Sep 30, 2022 - Food and Drink

The story of Nashville's fall coffee drinks

Photos: Adam Tamburin/Axios

Developing a new coffee drink can feel a lot like songwriting, barista Graciela Jean tells Axios.

  • The journey from that first burst of inspiration to a final product requires hours of editing, creative energy, and trial and error. And then you await the audience's response.

Earlier this week, we asked our readers to recommend seasonal offerings from local coffee shops. Your suggestions give the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte a run for its money.

Why it matters: Embracing local options is another way to support the creative class that makes Music City sing.

Zoom in: Reader Karen C. steered us toward Humphreys Street Coffee in Wedgewood-Houston, where Jean is the manager.

  • One of the drinks she developed for the fall menu this year is the Banoffee, a rich cafe au lait with a banana and brown sugar syrup that evokes a buttery piece of banana bread, complete with a dusting of cocoa powder to mimic the chocolate chips.
  • Jean says it takes hours of slow cooking to extract the banana flavor for the syrup. It's worth the wait.

Flashback: Jean has a degree in songwriting and initially moved to Nashville for the music scene. The same skills she uses to hone a chorus and verse come in handy at the coffee shop, too.

  • In both cases, she says, several rounds of tweaking and feedback go toward capturing a specific feeling or memory. She wanted the drink to embody the nostalgia of grandma’s kitchen.
  • It quickly became popular.

"It's probably the performer in me, but, man, does it feel good when people love what I made," Jean says.

Meanwhile, reader Meredith P. recommended the Sumpkin Spice Latte at Sump Coffee, a balanced alternative to the PSL that she prefers over the mass-produced option.

  • The cafe's creative and spookily named Rosemary's Baby also stood out during our visit.
  • It's an espresso-based drink with sweetened condensed milk, juniper berry and clove that tastes like a campfire in the woods. Sump manager Julia Jackson developed it with feedback from her coworkers.

What they're saying: Jackson tells Axios the name informed the flavor. She decided on the rosemary garnish after thinking of the classic 1968 horror movie.

  • "It's fun to take the serious coffee and make it into something unique," Jackson says. "People who are coffee nerds should be able to have fun with beverages."

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