Coffee shops cover almost -every corner of the City Different, from national chains to hole-in-the-wall-one-offs to our particular breed of local chains. Old-school dark-roasting Ohori's has three downtown locations within a mile of each other, and third-wavers Iconik Coffee Roasters just opened a third location of its own last year on Guadalupe Street.
This being a city of culture, folks work hard to elevate coffee and tea above the dictates of our addictions, including many at the establishments named above. Warm bevs are a highlight of winter with experience to be had with every drink and a community with which to engage no matter where the indulgence takes place—whether it's after a shred sesh on the slopes or with colleagues on a weekday.
Two prominent examples of such beverage innovators are located downtown and practically on top of each other. On the street level, Artful Tea (101 W Marcy St. Ste. 4, 795-7724) invites customers to sample teas and browse dozens of varieties of gourmet looseleaf; just upstairs, REMIX Audio Bar (101 W Marcy St. Ste. 201) serves up crafted coffee along with the freshest up-and-coming DJ talent in town.
Displays are arranged by tea type downstairs, with shelves dedicated to black, green, white, oolong and herbal varieties. Small glass bottles of looseleaf line the shelves, standing in front of larger containers and bags. I like white teas, so the shop assistant offered a glass bottle of silver needle to sniff as she described the caffeine levels and how to brew it. The tea comes packed in 3.5-ounce bags with prices ranging from around $10 for common blends to $35 (or more) for the top-shelf varieties.
For some, the various colors and brewing methods are a total enigma. While other businesses might leave these folks to their Lipton, Artful Tea opens up the shop for introductory classes ($20) regularly to explain and sample the different varieties. Another upcoming class covers tea cocktails ($25), or how to incorporate tea with alcohol to create next-level beverages. The focus isn't on just selling tea, it's about building a community around an appreciation of the leaf. To this end, Artful also offers poetry readings and guided meditation sessions (with tea of course, $15) around regular business hours.
Upstairs, REMIX offers classes, too, but of a different kind: Owners Justin Ray (Laguna/Acoma Pueblo) and Julie Grace are serving up vinyl and DJ techniques for low costs ($25) at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. The day I stopped by, Head Barista Gong Szeto explained the concept.
"Even though music and coffee beverages are not obviously the same, our approach to quality and care for the product are," he said.
Owner Ray wanted to establish a place where he could share his creativity and expertise in coffee and music with others while improving their palates and ears. While the quality and process might stymie some, Ray and Szeto are dedicated to making REMIX accessible.
Besides the tens of thousands of dollars in sound equipment packed into the small space, REMIX brews up specialty lattes and espresso drinks with third-wave precision, using scales, thermometers and timers for every drink.
"I'm not afraid to serve a latte in an $80 hand-blown glass mug," Szeto says, walking me through the intricacies of the basic Americano ($3). "I love to watch people turn from a consumer into a connoisseur."
Szeto tells me my beans were roasted in Silver Lake, California, about 10 days earlier, while he pulls out a curve graph showing the flavor development over time. Cafecito Organico was chosen for several reasons, above all the sheer quality of flavor; there isn't anything else in town quite like what REMIX offers. The roast profile on the espresso is grounded in an herbaceous, almost woody quality, with a sweet, subtle acidity that brings a floral hint rather than any bitterness. There's more than espresso, however: Some of REMIX's most popular (and cozy) drinks are mushroom-based.
"I like to offer these in the afternoon as an alternative to coffee," Szeto says, pointing to a list of four drinks ($5 each) that incorporate adaptogenic mushroom blends from Santa Fe's own Mushroom Mama. In fact, REMIX -partners with local companies for ingredients at every opportunity, including Artful Tea and Fleur d'Henri for a CBD-infused latte ($12), along with national supplier GT's Living Foods for kombucha on tap.
While we chat, Szeto serves local veterinarian and newly minted professional DJ Callie Jones, who started taking classes at REMIX after reading about it in SFR this spring. Five months later, she's getting paid for gigs.
"This is the craziest idea I've had in my life," she says about becoming a DJ, "but I did it." Now, she's there to mentor a beginner DJ, another adult learner.
Unlike most spots in the music scene, REMIX bills itself as "zero-proof," or alcohol-free.
"It's nice to hang out in a place without alcohol," Jones says.
Both REMIX and Artful Tea abound in opportunities for gifts, but each offers way more than material things: They offer experiences, whether you want to learn a little more about your hidden passions or just to escape from the cold for a while with a hot, comforting drink.