I am a thirty year old man. I have been drinking coffee regularly since I was 18. It started with late nights in Denny’s and IHOP. Then it was Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, every morning, for at least the past five years. Do I love the coffee at either of those places enough to crave it every morning? No. I do not. However, I am lazy and hate getting up for work. My morning routine is choreographed to the picosecond. If there are four cars ahead of me at Dunkin’ Donuts, I will be late for work. If there are three, I will be on-time. I simply cannot force myself to get up and make my own coffee. It’s sad really.
I don’t have a coffee palette. I can’t taste the difference in bean varieties, or locations, or organic-ness. I would love to, but I don’t, as of yet. I drink whatever black sludge is served to me. I have had exactly three memorable coffee experiences out of the thousands of times I’ve consumed coffee. It’s horribly depressing. The first was a shot of Turkish mud at some crepe place in Ybor that I’m sure is defunct. The second was a cup of Blue Mountain from Emeril’s restaurant in Orlando. And the third happened last week when I stopped by Buddy Brew in Tampa.
Buddy Brew is a coffee geek’s paradise. It’s sleek and simple and small. There’s a countertop setup, a thrift store table with four chairs, two comfortable loungey-type chairs and a couch. And there’s a glorious giant, shiny, roaster right smack dab in the middle of the place. There’s also a back room secreted away behind a curtain. I don’t know what goes on back there but it either involves ninjas, an interdimensional portal, or some sort of soul trade. Because the coffee is that good.
I have to admit, I was a little intimidated going in. But I pushed past it and I ordered a cappuccino. It was made for me by a barista (I hate that word), by a coffee genius, who looked not a little unlike Toby McGuire. My girlfriend was very “excited” about that, as I was told more than once throughout the remainder of the day.
The cappuccino was, without a doubt, the best cappuccino I have ever had. I almost passed out. It made me feel like my tongue has been wrapped in medical gauze for the past 12 years. I tasted things in the espresso that I never thought possible. I always laughed at coffee nerds when they talk about earthiness and chocolate undertones and nutty flavors, but they were there. I couldn’t believe it. For an unenlightened coffee cretin like me, it was a revelation.
As I sipped this delicious beverage alone in a corner pondering what a sham my life had been up to that point, I eavesdropped on the shop’s crew. They were talking about roasting and beans and profiling and Billy Bragg was crooning overhead. It was awesome. I landed in the middle of the yet-to-be-written Nick Hornby coffee novel! I was in the Championship Vinyl of espresso joints. These guys were not fooling around. This was serious. Top 5 Bean Varieties Grown Near Villages Of Less Than 100 People On The Side Of An East African Mountain. Go.
I finished my cappuccino, contemplated ordering another one, decided against it, and bought a bag of beans that was roastmarked the day before. I didn’t know the difference between any of the bags or what I was buying, but I knew I had never had coffee that was roasted less than 24 hours ago. I’ve been drinking it all week, and it is fantastic.
Buddy Brew is great. My hat is off, and my life is changed. This humble shop is a lighthouse in a dark sea of caffeinated dreck. Go there and caffeinate. Go there and caffeinate, now.
2020 West Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33606