Undergrowth Coffee is the newest java stop on Magazine Street, taking residence in the former Hey! Café spot near Napoleon Avenue.
Owned by Alyssa Johnson and Zack Rescoe, Undergrowth Coffee focuses on sustainability. The owners aim to create a coffee shop that is not only good for Uptown coffee aficionados but good for all of the coffee growers and other businesses that make Undergrowth Coffee what it is.
To the owners, the shop’s name represents not only the fertile area where all plants start but the outliers of society. It’s a name that Johnson says perfectly ties into Rescoe’s love of plants and Johnson’s love of what makes each person unique.
Their coffee comes from Ethiopia, Indonesia and Nicaragua and focuses on single-origin roasts. Their Mill City Roaster has a two-kilo capacity and roasts four pounds of coffee at a time. “Everything is small batch, and that gives us control when it comes to the product’s quality,” Johnson said.
Rescoe said they would prefer to do everything themselves rather than pay for other people’s branding and packaging. They want to cultivate an awareness and produce a product that consumers will enjoy and that they will enjoy making.
“Undergrowth started with the desire to do things better and do them with intention,” Rescoe said. “We want to do as much as we can in-house to have control over the product and supply chain. We wanted to know what was going into what was being served.”
Undergrowth Coffee focuses primarily on female-owned farms and ethically sourced and produced coffee. Rescoe and Johnson pay attention to how different farms are run and how that affects their product.
“We think that coffee culture is heading toward more transparency. The customer wants to know where their coffee came from and how it got to them,” Rescoe said. “We want to be able to tell people exactly where our beans are from and have accountability for our product.”
Johnson has worked for other coffee cafés in the city, where Rescoe became a regular. Rescoe has a passion for plants and the environment, and Johnson is a manager with 10 years in the coffee business. Johnson and Rescoe formed their business in January 2020 and began looking at coffee recipes and searching for a space.
The shop opened in February and has held onto its mission of serving a quality coffee product to the neighborhood.
Along with favorites like espresso and cappuccino, the menu offers a spiced cold brew made with a 24-hour cold brew steeped in specific spices.
Another favorite is the Shellshock, housemade lemonade topped with housemade masala chai concentrate. The drink is an unusual mix that Rescoe says tastes like apple pie.
Undergrowth also sells bags of their coffee, and the team has plans to start wholesale coffee sales in 2022.
In addition to coffee, Undergrowth has an extensive tea menu based out of an importer in London. Such flavors include Casablanca Mint, Blood Orange, and Honeybush Banana Nut.
“The selection of teas rotates based on seasonality,” Johnson said. “We especially wanted to offer teas that you couldn’t get elsewhere. Some of the teas are a little bit peculiar, but have been widely received.”
As for the food, Rescoe and Johnson proudly offer pastries from local bakeries such as croissants from Compagnon Bakery and other pastries from Passion Flour Baked Goods as well as vegan donuts on the weekends from House of Slop.
The team will be expanding into heartier selections with a vegan-based menu that will offer approachable foods such as soups and grab-and-go options. Undergrowth Coffee is available for pickup and delivery through ChowNow and DoorDash.
Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Reporter Marielle Songy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.