May 12, 2015 05:46 PM

Nathanael Johnson
Photos by Robin May

It’s been a banner spring for Downtown coffee drinkers. Worshippers at the house of joe had their faith restored with the return of coffee to AcA via their new AcAfé kiosk in the heavenly front atrium of the center.

And now true believers will rejoice at the news that Rêve Coffee Roasters, recently named one of the 15 best new coffee roasters by online taste maker Thrillist, will be opening a veritable cathedral to all things coffee this July in a new open concept facility at 200 Jefferson St., formerly Astra Modern Market.

The new facility will allow espresso impresario Nathanael Johnson and company to nearly quadruple their current roasting output. The open concept will feature a literal window into the alchemy of coffee production with processing, roasting and cupping all visible from the customers’ side of the coffee bar. Johnson plans cupping classes (the tasting process that judges coffee notes and quality control at sommelier levels of discernment), barista competitions and a wild array of coffee nerdery to expand Lafayette’s ever-growing education in high-end caffeination.

“Everything that I’ve always wanted Rêve to be, I’ll be able to do with this new location,” says Johnson.

According to Johnson, 95 percent of Rêve’s business has been in roasting and selling wholesale or retail bags of its customizable blends. Like-minded locavore and farm-to-table restaurants like Bread & Circus Provisions, Johnson’s Boucaniere and Social Southern Table & Bar sell Rêve-made blends created specifically for those eateries. Green retail giants Whole Foods and Downtown upstart Black Café both carry the micro-roaster’s beans for over-the-counter sale. That’s not to mention Nathanael Johnson’s three other coffee retail operations in Eunice, Opelousas and on campus at UL Lafayette.

That far flung distribution has come from a single 10-pound roaster working almost around the clock in the cramped corner of the prep kitchen at Bibi’s Patisserie on Pinhook Road. The new facility will enable Rêve to quintuple its production with the addition of a 40-pound roaster in 1,000 square feet of space dedicated to coffee production. An additional 1,000 square feet will host a handsomely designed coffee bar and seating area for those looking for a good cup of fair trade coffee.

“Coffee is a small luxury that everyone can afford,” says Johnson. “When I pay that $2.50 [at cafés like Rêve] I know the people that give that to me cared.”

Rêve’s commercial reach will soon go international with a new partnership with a high altitude coffee farm in El Salvador, which will supply Rêve via direct trade. The arrangement will continue Rêve’s commitment to high quality coffee that supports a high quality of life for its producers.

For Downtown coffee drinkers it will mean another step on the path to coffee nirvana.


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