Over the past few years, Santa Fe’s coffee scene has become frothier than a well-made cappuccino. It seems that every couple of months, another venue opens, creating another opportunity for Santa Feans to get, in the words of Twin Peaks’ Agent Dale Cooper, “a damn fine cup of coffee.” These new java joints offer seemingly everything from exotic single-origin brews and cutting-edge espresso drinks to an intentionally basic, no-frills cup of joe. We investigated a few, giving each one a letter grade that reflects each shop’s quality of beverages, conduciveness to getting work done, food, service, and overall ambiance.
Holy Spirit Espresso (225 W. San Francisco St., 505-920-3664, holyspiritespresso.com) is not new to Santa Fe, but owner Bill Deutsch is newly returned to his 52-square-foot cubbyhole next to the Lensic Performing Arts Center after a nine-month absence. Deutsch retired last summer after selling coffee from small Santa Fe stands for more than 25 years. But he couldn’t stay away from his one-man operation, where he specializes in preparing one drink at a time, one customer at a time, made by one barista at a time.
Deutsch sources all his beans from Caffé D’arte, a long-time Seattle-based Italian-style roaster. His cortado ($2.75) — espresso mixed (rather than topped) with steamed half-and-half — is strong, smooth, and silky, its acid tamed by the blend of cream and coffee. His mellow cappuccino ($3.50) sports a perfect cap of foam that lasts as long as the drink. Although he can also pour a quick cup of drip coffee from a thermal carafe, classic espresso-based drinks are his specialty, bolstering his claim that he is “almost Italy.”
Ear warmers, scrunchies, postcards, family photos, and international currency line the walls of the tiny shop. But amenities that coffeehouse denizens have come to expect aren’t in evidence here. Munchies are minimal, if available at all. One small table with four chairs sits on the sidewalk outside the door for the lucky people who find it empty when they arrive. There is no Wi-Fi and no beans are available for sale. But for some, the coffee will win the day. — Patricia West-Barker
High: Unabashedly second wave, Deutsch pulls what I believe to be the best traditional espresso in town. Low: There’s almost no place to sit nearby. Grade: B+
Industrial-chic Iconik Lúpe (314 S. Guadalupe St., 505-428-0996, iconikcoffee.com/iconik-lupe) is ingeniously carved out of the old Catholic school across from the Santuario de Guadalupe, and the space’s barred wrought-iron windows and high ceilings still lend a hallowed vibe. Lúpe sits smack in the midst of the newly renovated Co-Fe, a “community-based co-work facility.” Opened last summer, this is the third location Iconik Coffee Roasters has debuted in Santa Fe since the third-wave coffee evangelists first brought pour-overs to town on Lena Street in 2013.
Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, Lúpe could be considered the hipper little sister of Iconik’s Lena flagship: There’s a smaller (and different) menu, a mellower vibe, and more ornate environs, including a gorgeous semi-hidden patio and a large community table separated by a trough of thriving plants. The food is even better than at Lena, with four breakfast options, four lunch choices, and rotating specials. The Egyptian nut-herb-spice blend dukkah takes the avocado toast ($6.50) over the top. It’s served on multigrain sourdough with a veritable salad of mixed greens, sliced cherry tomato, and chunky avocado. A heady gorgonzola and prosciutto sandwich ($10) is spread with a red-wine fig jam and sprinkled with Parmesan, then toasted and served with an ample side salad.
Service is subject to logjams. One Friday morning, we watched more than a few people leave after eyeing the barely moving line and two slow-moving servers behind the counter. But on a busier Saturday, a capable team dispatched orders with efficiency. We loved the velvety strength of barista Erik Sampson’s Gibraltar — a short glass of espresso blended with hot half-and-half that Sampson said would be called a cortado on the East Coast. He explained that Gibraltars are generally served in glasses and were created by baristas as a short, not-piping-hot shot that they can drink quickly during a busy shift. We admired how its milk design lingered atop the coffee till the bittersweet end. We also tried a single-origin “coffee shot” from the Sur Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since there are no pour-overs at Lúpe, general manager Dylan Miller said the baristas imported a technique used by Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters in Dallas to brew single-origin cups. The cup of Congo coffee ($3.25), with tasting notes of apple, tangerine, and black tea, boasted a brassy acidity that proved too astringent for some tasters, though I savored its unusual flavors. — Molly Boyle
High: Gorgeous space, good food, great drinks. Low: Be prepared to wait, and make sure your laptop is charged — not so many outlets at Lúpe. Bring a sweater, as “industrial chic” is also code for “chilly.” Grade: B
The LP-shaped sign outside Remix Audio Bar (101 W. Marcy St., rmxaudiobar.com, no phone number) attests to co-owner Justin Ray’s audiophile bona fides. And sure enough, hypnotic beats tend to pulsate from the Marcy Street alcove. On the second floor, above La Lecheria and open daily from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Ray and his wife, co-owner Julie Grace, have created a cozy nook and hangout space for electronic music lovers and DJ types. There’s even a live online radio station and app that broadcasts what DJs are spinning at the shop. But the best part of the place hides in plain sight among the record paraphernalia and high-tech beanbag chairs: Remix is also downtown Santa Fe’s best espresso bar.
Part of what puts Remix’s coffee a cut above other downtown beaneries is the management’s passionate attention to detail. Having walked in on more than one of Ray’s training sessions for baristas, we’ve seen his painstaking process. That’s borne out in the bar’s allegiance to Cafecito Organico, a fair-trade LA roaster that uses small growers and family farms. Remix also serves a list of matcha, chai, and other tea lattes, as well as elixirs made with Santa Fe’s own Mushroom Mama medicinal teas and pastries from Whoo’s Donuts. Ray’s devotion to doing coffee right may mean you have to wait a bit for your chosen potion — but it’s worth it.
The 4-ounce cortado ($3.75), which is a shot of Cafecito Organico’s Espresso Clandestino cut with steamed half-and-half, like a bolder mini-latte, jolted us with its blooming pungency. A 6-ounce cappuccino ($4.25) was a smoother but no less delicious vehicle for well-pulled shots, balancing milky sweetness with the espresso’s cocoa notes. Use wireless headphones to check out recorded DJ sets and playlists at the listening stations along the wall, or just enjoy the free-flowing soundtrack. Along with the remarkable fuel at the bar, an abundance of outlets makes Remix a good downtown hideaway for focused work, even if you’re writing to your own beat. — M.B.
High: I’ve never had a coffee drink at Remix that didn’t blow me away, and Ray is a welcoming host. Low: In the café’s small space, thumping bass might not work for a business meeting. Grade: A
We’ve encountered more than one coffee drinker who is overwhelmed by third-wave coffee talk of tasting notes, pour-overs, and single-origin beans. Can anybody get just a normal cup of coffee anymore? For that, there’s the Southside’s 101 Coffee (6005 Jaguar Drive, Suite 101, 505-467-8409, 101coffeenm.com). “We’re bringing basic back,” proclaims the shop’s website. A visit to their bright, minimalist storefront in a strip mall near the Tierra Contenta neighborhood bore out the no-frills ethos. The menu contains the usual espresso drinks (Americano, breve, latte, mocha) and drip coffee, along with a harder-to-find café au lait and the more unusual espresso tonic (tonic water and a shot of espresso) and Thunderbolt (lemonade plus a shot). Zucchini bread, cookies, Danishes, and muffins come from Tesuque Village Market, and breakfast burritos (vegan, standard, or with bacon) are made by AuthentiCookie, a local brand that makes its burritos smaller than normal. The coffee is from the old Santa Fe standby Ohori’s, said owner Catherine Meng, a College of Santa Fe graduate who is loyal to the local roaster.
The coffee shop is geared toward getting it to go (a “Lickety-Split” special adds only 50 cents to the price of any breakfast burrito with a small coffee). We ordered a large iced coffee ($3, appropriately roasty and delicious) and a warmed “standard” egg, cheese, and green chile burrito ($5.50) to take on the road. With salty melted cheddar, mild chile, and fluffy eggs, its fun-size profile made it a manageable breakfast. One rather unusual, fairly ingenious snack is offered in-house: hard-boiled eggs ($1), an inexpensive shot of protein that should be widely available around town.
Meng is a cheery host who also works as a recruiter for a tech company in Los Alamos. She described the café’s clientele since it opened its doors in late November: Most are after-school kids from nearby Capital High, Nina Otero Community School, and César Chávez Elementary, nine-to-fivers from the neighborhood, and Meow Wolf architects and designers, she said. She offers a 10 percent discount to all teachers, faculty, and staff at local schools, and the shop’s quiet atmosphere, bench seating, and tables and chairs look conducive to a curriculum-planning meeting, though we didn’t spot too many electrical outlets for laptop charging. — M.B.
High: Easy menu geared toward efficient, quick caffeination. Low: The revolving door and cookie-cutter neighborhood location don’t give 101 Coffee much atmosphere, although it’s perfect for those seeking a more normcore coffee experience. Grade: B+
Ohori’s Coffee Roasters (at Paseo de Peralta and Old Santa Fe Trail, 505-982-9692, ohoriscoffee.com) has recently returned to its flagship Santa Fe location next to Kaune’s Neighborhood Market, after a six-year absence. Santa Fe’s original coffee roaster, the company now includes two other locations and sells 25 varieties of beans and blends sourced from Africa and the Arabian peninsula, the Americas, Indonesia, and the Pacific Rim. Rotating brewed coffee specials give customers the opportunity to taste many of the varieties.
Personally trained by the Bay Area’s second-wave icon Alfred Peet, Susan Ohori began producing a very dark roast in 1984 that many loved and others found bitter or burnt tasting. When she sold the business in 2001, the new owners continued to produce her signature dark roast, gradually adding lighter roasts to the repertoire. A recent cup of Old Santa Fe Trail Blend brewed coffee, which is nominally the lighter roast of the day, was oddly darker in color and flavor than a somewhat flat, somewhat tasteless organic Sumatra billed as the dark roast of the day (both $2.10 per 8-ounce cup). Everyone can have a bad day; Ohori’s brewed coffee is usually better than this.
The company has also adapted to a number of coffee-culture fads, adding the unctuous buttered coffee ($4.35), popular with paleo and keto dieters, to the traditional menu, along with pour-overs and quasi-medicinal drinks. The turmeric health tonic ($4.70) made from Mushroom Mama’s Golden Stamina mushroom tea powder, which combines turmeric and the cordyceps fungus with black pepper, had a strong but not unpleasant vegetal taste while it was hot.
Ohori’s counters are crammed with pastries, biscotti, and many varieties of packaged sweets. Artisanal chocolates are a specialty. There are tables and chairs on the portal outside the shop; eight tables and a four-seat bar are inside, with a few wall outlets to recharge devices. It is easy to work here. — P.W.B.
High: You’ll find the most reasonably priced house-roasted brewed coffees by the cup here. Low: Ohori’s is still prone to sometimes bitterly dark roasting; espresso drinks are not the shop’s best product. Grade: B
Third-wave coffee emissary Todd Spitzer, who co-founded, then sold, Iconik Coffee Roasters before taking on the coffee and tea program at Sky Coffee (1609-A Alcaldesa St., skysantafe.com), has created a small, peacefully minimalist space in the shadow of the Railyard water tower, offering what Jonathan Gold, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant reviewer for LA Weekly, described as “coffee connoisseurship where beans are sourced from farms instead of countries, roasting is about bringing out rather than incinerating the unique characteristics of each bean, and the flavor is clean and hard and pure.”
Pour-overs and espresso are the primary draws at Sky, although a basic drip of the day is also available ($3). Rotating coffee selections are sourced from multiple roasters and growers. A recent Burundi pour-over ($4.50) was smooth and sweet, the roast bringing out the East African bean’s fruity nature to produce a delicate yet substantial cup. Food offerings include pastries from Dolina, donuts from Whoo’s, and ice cream from La Lecheria. (If you are looking for more substantial food choices with the same quality coffee, visit Opuntia, a full-service restaurant on Shoofly Street, at the Baca Street side of the Railyard, where Spitzer also directs the coffee program.) The tea side of Sky’s menu is as extensive and elegant as the coffee choices (Pu-erh! Iron Goddess of Mercy!). Whole beans and loose-leaf teas are also available for sale.
When the weather cooperates, the seating capacity of the small shop — four small tables with eight tightly packed chairs, a five-seat bar, and a Victorian settee — expands onto a 2,000-square-foot covered deck. It looks like additional ground-level outdoor seating is planned for the opposite side of the building. Wi-Fi and a few electrical outlets make the interior space device-friendly. — P.W.B.
High: Sky is a full-fledged third-wave coffee shop that pays obsessive attention to detail. Low: The 800-square-foot interior can feel claustrophobic when the lines are long or the chairs are full. Grade: B+
A trifecta of burger-joint openings should tantalize the green-chile cheeseburger lobby: First, The New Mexican reported on April 15 that the legendary burger destination The Buckhorn Tavern will reopen in tiny San Antonio (the one in New Mexico).