Houston coffee expert brews new cafe and roastery in hip Heights district
Culture Map Houston
For some people, drinking coffee is a daily habit — as long as it’s hot and delivers a sufficient caffeine hit, they’re happy. Other may go a step beyond by grinding their beans fresh every morning or buying a certain drink from the same shop every morning.
True coffee disciples obsess over every detail. They make it their career. Not just by becoming a barista, but by learning how to roast raw coffee beans and traveling around the world to source the best ingredients.
Jacob Ibarra is one such coffee disciple. The native Houstonian and Texas A&M graduate (aka, former student) has devoted his life to teaching others how to brew the perfect cup.
That’s why he’s working towards opening a new cafe and roastery in the Heights. Located in the Braun Enterprises development at 2522 Yale St. (behind Johnny’s Gold Brick), Tenfold Coffee aims to foster education for both the people who make coffee and the people who drink it. In addition to serving coffee and food, patrons will be able to watch the roasting process take place within the building when it opens next summer.
Few people are more qualified to start such a company than Ibarra. After working as a barista in college, he moved to Costa Rica, where he became fascinated by the country’s obsession with coffee.
“You were just surrounded by coffee,” Ibarra tells CultureMap. “There’s coffee in the morning. Every worker stops at 10:30 am for a coffee break. There’s another coffee break at lunchtime. There’s another at 3 pm. At home, there’s another coffee. You’re constantly consuming it.”
From there, he moved to Seattle, where he rose through the ranks of Caffe Vita’s roasting operation. Eventually, he became responsible for training coffee shops on the best brewing practices.
On a coffee buying trip in Colombia, he met Australians who recruited him to Melbourne. While Seattle might be the most coffee-obsessed city in America, Melbourne surpasses it.
“You’re talking about a city of four million, whereas Seattle is a million and a bit,” Ibarra says. “This is a massive city, just crazy about coffee culture . . . It’s a big part of the restaurant scene.”
Working at a high level in two very competitive markets has Ibarra convinced that Houston has room for more coffee shops and coffee roasters. Just as the city supports an ever-growing number of craft beer breweries, Ibarra thinks Houston will support more than the half dozen or so prominent local roasters. He also has a plan to distinguish Tenfold from other coffee shops — and not just by making the roasting process visible to patrons.
“We’re really focused on the educational aim of it all. That’s my background,” Ibarra says. “In the Australian market, that’s how we distinguished ourselves. In this space, we’ll have a lab . . . When a customer purchases our coffee, they can bring their whole staff, and my trainer can go through the basics with them.”
In addition to teaching people more about how coffee is roasted and brewed, Ibarra wants to support farmers in developing countries. He currently works in a sales role for the Long Miles Coffee Project and wants Tenfold to help further that company’s goal of providing a viable living for farmers in Burundi.
"I’ve spent the majority of the last 10 years procuring coffee, visiting farms, going around the globe," Ibarra says. "Instead of my offering being really wide with 10 or 15 countries, we’ll go with three or four to start off with and hopefully go deeper within each country."
For consumers who just want a good cup of coffee and a bite to eat, Tenfold will offer a full range of espresso beverages, including the option of alternative milks. Beer and wine will be available in the evenings. Ibarra’s experiences in Australia helped shape his plan for the cafe’s food.
“We’ll have some toast. I’m thinking about sourdough waffles with different toppings. Stuff for people to snack on, like a cheese plate. I still want it to pair with coffee,” he says. “It’s still early days for that. I’ve got a lot of ideas.”
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