Morning Buzz: Charlotte’s coffee scene drawing comparisons to brewery boom

North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Some are comparing Charlotte’s coffee scene to the craft brewery boom in the city.

From bean, to cup, and everything in between, more people are paying attention to their coffee. 

“The coffee scene in Charlotte is really getting a name for itself,” said Taylor Russell, the manager at Smelly Cat Coffee House and Roastery.

Smelly Cat is a fan-favorite; nested in the NoDa neighborhood for 21 years, arguably well before Charlotte’s craft coffee scene took hold.

Russell said, “You have all of these people coming from all these different cities and a lot of them being some larger cities, that might have a more established coffee scene.”

That demand is sparking the city’s new caffeine-fueled landscape.

“That’s why you see all of these new coffee houses is popping up and the barista community in Charlotte is really vibrant. It’s really awesome,” Russell said.

Another spark: customers wanting to know where their coffee comes from and how it gets into their morning latte.

Russell explained, “When people realized that larger chains were not necessarily paying the price that they should per pound and the farmers really getting paid the least in that whole process, a lot of people looked and made sure that we were paying for a fair-trade coffee.”

It’s a big reason why Smelly Cat and others have morphed into a coffee house and roastery.

“We’ve seen people really enjoy kind of being integrated more closely into that,” said Tanner Morita, Director of Coffee and Co-Owner at Hex Coffee Roaster in Camp North End.

Hex is truly owning that hybrid approach; you can watch your coffee roast while enjoying a nitro brew.

Morita said of their roasting process, “Coffee doesn’t have to be dark or bitter, coffee can be bright and vibrant and unique.”

Morita said he and two other friends started Hex as a pop-up shop years ago and have now grown into their own brick and mortar space where they roast, brew, and package wholesale coffee for world-wide distribution.

Their whole focus is bringing out the best in the beans, by getting out of the way.

“We’re not trying to over roast our coffee’s, we’re just trying to develop what’s already there,” Morita said.

Further north in Mooresville, things are also booming on the wholesale side at Black Powder Coffee.

Drew Cook, the Director of Marketing and Business Development said, “It is growing similar to the craft beer industry.”

The strictly-roaster has been around since 2013 and may be best known for their Peanut Butter Coffee.

They’ve grown from a home-roasting operation, to a warehouse with a small retail shop and nation-wide wholesale business.

You’ll also find their products at many specialty markets in Charlotte, espresso bars, and major chains like Publix and Harris Teeter.

Cook said, “People are looking to support more of a local aspect, but they’re also looking to support more of a craft aspect.”

Cook anticipates even more room for growth withing the roasting industry and added that the key is for every roastery and coffee shop to find their identity and run with it.

It’s the equally fun and challenging part for coffee houses to make their mark in the Queen City.

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