Curra's Coffee Beans To Go are Worth the Visit
About two and a half years ago my friend Amanda and I were making plans to meet at Curra's Grill for Sunday brunch. I mentioned how it had been a while since I'd eaten there, a favorite spot for both of us when we each had lived in Travis Heights. Plus, "I really love their coffee."
"Did you know you can buy their beans?" For all my visits to Curra's over the years, I never knew. But since then I have purchased a pound of the restaurant's Oaxacan beans at $12 a pop at least once a month.
I consider myself more a coffee lover than any other kind of connoisseur. I adore the flavorful gifts of the magic bean in all its kaleidoscopic colors and shades as well as the boost caffeine provides not just the body but the spirit. I keep at least two kinds of beans in vacuum sealed containers on hand in my kitchen, plus an ever-changing "home blend" of the last beans from whatever I've recently bought in a third one. The grinder is an essential kitchen appliance for me. While shopping for paper filters at the H-E-B recently I succumbed to the economic wisdom of a three-year reusable filter.
I imagine coffee snobs would tell me I am doing it all wrong, I need to get a French press or some fancy-schmancy Italian machine for a few hundred bucks (someday...). But my java jones started at diners in my teen years, and if Mr. Coffee was good enough for Joe DiMaggio, then it's OK by me. After all, I'm practical and proletariat at heart.
And in the end it's the beans that matter most. I enjoy sampling new blends, and if I stop in at a coffee house and they have beans on sale, I'll usually fork over for a bag. (Little City's and Ruta Maya's shops are both missed, but their beans can still be bought online and at local stores.)
From the time that Curra's replaced the original Guero's at 614 E. Oltorf St. in 1997, it was a perfect tenant for the spot where the now iconic S. Congress eatery got started (and where I ate some two to three days a week at one stretch in the '90s). And from the first its coffee – a vanilla roasted blend done by Texas Coffee Traders, hence organic and fair trade – offered a piquant counterpoint to the restaurant's interior Mexican cuisine.
"We wanted a really authentic Mexican coffee to go with our food," explains manager Juan Carlos Avila. "We weren't sure if we were going to have Oaxacan or Veracruz beans, but we decided the Oaxcan because it has a better flavor." Oaxaca boasts the height (around 4,000 ft. in the Sierra Madre Mountains), cloud forest shade cover, volcanic soil and climate where coffee plants thrive. (True java fanatics can even enjoy a vacation there at the Finca Las Nieves coffee plantation.)
What distinguishes it is the richness and complexity of its taste even though it's milder in body than the blends I usually drink. The vanilla gives it a mildly sweet introduction as it touches the tongue, and what follows is a weave of subtle nuttiness and a flavor that falls somewhere between between molé and milk chocolate (half and half helps bring out the latter). It's one of the more memorable cups of joe I've had.
Turns out I'm hardly alone in my Curra's coffee love. Even though they don't actively promote the beans for sale (whole or ground), the restaurant ships some 20 to 30 pounds a month to fellow fans across the nation and sells around another 60 pounds a week locally.