Lose Yourself In The Vanilla Lattes At Denton's Seven Mile Coffee.
Welcome to Unfiltered, our weekly feature that explores the Dallas coffee scene — and how it often manages to thrive in the most unusual places. Given that we live in a time when Starbucks locations are about as prevalent as the golden McDonald's arches, when new coffee shops seem to open every other week and when almost everyone uses a ChemEx to brew their coffee, we're here to show you some alternatives — for when your coffee shop routine becomes monotonous or when you're just looking for something different in your caffeine endeavors.
Seven Mile Coffee.
529 Bolivar St.
In just about any college town, you can generally find a surplus of bars within a couple mile radius of campus — y'know, for those times when hard-working coeds need to wind down.
But what about the other end of the spectrum, when they need to recharge for a long day of classes, studying and various extracurricular activities? The obvious solution here is coffee shops, what with their selections of caffeinated goods and spaces to set up laptops for study sessions away from dorm and apartment settings.
While most of the bars in Denton can be found in a fairly central location, halfway decent coffee requires a little bit of a hunt. But it can prove a worthwhile search, too: Not far from the University of North Texas campus is Seven Mile Coffee, a neighborhood joint that's become a staple in Denton's burgeoning coffee culture.
The brainchild of owner Kevin Klingele and his wife, the shop is an offshoot of Seven Mile Cafe, the restaurant located a mere parking lot away. Of course, the Klingeles, who are northern California natives, traveled a much longer route than just that in bringing West Coast vibes and coffee knowledge to this eclectic college town.
“We fell in love with Denton,” says Klingele about why this area was chosen for his business. “It's a very familiar feel, and I think the concept we have works well with the type of culture that Denton has.”
The shop is spacious and calming, with golden yellow walls and ample seating appropriate for any large, caffeine-deprived types looking for a place to sprawl out their text books. Walls are lined with a combination of decorative coffee burlap sacks from the various countries where beans are sourced, plus appropriate classic album artwork to go with this music-obsessed town's vibes on that front. Meanwhile, sounds of popular indie tracks and old favorites flow through the speaker system, creating a relaxing atmosphere with familiar music to sing along to.
The instantly welcoming and friendly vibe you feel provides crowds with a sense of California chill, but with a Denton spin.
As for the coffee: Seven Mile avoids regular drip coffees, focusing instead on espressos, pourovers, and ChemEx and French Press coffees. The shop recently started roasting its own coffee, too, while also featuring beans from West Coast legends Stumptown Coffee Roasters for its espresso.
For the in-house coffees, the shop focuses on single origins with a medium roast for a balanced flavor that's not too light or bitter. The current bean selection includes a Brazilian (used as the house coffee for both the coffee shop and the cafe), an Ethiopian (used in the NOLA-style cold brew) and a Papua New Guinean (for more exotic flavor-seekers like me).
On a recent visit, I had the Indonesian coffee made as an iced pourover, giving me a clean and clear shot at its bold flavors. It's slightly fruitier and lighter than a lot of Indonesian coffees, with mild hints of melon. But it still has the spicy and earthy flavors you look for from that region.
With the espresso, says Klingele, one particularly popular drink is the shop's titular Seven Mile offering. In this vanilla latte take, the vanilla meshes well with the sweet, nutty espresso in a way that seems as if vanilla was a part of the coffee's original flavor profile. Combined with fresh organic milk, the drink is smooth and well-balanced, giving you a great ratio of coffee to milk with just a hint of sweetness.
On the whole here, the coffee program is reminiscent of West Coast coffee culture. Fitting: Much of the training was conducted at Stumptown's headquarters in Portland. This is a requirement on the part of the roaster to ensure quality control, but it also fits well with the shop's ethos.
Klingele, who was an avid coffee drinker prior to moving to Texas, notices that key difference between the two cultures can be chalked up to experience. Says Klingele: “I think, just time-wise, the West Coast is probably 20 years ahead of what's happening in Texas. But Texas is catching up quickly. The coffee here, just in the past five years, has improved dramatically.”
As for the coffee scene to the South in Dallas, Kingele isn't able to make much of a comparison. Much like with the music culture of Denton, it's kind of hard to compare the coffee world up here to its Dallas counterpart. And there's a benefit to that: The miles separating these two growing coffee scenes means that Seven Mile operates within its own sphere without a lot of outside influence, enabling it to concentrate on its craft.
“We kind of go to the beat of our own drum,” says Klingele. “We really focus on improving what we're doing. We really don't worry about everybody else too much.”
All photos by Kathy Tran.