A lot of coffee shops in town seem poised to become chains, and that's fine. If you're doing it right and you've got your coffee game on lock, why not expand. However, over at Demi Coffee, the brand new spot that took over for Mud Dauber off 16th Street north of McDowell Road, it's more about trying new things than it is getting everything picture perfect, and, you know what, it's pretty fun to join them at ground level.
When Sam Clark decided to focus his coffee efforts on his in-venue Lo Fi Coffee shops at Nile Theatre and the newest Trunk Space location, he was set to sell Mud Dauber; but the original buyer fell through. That's when two of his regulars, Bobby Castañeda and Ali Campbell stepped in to keep their neighborhood coffee shop alive.
Changing the name to Demi Coffee (though the current Facebook page is still under Mud Dauber's name and there's even a Mud Dauber sign out front) the pair says the name refers to the beans their using as much as it does the Demi Moore sign out front and mural planned inside. That's because they're using half Cartel sourced beans and half Xanadu.
Castañeda and Campbell use the more citrusy bright Cartel roasts for espresso, while the nuttier, chocolatey Xanadu beans go to the cold brew. It's interesting to note that the cold brew at Demi is cheaper than most competitors at $2.75 per 16 ounces. It has also been compared to "rocket fuel" by one of the shop's already regulars because it is likely more concentrated than you're used to getting.
Covering the previous ruddy mustard yellow color to a bright, light and cool mint color, adding a custom-made steel bar, and hanging some of Castañeda's art is pretty much all of the décor the place has so far. A TV in the corner plays VHS tapes the pair has found at yard sales and thrift stores. Lord of the Rings and Star Trek were on deck when I visited, though the sound on the TV was off.
While Demi offers the basics, like cold brew and espresso drinks, the unique side of the new shop is in the owners' experimental nature. From a Da Vang-sourced Vietnamese coffee recipe to cans of Asian basil seed juice in place of soda, the offerings reflect the owners' tastes. In the future, they hope to offer Turkish style coffee, as well as an "Improvised Foam" cold brew that involves mixing cold brew coffee, cinnamon, and either agave or maple syrup in a shaker and shaking it until it has a thick, heady foam on top. Though it isn't on the menu yet, you should definitely keep an eye out for that drink.
However, that's not all that Castañeda and Campbell have in store for Demi. European style grab and go wrapped sandwiches, made to order Korean noodles, and fresh pressed green juices are all ideas floating around the shop right now, though those parts of the plan won't likely be implemented until the fall.
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For now, the coffee shop regulars turned owners are just focusing on starting the shop up and keeping it going. I'll admit, the first cappuccino I tried at Demi wasn't the best I've ever had, but the innovative spirit, coming from two people who may or may not have ran a speakeasy out of their house last summer, is what makes this place really shine. While most spots are stuck doing the same drinks with the same syrups and the same basic breakfast and lunch menus, it's nice to see a small little place throw its doors open and be ready to test things out.
It's worth mentioning that of all coffee shops in town, this one is certainly the most welcoming. Each customer, whether they're a friend or a stranger, gets treated the same-- and that means being greeted with lots of friendly, excited, and laid back conversation. Demi might be small, but it's exactly what a neighborhood coffee shop should be and I'm excited to see what the place does in the coming months.
You can check out Demi, as Castañeda would say it, Monday through Monday (or daily) from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m.