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Photo courtesy of BlendIn Coffee Club
With so many choices and variables involved in the selecting, roasting and brewing of coffee, as well as for the layout and decor of a cafe, it’s almost as if an aspiring shop owner must be both a biochemist and an interior designer. As it happens, just such a pair has opened a cafe inside a freestanding former bank building in the Southwest Houston city of Sugar Land, Texas, called BlendIn Coffee Club.
In mid-November, the married team of Xuan Zhou and Weihong Zhang, an interior designer and biochemist, respectively, opened a 2,100-square-foot cafe of bright, airy and sophisticated style, designed specifically to maintain consumers’ focus on the beans and brews.
“We try to use a neutral colour, and we did not put too much decoration on walls, glasses and ceilings, so our customers will put more attention on our coffee,” Zhang told Daily Coffee News of Zhou’s strategy for the clean and efficient interior. Beyond his biochemistry PhD, Zhang also achieved Q Grader certification in Shanghai after studying under Paul Kim and SCA certificates with help from Patrick O’Malley in Tempe, Arizona. BlendIn will be offering an educational program lead by Zhang that includes courses in green coffee, roasting, brewing, and barista skills from inside the new shop. Customers in the shop simply for coffee are served espresso drinks made on a Sanremo Opera machine and ground by Ceado grinders, or else brewed single-origin coffees through an Alpha Dominche Steampunk, ground by Mahlkonig EK43.
“Opening the shop is only our first step at our location,” Zhang said. “We will offer SCA-certified classes, cupping events, home-brewing workshops and many different coffee events to promote specialty coffee.”
BlendIn coffees are roasted in-house in a Diedrich IR5 that is being joined this month by an IR1 for teaching purposes, as well as for profile roasting. Zhang said that beyond his own palate and senses, BlendIn roasts are planned and evaluated with consideration of the density and moisture content level of each bean. ColorTrack roast color laser analysis is also employed while roasting, and a TDS-measuring refractometer ensures that subsequent brews are on-point and consistent in the shops that may only be the first of several.
BlendIn Coffee Club offers a range of single-origin coffees brewed in-store via an Alpha Dominche Steampunk or as espresso.
“My long-term goal is to open one store on each continent, perhaps the second store in China,” said Zhang, who has traveled with Zhou to Colombia and Guatemala on sourcing trips. “February 2018 we are visiting Yunnan, China coffee farms to taste and possibly source some coffee there.”