The United States is the biggest consumer of coffee in the world, drinking 102 billion cups annually. Leading the pack are the Millennials, who took the regular cup of morning joe that the baby boomers used to drink and turned it into a gourmet experience. Whether it is an afternoon out with friends over frappuccinos or vodka and Kahlua martinis, the idea of a simple coffee is actually not so simple anymore.
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. They offer several styles of artisanal preparations and a selection of complementing sandwiches and baked goods. For starters, you can order your coffee hot or cold. But if you order it cold, you’ll also have to choose whether you want to have a regular iced coffee, (which the locals like to call gringo coffee), iced cafe con leche, iced latte, frozen coffee, iced mocha, cold brew or the nitro cold brew that is something they speak about very passionately. In fact, they batch it and keg it themselves on the premises. They love their cold brew so much, it is one of the things they are proudest of. When we met, Alena was wearing a T-shirt that said, “Toes in the sand, cold brew in my hand.”
“The actual cold brew takes 48 hours to make. Our nitro cold brew comes with a flavored roast like hazelnut, Irish cream or buttered rum, which is my favorite,” Geno said. “It has a creamy texture and is very smooth.”
In total, Keys Coffee Company makes coffee six different ways including 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 through a special type of carafe), the infamously strong Turkish coffee infused with sugar and cardamom and, of course, cold brew.
The beans are sourced from several plantations around the world, from Guatemala to Indonesia. The beans, before being delivered to the shop once or twice a week, 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 their sophisticated coffee menu, the sandwiches they make are 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 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 house-cured salmon (a top-secret recipe), onions, scallion cream cheese and eggs on Goldman’s Deli Bagels is probably our number two. And I’m pretty sure we are the biggest wholesale customer on the island for Goldman’s bagels.”
(A side note for those who are not familiar with Goldman’s: It is a famous local deli that has been nationally acclaimed. Since it is located about two miles from Duval Street in an area called New Town, it is quite the big deal that someone in Old Town is offering its baked and boiled New York-style specialty.)
As well as serving breakfast from the time they open at 7 a.m. until they close at 2:30 p.m., the couple will gladly make you a key lime BLT off of the lunch menu or a Tel Aviv wrap with homemade roasted garlic and red pepper hummus, cucumber, tomato, spinach, sprouts and artichoke as early as you want it. There are also smoothies and juices, kombucha with fresh pressed ginger purée and blueberry muffins, banana nut bread and oatmeal raisin cookies that 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.
The location has been a coffee shop for several years, but this is the first time that it could be considered a true restaurant, where one can hang out over a brew and a bite as well. After working for the previous owners, Alena realized the potential of the tiny cozy spot. When the place went up for sale in 2013, she and Geno made the decision to take it over and to make their unique and promising vision into a reality.
“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 you don’t want to leave the house or are stuck in your hotel room and craving something with substance, they will deliver to you as well. ¦
Key Coffee Company 505 Southard Street 305- 906- 1205 www.keyscoffee.com