The Daily Grind: Coffee, Conversation and Community.
Denton is crawling with artists, creators, business men and women, activists, lawyers, doctors, musicians and maestros everywhere, all known for their welcoming and familiar nature, something that distinguishes this city from any other in North Texas.
From dancing at a house show, to stretching on the courthouse lawn, to shopping at the community market, Denton invites people to gather and socialize with each other. Most importantly, every Dentonite gets to grind out their daily work at the numerous coffee shops around town.
Whatever your flavor is, Denton is home to various sui generis espresso bars for that much needed dose of caffeine that gets you up and out of bed.
Take it from Shift Coffee owner, Angelo Fesperman, who’s been running the Locust St. location for three years now. “Coffee keeps us moving,” he said.
Shift Coffee prides themselves on their craftsmanship, art, and culture. Fesperman said he feels what makes the coffee culture particularly unique in this city is “[It’s] engaged, that it’s breathing,” and it’s truly something that could be defined as culture.
The shop typically holds community-related events involving coffee, such as their Aeropress competition. Due to Shift Coffee’s active engagement in the art community, the shop has also been a special performance center by night for local musicians, hosting record releases of artists and bands such as Ditch Prince and Pageantry. Faithfully manifesting the artistic social scene, Shift’s clientele base stays mostly local, as the shop likes to advertise by word-of-mouth and focus on the loyal relationships they share with their regulars.
Just a few blocks over from Shift is Zera Coffee Co. & The Back Porch, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit, volunteer-run coffee shop with a residential center for men fighting addiction. Zera Coffee is where “healing begins” and is a philanthropic coffee shop solely supported by dedicated communal effort.
Then, there is Cultivar Coffee, which stands next to Sprockets Bicycle Shop off the square. Entering Cultivar, the warm smell and the psychedelic posters decorating the wall captivate. Next to the Cultivar coffee bar, Hypnotic Donuts serves its fluffy and unique donuts in a creative variety of shapes and names. This is one thing that makes Cultivar stand out, along with their generosity to the community.
At the bar is Krysten Black, a Cultivar barista for over three years. Black describes the coffee culture in Denton as "admirable in its camaraderie." Cultivar hopes to make sure that with every drink, people enjoy truly good coffee. No mistakes, and no bad cups, “making sure every drink [they] make is consistently delectable,” and ensuring that their customer is satisfied 100 percent are also key. Cultivar doesn’t just make great coffee, they also strive to help community organizations and struggling businesses.
“The owner is so interested in the thriving of other neighboring coffee companies,” Black said. “There’s a great deal of support. Half of Saturday’s money went to Jupiter House and refugees."
West Oak Coffee Bar, located on the square, is a community hub for college students and workers alike. West Oak is well-known for their fascinating flavor combinations, such as their Ginger Habanero Mocha, and their rustic appeal in being a hole-in-the-wall.
West Oak barista Shelbie White said it’s the customers that make the coffee culture in Denton so admirable.
“We can make as much amazing coffee as we want but the people we get to see everyday makes it the best," White said. "We see all of our customers out and about in Denton."
West Oak has seen a definite growth in business and new clientele following the fire which destroyed the Mini Mall and damaged La Di Da and Jupiter House. White says that although it is an “unfortunate growth” in business, she misses having them as their neighbors.
“We are hoping that they are able to get back on their feet soon,” White said.
Aura Coffee also takes part in community affairs. Formerly called Big Mike's Coffee, this spacious coffee shop sits across the street from UNT. Local art is regularly exhibited along Aura's walls, and students and professors usually pack the space during rush hour. Aura’s owner Kim McKibben is also involved in local politics, making sure she raises her voice when there is any injustice and standing up for people. This reminds us even our favorite baristas are one of us, citizens concerned about the state of our town.
Aura barista Austin Nelson has worked in the coffee shop for nearly three and a half years. Nelson said he loves his job because it allows him to build on Denton's coffee culture.
“I love how willing [Denton] is to take coffee seriously, how more in touch with coffee people are, and how much they want to make good stuff,” Nelson said.
Coffee is a social lubricant, helping create meaningful relationships. As such, the buzz of coffee shops builds upon Denton's warm character. Additionally, these providers of joe cultivate the foundation of the city by hosting events, meetings, art shows, and concerts. They donate to the community, speak up, support each other, and help Denton be Denton. Next time you want to grab that cup of coffee, skip the Starbucks line and sit in one of these local coffee shops instead.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Kim Mckibbon with male pronouns, the story has been fixed to reflect her proper pronouns.
Header image layout designed by Mateo Granados