Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Savoring a latte shot through with espresso, the natural sweetness of the coffee beans drew me in until my cup was empty and a newfound addiction took hold. Pulp Coffee, an up-and-coming local wholesale coffee roaster, now samples its brewed product to the public at the midweek market Truckin’ Tomato hosts at the LocalSprout Food Hub every Wednesday from 3-7 p.m.
San Antonio native James Mireles founded Pulp in December 2015 after working 20 years in the coffee industry in California and Texas. Decades of roasting and brewing coffee experience informs every aspect of Mireles’ hometown roasting facility, where he is determined to provide the highest quality coffee and tea to retailers globally.
Mireles and Liza Moreno have been operating their private label wholesale manufacturing business in an aesthetically finished 700 sq. ft. facility at the Food Hub since March 2016. Pulp Coffee sells its coffee beans under various private labels to restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, and other retail partners worldwide.
“We see ourselves as a supplier of ultra-premium roasted coffee to third wave coffee shops,” Mireles said. “I came out of a 25,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility roasting coffee in California where no human hands ever touched the coffee.”
“Third wave” coffee shops refers to the modern movement of coffee shops or roasters that specialize in artisan or craft products.
“Pulp set the standard for other tenants on how to build out their commercial space beautifully at the Food Hub,” said Food Hub manager Mitch Hagney. The Eastside hub for food production startups hosts 12 vendors.
The espresso I had without my habitual hit of sugar tasted naturally sweet because of the careful way Mireles roasts his beans. Using a U.S.-made roaster, he has made some modifications that allow for precise roasting, coaxing the natural sugars from the coffee beans without extracting the bitterness.
“We’re techno roasters,” Pulp’s roaster Jordan Berlingeri said. “We use technology to roast consistency into our coffee.”
Pulp also carries a line of high-end organic teas, a rarity among coffee roasters. Mireles spoke of his organic black ice tea as if it were a diamond, pointing out its “clarity and cut.”
“Most commercial ice teas are muddy, but ours uses a higher quality of organic black tea leaves that gives the ice tea clarity,” Mireles said. “Our teas have residual sugars in the leaf because of the way they are gathered. We only use the top four layers from the tea bushes, which produce the most tender, full leaf buds.
“Most commercial brand ice teas use less expensive bottom layers of chopped up leaves, leading to a more muddy taste and appearance,” he added.
The proof is in the clear ice tea I tasted. Refreshing, yet full bodied, it too, was easy to drink without added sugar.
Mireles is passionate about coffee and tea and is eager to discuss his years of experience in the industry. While he points to California as the source of his roasting knowledge, everything he learned about espresso he learned in Sydney, Australia. As it turns out, Australia has a unique coffee culture influenced mostly by its large Italian immigrant population.
A connection with the San Antonio Cocktail Conference’s first executive director Cathy Siegal led to Pulp’s partnership with the producer of the top Spanish spirit Licor 43. Pulp custom roasts a Licor 43 coffee that pairs perfectly with the liqueur in a flaming coffee drink known as the Carajillo. If you are seized by the sudden need for a new coffee addiction that includes a pyrotechnic demonstration (watch the video starting at 2:05), you can find the Carajillo locally on the menus at Chama Gaucha and the newly opened Toro Kitchen and Bar.
Because of Pulp Coffee’s videos on the Licor 43 website, Mireles has acquired a global customer base with many international accounts. Locally, Pulp supplies coffee at places such as Jazz, Texas and Peggy’s on the Green, while Café Dijon carries both coffee and five of Pulp’s teas.
If you need another coffee addiction, Pulp bottles a high-end Ethiopian cold brew that has three times the amount of caffeine as one cup of hot coffee. A puny Red Bull only has 80 mg while the smooth, enticing Pulp cold brew contains more than 300 mg in 12 oz.
“This Ethiopian cold brew is the best one we have,” Mireles said. “It’s hard to ship because you need to keep it under 80 degrees at all times to maintain its quality.”
While Pulp is not interested in opening a full-time retail coffee shop and becoming a competitor in the process, “we are always interested in sharing our knowledge and expertise as we want to be a friend to those in the coffee world, especially those in our local community,” Mireles said.
Pulp invites guest baristas to come to its space at the Food Hub to brush up on their skills and learn something new. They can work with barista trainer Chelsea Burge and “experience the behind the scenes in a hands-on coffee manufacturing site,” Mireles said. Because they don’t have a retail coffee shop there’s no sense of direct competition, only a mutual love for coffee and a desire to share. Baristas from the Commonwealth, Paramour, and Revolucion Coffee have spent time at Pulp’s location.
As for the future, Pulp plans on continuing its partnership with Licor 43.
“We may entertain entering into partnerships with local food producers as well,” Mireles said. “We will continue to focus on supplying the best roasted beans and quality teas and on being a resource for retail coffee shops because the private label aspect of our business is important to us.”
With no plans in sight for a dedicated coffee shop, there’s always Wednesday afternoons to stock up on cold brew, roasted coffee beans, and a taste of enticing caffeine.