Welcome to another Key West summer, when it rains every day for 30 minutes and the breeze is as cool as a hair dryer set on high heat blowing two inches from your face. It’s four months of being hit by a heat wave every time you step out of the door. Your tongue parches, your eyes burn, the sweat never stops dripping and you are getting very sleepy … all of the time. It’s the price we pay to live in paradise, to which I say: Thank goodness for iced coffee. It is the secret weapon that keeps me going and I know just where to go for the perfect cup.
At Keys Coffee Company, a quaint little café at 505 Southard St., owners Geno and Alena Drazdou have cleverly created an entire menu celebrating the craftsmanship of the caffeinated beverage, but at this time of the year it might be most important to pay extra attention to the signature cold brew and the butter rum roasted bean nitro brew on tap. They also serve frozen café con leche, frappé, iced coconut brew and iced mocha, but it is the nitro brew that Geno and Alena talk about most passionately. In fact, they batch it and keg it themselves on the premises to give the brew that extra attention to quality.
“The actual cold brew takes 48 hours to make, which results in a smoother, sweeter and more caffeinated coffee. Our nitro cold brew comes with a flavored roast like hazelnut, Irish cream or buttered rum, which is my favorite,” Geno says. “It has a creamy texture and is very smooth.”
If you’re still brave enough to sip on the hot version in the middle of July, Keys Coffee Company also makes drip, espresso, French press, pour-over (a technique that is taking West Coast aficionados by storm thanks to the Japanese, who invented this unique method of filtering coffee through a special type of carafe) and the infamously strong Turkish coffee, infused with sugar and cardamom.
Keys Coffee Company sources its beans from several plantations around the world in exotic places like Guatemala and Indonesia. Before the weekly delivery to the shop, the beans are roasted in small batches exclusively for Keys Coffee by a South Florida roaster who has been in the business for over 30 years.
To go along with the sophisticated coffee that Geno and Alena serve, the breakfast and lunch menus are just as decadent in detail, with surprising twists on classic originals and a definitive international influence that still manages to remain unpretentious. Alena is responsible for bringing years’ worth of barista skills into the business, while Geno has worked in such local kitchens as Café Sole and uses his experience as a sous chef to develop the recipes for the food. The entire concept is the perfect fit for these two and the right equation to be successful. They are making what they know and they are making it with heart.
“Our Capri breakfast sandwich is the most popular and is made on a toasted croissant with local mozzarella. We are lucky enough to have found someone who makes mozzarella in South Florida fresh every week. Then we add sautéed spinach, garlic, tomato, basil pesto and eggs,” Geno explains. “And the Oslo, with our secret recipe house-cured salmon, onions, scallion cream cheese and eggs on a Goldman’s Deli Bagel, is probably our number two seller. And I’m pretty sure we are the biggest wholesale customer on the island for Goldman’s bagels.”
Geno and Alena have recently added the option of avocado toast to their menu, with fresh avocado, red onion, tomatoes and eggs on multigrain toast. And they are particularly proud of the Sunrise tacos, made with pepper jack cheese, crispy arugula, red onions, tomatoes, ham, bacon, sriracha and egg folded into two corn tortilla. “The Sunrise tacos are a dish that redefines our expectations of breakfast,” Geno says.
For lunch, the café offers several styles of artisanal preparations and a selection of complementing sandwiches and baked goods including a reuben, with corned beef, Swiss cheese, half sour pickles and chipotle dressing on multigrain bread, and the Tel Aviv wrap, with homemade roasted garlic and red pepper hummus, cucumber, tomato, spinach, sprouts and artichoke. The menu is also chock-full of healthy stuff, like smoothies, juices and kombucha with fresh pressed ginger purée as well as delicious baked goods, like blueberry muffins, banana nut bread and oatmeal raisin cookies (which have been known to sell out before the day is done).
Keys Coffee Company is the perfect casual place to get real, down-to-earth, health conscious yet satisfying food, while watching the daily traffic of Key West life pass by the big windows that take up the entire storefront. If you sit there long enough, there is a good chance you will see several of the island’s top business professionals walk through the doors and many more pass by on their way to work. In and out the customers go, both visiting and from right down the road. Sometimes they get their usual to go and sometimes they stay to relax over heavily spiced chai lattes with a friend or two.
“We just want everyone to come in and feel comfortable — somewhere we could see ourselves as customers if we didn’t own it.”
And just in case the heat has got you hiding in the house or stuck in your hotel room, Keys Coffee will deliver to you as well.
Follow Keys Coffee Company by visiting them on Facebook @keyscoffeecompany or check out the menu and order online on their website at www.keyscoffee.co. ¦