What Makes Cultivar So Great? Simplicity, Consistency and Know-How.
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.
1146 Peavy Road.
If there exists such a thing as the coffee gospel, then the folks at Cultivar Coffee just might be its most devout followers in Dallas.
For this crew, the main components that make for a good cup of coffee are simplicity and consistency. Anything else? Blasphemy, far as they're concerned.
Hey, at least they know what they're doing: Cultivar, which launched in 2009, is one of the few coffee roasters in the area that doubles as a coffee shop. On they average, Cultivar produces about 400 pounds of coffee per week for its wholesale accounts, all while operating a small shared space of their own inside of Good 2 Go Taco. And, on top of having a strong foothold here in Dallas, their beans have been featured in shops throughout the country — and even as far away as Amsterdam, thanks to the behest of a satisfied European customer.
“There was a guy from Amsterdam that showed up one day — on his bicycle, of course,” says owner Jonathan Meadows. “It was hilarious because he was sweating head to toe, mid-summer at about 11 a.m. I asked him if I could get him some water, but he said, 'No just get me a cappuccino.' He had some friends who own a coffee shop who were looking for some coffee that they wanted to feature for about a month, and they decided to go with us.”
What makes Cultivar's coffee stand out is an attentiveness to detail and an active effort to not alter the coffee much at all. Cultivar buys its coffee on a seasonal program, focusing on three to five single-origin coffees from different countries for about three to four months. The coffees are chosen based on the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) point scale, from 0 to 100. Only beans that score at least an 86 are chosen so that Cultivar to stay within the specialty coffee range.
“What we've found,” says Meadows, “is that coffees that score at an 86 or higher in many ways are able to shine on their own without being blended in.”
Meanwhile, Cultivar's roasting process could best be describe as hands-off: “From a roasting process, it's like — how can I get out of the way of this coffee?” says Meadows. “It's about opening up the flavors that are already there without manipulating it too much.”
This mentality is translated into the preparation of the coffee at the shop, too. The goal of the roasting process is to bring out the naturally versatile flavors of each coffee so a single coffee can be prepared multiple ways while still showcasing its peak flavor potential. Currently, they are featuring two coffees from Colombia and an Ethiopian peaberry. The Ethiopian has the profile of a classic washed-process Yirgacheffe, with flavors of black tea, floral and citrus. It's great as an espresso or as a pretty awesome pour-over. Although it's easy to say all of these things about an Ethiopian coffee, the idea behind this particular one is that you're able to focus on the complexities and clarity of the taste, no matter how it's prepared.
Alternately, the espresso-making process at Cultiivar emphasizes consistency, focusing on extraction by weight and measurements. It enables the baristas to create a uniform taste on a day to day basis, as well as provide extraction guidelines to wholesale clients on how to best prepare each coffee.
“Not every coffee is gonna act the same, or be the same, especially with single origins,” Meadows explains. “It's not going to be the same recipe every single time.”
You could argue that Cultivar has led the way in this minimalistic approach to coffee in Dallas. And you can't deny the results. Each cup of coffee here is made with care and consideration for the beans involved. The taste is fresh, clear and complex — despite the simplicity in the way it's made.
Whatever they're doing seems to be working: Currently, Cultivar is in the process of opening a second location — this one in Denton. The new store will follow the mark of the flagship store, as it will be in a shared space with Hypnotic Donuts, which also just opened a Denton store. The new shop will feature many of the same elements as the original, but with a focus on stronger interactions with customers.
Meadows also hopes to move the new store away from the fast-food like qualities that choosing from a huge menu board can create. Menu cards will be available to customers but not readily; the hope is a barista tending to an individual's coffee needs will better direct drinkers to the coffee that's right for them.
The Denton store won't be open for a few months, though. In the meantime, Cultivar will just keep doing its thing, treating coffee lovers — and coffee itself — right.
All photos by Kathy Tran.