom blend, sourced from multiple farms in Brazil, Ethiopia, and Sumatra.) A bottle of Hieger’s cold brew can be purchased for $4, and growlers sell for $20.
Courtesy of Patrick Hieger
In the future, Hieger hopes to expand the company to encompass noncoffee drinks. Specifically, he’d like to make hard-to-find Latin American beverages like horchata and chichi morada, more readily available in South Florida.
Hieger was trained as a chef at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Miami and worked in the local food scene for several years, before living in Latin America. There, he gained a greater appreciation for the art of coffee and learned the basics of brewing. Hieger also wrote for Miami New Times.
After returning to Miami for several years, he saw a hole in the market this past January. “Living in Miami, hot coffee started to not settle with me," he says. "I started using cold brew and sharing it with my friends, and it just took off.” He saw it as an opportunity to build something new that used local resources. All of the beans used in Black Lightning brews are roasted by Steve Hodel’s two-year-old Broward company, Calusa Coffee, and the distinctive flask-like bottles come from Hialeah.
Considering Panther Coffee got its start as a bicycle cart at Miami food truck roundups, Hieger's Black Lightning in a bottle might just be the next big Miami coffee company.