Beyond the cafecito: what's brewing on South Florida's specialty coffee scene
There is no denying the staying power of the almighty cafecito in South Florida. Bustling window nooks serving up these sugar-infused Cuban coffees have been institutions since the Cuban Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when masses of Cubans fled their homeland for the US, bringing their coffee preferences with them.
South Florida still loves its speedy cafecitos, cortaditos (espresso with steamed milk) and café con leches, typically grabbed on the go from time-tested staples like Miami’s Versailles Cuban Restaurant. But today there is a different energy emerging, courtesy of a handful of budding coffee roasters. It’s an energy that says gently: ‘Sit down, chill out and let’s enjoy something new together.’ From experiential and flavor perspectives, there’s a lot brewing throughout the region.
Now pouring in Palm Beach
Subculture Coffee’s original location is nestled on West Palm Beach’s increasingly artsy artery, Clematis Street. The expansive cafe is directly across the street from the town’s Brightline station, the region’s sparkling, high-speed rail system that connects West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
A fire-engine red Dietrich roaster greets Subculture guests upon arrival, where Ethiopian, Mexican and Brazilian roasts, among others, are perfected on a daily basis. The spot serves up a mean latte – often topped with floral or seasonal-inspired latte art – which can be enjoyed within the cafe’s bustling confines or on its uber-chill, mural-clad patio. Since landing in West Palm Beach in early 2014 and evolving into a community hub, Subculture has also opened shop in nearby Jupiter and Delray Beach.
Broward County brews
Just 30 miles north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale is known for its canal-filled landscape, white sand beaches and yachts upon yachts. Amid its historic allure, its Flagler Villageneighborhood – located approximately 2.5 miles inland and a stone’s throw west of US 1 – is thriving. Clad with graffiti art, independently owned shops and quirky destinations (like a PBR-stocked barbershop and video game bar), Flagler Village is well on its way to becoming the next Wynwood.
Smack-dab in the middle of this colorful ‘hood is Wells Coffee Company, which has called Flagler Village home since 2014. Its bright and open space features an expansive roasting operation and a modern, sleek coffee bar.
A massive menu board with five simple options like ‘Drip’ and ‘Pour Over’ welcomes Wells’ customers, but the flavors within these simple offerings are complex and memorable. Can’t-go-wrongs include its rotating pour-over selections (no cream or sugar needed with vibrant beans stemming from the likes of Ethiopia, Honduras and Guatemala) and the White Cold Brew, a perfectly sweet blend of cold brew coffee and horchata. Wells also has a number of cafe partners, including nearby Brew Urban Café, which features Insta-opportunities galore. Housed in a warehouse-esque, train trackside space, Brew Urban Café features a ground-to-ceiling display of colorful antique books behind its always hopping espresso bar.
A few miles north, in the city of Oakland Park, is SwitchBox Coffee Roasters. The roasting operation has occupied a railway-adjacent corner shop since mid-2016. This spot has the community aroma down pat, regularly hosting monthly gatherings as well as coffee-centric educational events like home-brewing classes and cuppings with the roaster. If the classes and massive Probat roaster aren’t convincing enough, try one of their seasonal, barista-inspired morsels, like the Winter Cookie Latte (Biscoff cookie butter, two shots of espresso and milk, topped with allspice).
Miami’s specialty mainstay
Often lost in the conversation amid Miami Beach’s unending sexiness and Wynwood’s artsy edge is Miami’s Downtown. Depending on the day and time, it can feel a bit like a Central American capital city – in the shadow of towering financial and corporate buildings lie rustic souvenir shops and other stores entombed by graffiti-clad, steel roll-up doors when the sun goes down.
For those in Downtown and Brickell towers, Eternity Coffee Roasters is the neighborhood shop. For others, it is a destination to enjoy the latest and greatest in coffee. Eternity’s storefront is layered in windows, with a dark-red San Franciscan roaster staring at passersby. A handful of brown chairs line the outer windows, where folks watch the suits and cars go their separate ways. Brown sacks of unroasted coffee from Colombia, Ethiopia and Burundi regularly circle the roaster before meeting their toasty fate.
Beyond the cozy aesthetics, which include a massive red couch, Eternity’s single-origin offerings are showcased front and center. While sweet morsels like The Traitor (a take on a white chocolate mocha, originally named after Lebron James) are always a win, a fresh cup from Eternity’s V60 pour-over bar has been a must since 2011.
The beans that fuel Wynwood
Two miles north of Eternity lies Panther Coffee in the heart of Wynwood. Surrounded by endless street art, spray-painted sidewalks and a crowd of creative types on laptops on the cafe's massive patio, you can’t help but wonder how much of this neighborhood's artsy vibe is directly fueled by Panther beans.
Panther, too, was born in 2011 and has since expanded to Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, MiMoand Little Haiti. But none of these spots are as much of a spectacle as its Wynwood location. While a good chunk of its roasting now takes place at a facility in Little Haiti, a Perfekt-brand roaster still cooks up some goodness in-store for all of Wynwood to breathe in.
Amid a rotating selection of single-origin brews – with some mainstays from the likes of Bolivia and Nicaragua – Panther’s cold-brew is perfect for the typical, sweaty Miami day. Available classic or Nitro, the malted chocolate and vanilla-clad brew provides the perfect jolt and retreat from the heat.
Panther, like all of South Florida’s coffee-roasting hotspots, harnesses everything that specialty coffee should: a sense of community, a respect for the craft and, well, some really good coffee.