It was a Sunday afternoon in Coconut Grove. One of those Miami days when the weather is forgiving and you can feign a need for scarves. Faux-winter attire and dog in-hand, we made our way to The Barnacle. The Mad Hatter Arts Festival was out full force and I was in the mood to experience the strange small town-ness Coconut Grove’s festivals generously impart. Local vendors, artists and artisans gathered in mutual admiration of Alice in Wonderland’s most famous resident.
That’s when I tried Cold Brew Station for the first time.
In true Miami form we knew two of the three owners from scattered social interactions. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon doesn’t touch the level of interconnectedness in Miami. But it wasn’t their familiarity that made an imprint–– it was the fact that they’re making something happen.
Now more than ever there is a rise of local makers. These artisans are people like you and me, creative souls with a desire to craft something beautiful and elevate South Florida’s collective culture. Down to every well-made coffee and thoughtfully curated snack menu, the love put into these simple details and passing pleasures allows us to make the choice to support our city.
So what goes into the best cup of iced coffee you’ll get off a truck in Miami?
Cold Brew Station is a traveling iced coffee window that serves Relentless Roasters’ coffee. Kevin Gonzalez, Daniel Choiseul Paguaga and Andre Villarreal, the three dudes behind the business, have been good friends since college. After graduation, Paguaga travelled to Nicaragua to learn the family trade. Upon his return, he decided to bring it to the states. And thus, Relentless Roasters was born.
Cold Brew Station, the Instagram-announcing iced coffee mobile, is an extension of its larger wholesale parent.
A Guinness-kinda coffee
The trio’s most famous cup of java is without a doubt their cold brew infused with nitrogen. This coffee has a thicker consistency that cascades and forms a sturdy froth similar to a well poured Guinness. It’s less bitter than the average black coffee; the nitrogen infusion gives the beverage a heaviness that milk and sugar normally would.
“It was a way we thought we could transition people from your [average] Cuban coffee consumption that loads it with sugar, to just appreciating the coffee for what is was,” said Kevin Gonzalez, Co-Founder of Relentless Roasters, “It’s more approachable to the person who’s not used to drinking it black.”
In addition to refining locals’ pallets and appreciation for pure coffee, Cold Brew Station surprises its patrons with their least likely but best-selling drink– the Cold Brew Cooler. A twist on the Arnold Palmer, iced tea and lemonade, this unexpected beverage mixes the Awaken Cold Brew blend with lemonade… which sounds disgusting.
“It sounds kind of gross but our coffee is roasted lighter, so it pairs very well with the lemonade,” said Gonzalez laughing. “It’s refreshing and tasty. I get that same reaction 95% of the time. People doubt me and then never order anything else again.”
Kegs– they’re not just for college
“You know, it’s literally seed to cup from Danny’s family farm to us. We roast it, package it and deliver it,” said Gonzalez. “The biggest challenge we had initially when we focused Relentless Roasters for wholesale was that so much care and diligence had gone into the coffee process, but if you can’t brew it, you may as well drink burnt-to-a-crisp regular coffee.”
As a result, the Relentless Roasters keg o’ java was born. The kegging route ensures all the effort and TLC behind the process is preserved in the final product. All of their wholesale accounts get set up with the kegerator, tap and handle. The local roasters’ clientele is a roster of recognizable names serving solid cups of java in the city, like Miami Smokers, Graciano’s, Ms. Cheezious and Wynwood Diner.
Pinky up – Our local coffee culture is getting refined
The specialty coffee market in miami is increasingly becoming more sophisticated. This evolution naturally lent itself to cold brew coffee’s newfound mainstream stardom. Gonzalez, who is a Sommelier, finds that the wine and coffee worlds aren’t so different.
“I didn’t know it, but that [cultured] world certainly exists for coffee too. You’re looking at not only the actual varietal of the coffee, where it’s from––not just the actual country but the farm–– how it’s processed,” said Gonzalez. “So many things parallel with wine and can affect the taste and the profile of that coffee.”
The flavorful profile of their own brew gives way to scrumptious food pairing options.
Collaborating with local makers
You’ll often find delicious snacks and treats to pair with your coffee sold on the truck from Miami businesses like, Sweetness Bakeshop, Honeybee Doughnuts and Cafe Curuba. For Cold Brew Station, the decision to support local is twofold.
“We don’t want to lose ourselves by trying to make our own sweets and snacks. And we also want to use the platform we have right now to showcase other local businesses, because we’re all after the same thing,” said Gonzalez. “We’re trying to put Miami on the map and develop into a more culturally and culinarily
Fun facts & insights
Cold Brew Station is Miami’s first iced coffee truck
The Cold Brew trailer used to be a Coca Cola truck. The bright red Coca Cola logo can be found underneath it.
Iced coffee is in fact stronger than hot coffee! Cold brew typically has twice the caffeine content of a regular cup o’ Joe. You’re welcome.
Follow @coldbrewstation to find out Miami’s most interesting cup of coffee is coming to an area near you.
We passed by two baskets of books labelled "50 cent basket” with an appropriately photographed photo of Fifty Cent, the rapper who holds a special place in my heart from listening to his hit "Magic Stick” back in middle school. Sweet, sweet memories of “scamming” boys, or in my case wishing that were so, flood back to me.
The bookstore smells of the familiar antique scent artifacts take on by sticking around long enough. This is like smelling gasoline, which I enjoy very much. When the scent meets my olfactory glands and tickles some pinpoint in my brain, it makes me think about childhood, or some other obscure time and place, a vague “better days.” I get depressed in a happy way. If only we can bottle these moments and come back later to smell them. It may be all the drinking i’ve done over the years, but I simply cannot will myself to record a scent. I can only be reminded of its familiarity when it meets my nose. And even then, it’s tough to picture precisely where it was first recorded.
Wiggling my way through the bookshelves, I see an old man chair. It looks just like the old man chair my sister and I refuse to let my mother throw out. The velvet chair sinks when you take a seat in just the same way and it’s color the unmistakable hue of cat diarrhea.
In one corner, there are several seemingly randomized items each giving a morsel of good or true advice courtesy of writer and essayist Flannery O'Conner: “All writers are local somewhere,” and “A good man is hard to find," among the counsel.
Every tight corner, cheekily labelled basket and overstuffed room deserves your attention. In the end, we purchase just one book. It isn't a book we're looking for or want to read. The cover contains a direct quote from earlier conversation. It's a homage to our superstition in universal signs and the firm belief that life imitates art in a cycle with no clear beginning or end.
This week's read was all about reconnecting with yoga. Holding poses– some of which are quite difficult– allow you to experience the present. You can't take your mind off your muscles while you're twisted like a pretzel because you'll fall on your face. In this way, yoga is an intrinsically spiritual practice, a precursor to meditation. Trust, it's far simpler to remain in this moment when you're physically forced to versus sitting in silence leaving your mind free to think about the bag of chips you ate last night and how maybe the calories don't count since no one else saw... but you know.
This is the type of information Rachel Brathen reminds us of in her book Yoga Girl, titled after her insanely successful Instagram account @yoga_girl. It's a quick read on how she found yoga sprinkled with how-to's for a beginner's level. Worth picking up if you're curious about yoga or would like to reconnect with your own practice. Yoga's benefits can sometimes be missed in this era of Instagrammed poses–– a fact Brathen herself acknowledges. But if filtering your downward dogs or posting headstands in picturesque places engages people who would never be exposed otherwise, I'm for it #YogaEveryDamnDay
Waking up the past few mornings to William Zinsser's essays has been a gift. His words make me want to be a better, clearer and more present writer. Not to mention he wrote these personal essays in the twilight years of his career by mailing them to Allen Freeman, editor of American Scholar's blog, who then typed them up after conferring with him on the phone and by mail with physically printed out edits, until finally posting them online.
In one of his essays on technology, Zinsser goes over his feelings of refusing to have an email even if it made communication less convenient for everyone else. He never wanted to be a slave to his email, and he managed to be the only successful 87 year old blogger without one. I can't imagine that dedication and I'm so grateful for that editor to work the extra mile so that we could have Zinsser's essays
My first big project is a not-yet-finished novel I wrote when I was 24. That was nearly 6 years ago. It's been burning a hole in my soul since then. For various reasons I've left it unfinished, neglected. A year ago, as if out of nowhere, I suddenly awoke with the ending it needed. I printed out the finished first draft and walked home with the thick stack of papers. I wasn't done just yet, but I'd never been closer.
I went to bed feeling more satisfied than ever. It didn't take a week for the inundation of the task and the deep fear that this will fail anyway to pause the progress. I became scared of reconnecting with it, a character and story I'd obviously lost touch with. The feeling paralyzed me and it remained untouched... again.
I never went to formal writing school. I didn't even major in English. I write because I just do, always have. There's no fancy, superfluous explanation. Most of the time I don't feel qualified other than the fact i'm committed to finding purpose in even the most mundane tasks and expressing them on paper.
This year is the first time this looming pressure hasn't hung over me. I gave myself a hall pass to do anything but focus on finishing this project, a thing that once brought me so much relief but now contributes to growing feelings of inadequacy. I casually picked up my manuscript this week and realized that when I began the story it was expression in its purest form. It poured out of me in haste and I sacrificed a crucial first step: asking myself what I really want to say.
Cigarette breaks have always intrigued me, the concept of leaving for a quieter pause outside of what's happening. There are so many times I've wanted to do just that ... only I don't smoke. All the same, I'm filled with the same urge to get away from the crowd, echoing the sentiments of F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous line from The Great Gatsby, "I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”
This is where visitors come to make wishes. The Schöner Brunnen is a 14th century fountain surrounded by an iron fence with two rings embedded on either side. People come here, take their time to consider what's most important to them and then make the climb to turn its rings.
This bearded man is here every day and I think I understand why.
Everyone goes up the same way. They stand on the sidelines pretending to care about the impressive structure, but what they’re really thinking about is their wish.
The best part is watching people turn around once they’ve spun the rings. ou can see hope in their faces. hen they come right back down to the human condition. Wonder if that’ll come true, written all over them. I’d like to think that it will.
Legend has it if you make a wish you’ll be back to Nuremberg. I’m back. This is my second time here after a drunken spin on a midnight bar crawl. And just like my story are countless others of return visits and granted wishes.
It's crazy we just can't wear blue, a stranger by me says to his friend. Nor white, his friend agrees, it's just too loaded. They make their way around me continuing to talk about why some colors aren't acceptable to be worn in social gatherings. I wonder why that is.
I'm alone walking through random alleyways in Nuremberg. After hearing some of an audio book, I unplug when I see people. I like to hear what they say, how they are. Everyone here is friendlier than I thought. In fact, so many of my assumptions over the years have been wrong. I guess that's part of growing up.
Even here, where I am right now, it's nothing remotely close to the picture of where I figured I'd be. It's better, actually. I've never liked embracing change or being proven wrong, but I find myself liking it lately. The surprise of it all. It's hard work to always be in control. There's so much to be enjoyed on the other wide of letting go. #Germanyseries