The rich aroma of coffee hits you as soon as you enter the Lincoln Eatery. Toiling away against a backdrop of white, gold, and maple tones in a corner of the food hall is David McLennan, an Australian native who owns XO Espresso Bar with his wife, Puja McLennan, and leads a team of baristas in serving specialty coffee, CBD-infused drinks, and other beverages.
The couple migrated to Miami from Washington, D.C., in 2017 and decided to realize their dream of serving specialty, high-quality coffee and wellness drinks in a stylish space.
“The idea came from a personal need to have good coffee,” says Puja, who developed a taste for specialty blends in her native Kenya. “We consume a lot of it, and for us, it has always been about the quality and flavor, not just a caffeine fix."
David quit his full-time job to dedicate himself to their passion project, which began as a mobile coffee bar that catered private events and served coffee at the Brickell City Centre Farmers Market.
"David's favorite job has always been a past gig as a coffee cart barista in Australia," Puja says. "Part of our mission is to educate customers on specialty coffee, and having him fully immersed in the business ensures that our team is properly mentored in specialty coffee and how it differs from what's offered at commercial chains."
Four months later, the couple stationed their startup operation outside the W Miami in Brickell, where they catered to the hotel's guests, Icon Brickell residents, and diners at nearby restaurants such as Cipriani and Cantina la Veinte. The cart continues to be a quick refueling stop Monday through Saturday.
Last February, the couple debuted their first coffee bar at South Beach's Lincoln Eatery. Unlike the Brickell cart, XO Espresso Bar allows patrons to linger in the adjacent seating area while sipping classic brews often poured by McLennan himself. Offerings include coladas ($3), cortaditos ($3) and cappuccinos ($4.25), served with regular milk or nondairy options.
Baristas also prepare nitro cold brews ($5) and kombucha on tap ($5.50), along with a list of artful wellness lattes made with activated charcoal ($4.50), turmeric ($4.50), matcha ($5), or purple potato ($4.50). For an extra 50 cents, any drink can be made into an espresso frappe in flavors such as dulce de leche, lavender, and vanilla cream.
At the two locations, CBD and moringa oils — used to relieve menstrual symptoms, digestive problems, and joint pain — can be added to any of the drinks for an extra charge and are also sold by the bottle.
"We make a point of offering wellness drinks and CBD-infused drinks. They seem like a natural fit because of all the benefits," Puja says. "It made sense to offer it in coffee since it's a daily ritual and an easy way to incorporate the cannabidiol effects into one's routine."
Though the beverages can be enjoyed by themselves, XO also offers keto egg bites ($5 for two) and freshly baked goods such as vegan banana bread ($5 per slice), chocolate chip cookies ($3 each), carrot and walnut loaves ($4.5 per slice), and butter croissants ($3.5 each) from local bakeries.
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For customers looking to brew their own coffee at home, freshly roasted beans are also available for purchase. Options include beans from Burundi with hints of sweet spices and vanilla, Colombian coffee with candied orange and caramel notes, and XO's signature blend — Icon — with notes of toffee, pralines, and chocolate ($18 for 12 ounces).
The coffee-bean roasting happens on the eco-friendly Bellwether roaster the couple recently installed at their Lincoln Eatery concept. In addition to allowing the team to roast their coffee onsite, the emissions-free system also incorporates Tip the Farmer — a customer-facing mobile app that lets patrons contribute to coffee farmers directly.
In addition to planning coffee delivery subscription service, the couple is scouting real estate for a coffee shop they plan to open in the next 12 months. "We want to offer a complete breakfast menu so coffee lovers have a friendly spot to visit daily," Puja says.
XO Espresso Bar. 475 Brickell Ave., Miami; and 723 Lincoln Ln., Miami Beach; xoespressobar.com