24 Hours in Orlando: OK Food, Outstanding Coffee

I’ll admit it, I’m one of those people from Miami that never found the charm in Orlando. I always associated it with the hemorrhaging of cash in theme parks and the occasional outlet mall. Shame on me.

This last trip changed all that.

Hot on the heels of a business trip to New Orleans that I turned into “coffee tourism” ( read my account on NOLA specialty coffee on MIAbites hereI wanted to do the same this past week in Orlando. With 24 hours in The City Beautiful, I would have all of my normal business appointments, but also try and explore the “third wave” coffee scene.

The first thing I discovered while researching is that there is VERY little written about specialty coffee in Orlando. Originally, I wondered if this was indicative of how little was happening on that front. Now that I’m back I know that’s not the case and I hope this little tribute will help drive traffic to some very deserving spots.

I arrived on a Tuesday at 3pm and drove straight to Vespr. (Twitter: @thevespr) Located in East Orlando, the place was wedged with people and was doing a brisk business. The manager, Amy, poured me a Chemex of Counter Culture Thiriku that was just sensational. What a wonderful welcome to Orlando! I lamented that my hotel and meetings would be on the other side of town, because this is a shop I would visit every day.

I figured that I could hit two spots on Wednesday before driving back to Miami. I didn’t make it to Downtown Credo (Twitter: @downtowncredo) until late morning, but was so glad I did. They work with fair trade beans from farms they are connected to, one in Guatemala and one in Nicaragua. And they exist on donations. Yes, that’s their business plan. Lest you think that some hipster fantasy, they’ve been open for four years, so clearly it’s working.

Stephan served me a pourover of their Guatemalan and pointed me to the “suggested donation” range of $3 to $5. I ended up tripling that in the hopes that it would perpetuate what is an awesome concept. The space very homey and has a great energy about it, the coffee is great, but their mission and purpose is worth supporting on every level - and it’s about community as much as coffee.

Meetings over, it was time to head back to Miami. Everyone had told me I needed to visit Lineage (Twitter: @LineageRoasting) in the East End Market (Twitter: @EastEndMkt), billed as Central Florida's Food and Culture Hub,  and I’ve learned that heeding the baristas’ suggestions about other shops is a very smart practice. Walking in to East End Market, I was struck by how lucky people in the Audubon Park Garden District are to have this in their community! (read about how cool a concept the East End Market is - with its urban agriculture, craftspeople and food focus)

And then I tasted the coffee.

To me, the perfect experience is to be able to try an espresso and a pourover of the same coffee back-to-back. At Lineage, I was able to do that with single source Yirgacheffe that they roast. As crazy as it may sound, I don’t like to put sugar in an espresso when trying it for the first time. That’s the beauty of well-roasted specialty coffee: it’s full of nuances and notes all on its own, like a great cigar or a fine wine. That espresso was mind-blowingly good. I took the equally great pourover outside and enjoyed the sun and succulents in the East End Market patio.

24 hours in Orlando made me a fan. I can’t wait for my next trip back. I’ve got new friends to visit and places to go for specialty coffee that’s on a par with the best of genre in any city.