Joel and Leticia Pollock are passionate about coffee. Spend a few minutes with them and their enthusiasm will rub off, making you want to share a cup with them and stay for just a little longer.
The Pollocks are the husband and wife behind Panther Coffee - a coffeehouse slated to open in Wynwood next month. They moved to Miami from Portland, Oregon, where they both worked in the coffee business.Now they want to share a different way to experience coffee.
That means small-batch specialty coffees, roasted and ground in-house then carefully brewed by trained baristas.
Joel, who is originally from Michigan, started roasting 20 years ago while attending college in Montana. Leticia, now 25, grew up in a coffee-producing area of Brazil and got into the business when she was 18. Not surprisingly, the couple met at coffee convention in Minneapolis.
At Panther, Joel will roast the coffees they select in a 1920s German roaster he refurbished with his father, and Leticia is training the shop's baristas to adequately prepare their coffees.
"One thing that's very important is that this is for everybody that wants a taste," said Leticia. "We like specialty coffee but it's very inclusive."
Having experienced my first coffee cupping in Colombia recently, I asked Joel and Leticia if I could join them one afternoon to "cup." Cupping is used by professionals to evaluate a coffee's aroma, body, acidity and flavor. It is also used to evaluate a coffee for defects. The Pollocks cup daily to ensure the quality of their beans and they cup with producers when choosing coffees for their store.
We tasted one coffee from Brazil, one from El Salvador and a more unique -- to me, anyway -- roast from Kenya.
In a cupping, multiple cups of the same coffee are sampled to check the consistency. We began by smelling coffee grounds, probing the fragrance. Water is added to the grounds and the coffee steeps for four minutes. Then we smelled again before "breaking the crust" -- gently stirring the grounds away from the surface to expose the water. As I broke the crust, I kept my nose close to the cup to take in the aroma. Leticia then removed a foam and we took a spoonful and sipped with a quick, powerful slurp that I'm still hoping to master.
Joel and Leticia will hold public cuppings and classes once Panther opens. I can't wait and judging by all the curious people who stopped by the store, it seems like I'm not alone.
Following are some pictures.
2390 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami