The vibe at Push & Pour hums all day long with the whirl and hiss of an espresso machine and the rich aromas of coffee. A steady flow of people come in, take a seat and settle in against the clean white concrete block walls, highlighted by Kyler Martz's clever black-and-white mural.
It all reflects the whimsy and wacky sense of fun of owners Lucas Erlebach and Brennan Conroy, who created this place out of a once dilapidated garage in Garden City. They built the modernist metal and thick wood tables on the patio, the coffee bar and most of the furniture in neighboring shops.
They spend 14 to 16 hours a day in the shop. One of them is always behind the counter, eager to chat with customers and introduce them to their passion for craft coffee and all the things that come with it.
Passion, creativity, pours of rich coffee and an experiential space is key to a growing gourmet coffee scene in the Treasure Valley. The craft coffee trend is following the lead of the boutique wine and micro brew scene, exploring just how far you can take that cup of coffee into the realm of cuisine. They tout single origin — the specific region and farm where a bean is grown — and their own particular roast profile and flavor. Like an IPA from different brewers, they should taste different.
It is fueling several new businesses, including Push & Pour, Caffeina Roasting Company in West Boise, and Neckar Coffee's coming in Downtown later this spring. They're all focusing on their own roasts that they create on site and want to move their clientele away from super sweet and bitter coffee drinks. To do it they are designing spaces that invite people to take a break and take a sip.
Erlebach makes a genial host and is as relaxed as one can be in this highly-caffeinated hot spot in the Surel Mitchell Live-Work-Create District, one of the most happening neighborhoods in the area. Erlebach, a professional skateboarder who still performs with Boise's Prestige Skateboard team, and Conroy, 38, a cinematographer who specializes in filming skateboarding, are both Idaho natives.
Erlebach fell in love with the coffee business at 16 when he got his first job at the Moxie Java in Star and worked at coffee shops throughout his skateboarding career. Conroy always had a romantic notion of opening a coffee shop and was eager to make this move, he says.
They struck a deal.
"Our original idea was to be Downtown, then the more I came back, I would come to the Yardarm and the Corridor Paddle Surf Shop, and I was like, Garden City is the place to be," Erlebach says. "We're right by the river and the Greenbelt. Traveling all over the world kinda puts into perspective how unique and special this [area] is."
Erlebach and Conroy recently expanded the kitchen that will serve up gourmet toasts and other treats, and they added taps for beer and wine service in the evenings. That all should be in full swing by May 1, Conroy says. They also are creating an on-site roastery to be run by Jens Peterson, 30, of Maps Coffee, a boutique roaster out of Hailey.
Having a flavor profile and unique style will help give Push & Pour an edge and a signature style, Peterson says.
"I'm trying to highlight really good tasting coffees from all over the world and roast them in the style I roast in — not to light, and I don't roast dark where all you taste is the roast (a slightly charred flavor)," Peterson says. "I like the middle ground where you taste the fruit that was grown and you can handle it black. That's what we're trying to achieve. Take someone who drinks super dark coffee with milk and sugar and introduce them to a smooth cup they can drink black."
Push & Pour is riding a caffeinated wave that is swelling nationally and locally.
Gourmet coffee accounts for 57 percent of the coffee consumed in the U.S., up from 46 percent in 2012, the National Coffee Association says. The daily consumption of specialty coffee jumped from 9 percent of adults in 1999 to 41 percent in 2017. But consider that 31 percent of that growth happened just in 2016, according to the latest data from the National Coffee Association.
The number of coffee shops in the Treasure Valley has increased in the past three years with a mix of chain and locally owned spots.
Starbucks leads the way with more than 50, including those inside Albertsons and Fred Meyer grocery stores. Dutch Bros, out of Grants Pass, Ore., now has 20 drive thru and sit down shops in the Valley, up from 17 in 2017; Garden City-based Moxie Java has 13; Human Bean, based in Medford, Ore., operates nine in the area; and Portland’s Black Rock Coffee Bar now has five.
Many other coffee shops and restaurants serve Boise-based Dawson Taylor roasts, including Neon Cafe, which recently opened inside North End Organic Nursery in Garden City, Goldy's Breakfast Bistro and fine-dining restaurant State & Lemp.
The popular Slow by Slow opened in Bodo in 2016 and specializes in pour-overs of its Blue Copper Coffee, from a small-batch roaster in Utah. Form & Function coffeehouse in The Fowler Building in Boise's Central Addition opened in January. Owners Scott and Kate Seward serve their freshly roasted coffee blends by the cup and by the bean.
People are getting more serious about coffee, says Nampa native Tasmyn Raleigh, 39. She and her sister Mary Heath, 38, will open their Moss Coffee and Tea in Downtown Boise in mid-May. They also own Cafe Crane in Eagle where they use Seattle roaster Caffee Vita.
"They want good quality coffee that really tastes like coffee instead of sugar and milk," Raleigh says.
The real house roast
Further west on State at the Collister intersection, Lyndsey Hopkins, her mom Tammy Jenkins and former Crooked Fence Brewing owner Kris Price, just opened Caffeina Roasting Co. It's a place where artisan coffee and craft brewing sensibilities meet — the house specialty is a porter enhanced by a shot of espresso.
Hopkins grew up in Western Washington. She moved to Boise 12 years ago and started working for Dawson Taylor, where she began to learn about roasting. In 2012 she and her mom opened their first Coffee Studio in Meridian, and a second near Boise Towne Square a few years later.
“I’ve always been focused on opening a roastery,” Jenkins, 30, says. “I’ve wanted to do this forever.”
She started learning about roasting at Dawson Taylor, then from a high school friend in Oregon who has been roasting her IdaHome blend up until now. She will start experimenting with roasting her own blends starting this month. Just ask her about the beans she uses and you're in for an in-depth conversation.
"I'm a total coffee nerd," she says. "I wish I could geek out on it all day long, but I have a business to run."
Caffeina (pronounced kaff-ee-na) is a chic reinvention of the corner space in the strip mall. Customers gather around the sleek center bar, or in comfy chairs and couches, to sip a mix of coffee beverages, beer, wine and house brewed kombucha.
This is where she wants to build her coffee empire, she says. Last year she bought Premiere Beverage Services, a company that services and repairs espresso and other coffee-making machines and outfits custom coffee carts. Premiere occupies the space next door to Caffeina. She created an on-site roasting area in the back of the cafe that goes live this week. And Hopkins plans to build a bakery on site that will serve all three of her shops.
“We always thought we'd do that in the future, but the future is here. We see Boise is trending, and it's just going to get more intense,” Jenkins says. “I started working on this concept about 2 years ago, and the timing just clicked now."
Jenkins brought Price in as a partner to use his experience in craft brewing to grow her coffee business. "We just want to explore the industry to see what we can do," Jenkins says. "That's where Kris comes in. He’s played with different beer brewing methods and distribution. I’m excited to get his brain into the coffee world."
With all the quick growth of her business, she says, it's important to remember who they are.
"We talk about this a lot," she says. "We're not a restaurant, we're not a bar. We’re keeping the values of a coffee shop but just adding beer and wine to extend the time people spend with us."
Neckar jumps from cart to storefront
Neckar Coffee's Grant Shealy will add to the scene when he makes the jump from coffee cart to storefront in Downtown Boise in June.
Shealy, 29, whose aesthetic has fueled his Neckar Coffee since 2013, is one of the early adopters of this trend.
He roasts his own single origin beans in a small roaster his parent's garage in the Boise Highlands — about 30 pounds a week right now — and experiments to perfect the signature pour overs that he serves from his cart at the Boise Farmer's Market and events such as Treefort Music Fest. He also sells his beans on the cart and at NeckarCoffee.com
“We’re constantly refining your process," Shealy says. "Pour over is the perfect way to make coffee to order. It’s better because it’s fresh, it reduces waste and it looks really cool.”
It also takes time — usually about 3 minutes for Shealy — depending on the grind, amount, water temperature and filter. As the customer waits, it offers an opportunity for conversation and connection.
“It reinforces the fact that we are serving you,” Shealy says. “It brings the customer closer. They're just an arm's length away. I’m bummed when I get something really fast. I want a chance to talk with the people who are making the product."
Shealy will move his roaster into the new space and expand his repertoire with espresso drinks, cold brew on draft and a simple menu that is still in the works, he says.
Even though his business is growing, he wants to keep his operation small so he can stay in control of quality. A Boise native with a degree in psychology from University of Colorado, he never thought he would end up making coffee for a living.
"When I graduated I wasn't sure what to do but I was pragmatic about it. It doesn’t doesn’t make sense to do something I don’t care about. It just happened to be coffee,” Shealy says. "I’ve been fortunate. Not everyone can choose what they can do for a living. People respect that not many things would afford me this feeling of passion."
Where to find your grind
Push & Pour, 214 E. 34th St., Garden City, 208-488-4747
Open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Check them out on Facebook.com.
Caffeina Roasting Company, 4774 W. State St., Boise, 208-807-2332
Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Cafe Neon, 3777 W. Chinden Blvd., inside North End Organic Nursery, Garden City
Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays
Check them out on Facebook.com
Neckar Coffee, 117 S. 10th St., Boise
Opening in June
Form & Function, 511 W. Broad St., Boise, 208-488-4747
Open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Slow by Slow, 403 S. 8th St., Boise,
Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily