Fleet Coffee opens in East Austin with focus beyond caffeine

Photo by Chelsea Laine Francis. Patrick Pierce, left, and Lorenzo Perkins have teamed up to open their own coffee shop on the east side.

Photo by Chelsea Laine Francis. Patrick Pierce, left, and Lorenzo Perkins have teamed up to open their own coffee shop on the east side.

Although people can order the traditional lattes and espressos at the new Fleet Coffee on Webberville Road, many of the coffee shop’s early regulars are venturing into something most cafes don’t offer: drinks where coffee is one ingredient of several.

Co-founders Lorenzo Perkins and Patrick Pierce have created this original menu — which they call “Coffee And…” —as a way to explore coffee’s full potential, something they both find important in a time when coffee shops are prolific and found at nearly every street corner. The menu is at the heart of their philosophy to continually innovate and shift the boundaries that have defined what coffee can be.

“A lot of the inspiration for these drinks comes from the restaurant world, the food world, the larger beverage world,” Perkins says. “Coffee is a fantastic beverage in its own right, but it’s so incredibly complex and dynamic that we should utilize it in these ways that showcase the uniqueness of coffee as an ingredient.”

Photo by Chelsea Laine Francis. The Flip-Top is served on nitro in a bottle to give the drink cohesion.

Photo by Chelsea Laine Francis. The Flip-Top is served on nitro in a bottle to give the drink cohesion.

He and Pierce, who worked as baristas at Caffe Medici and other coffee companies in Austin before deciding to team up for their own space, developed the four-drink “Coffee And…” menu to play with different flavor profiles.

“We had this challenge of looking at them more as cocktails than as espresso drinks,” Perkins says, noting they use much of the same kinds of ingredients that bartenders do: bitters, citrus and botanicals like chicory root.

The “Coffee And…” drinks include the E.T., made with espresso, lime simple syrup and tonic water, and the Morning Ritual, which comes with a glass of doughnut-infused milk, a chaser of espresso and a doughnut hole. Pierce’s personal favorite is the Flip-Top with espresso, root beer spices, chicory root and nitro, and as an intricate, layered delight, it exemplifies the sort of experimental coffee program they’re seeking.

So far they’ve been incredibly popular with Fleet’s customers, but the coffee shop also excels at the more traditional offerings. Espresso, lattes, iced coffee and drip coffee are all on the menu.

At the moment, the coffee is made using a rotating trio of roasters, with Madcap Coffee Company from Grand Rapids, Michigan, as Fleet’s anchor. The others, which are being brought in for three-month increments, are local roaster Wild Gift and Washington state’s Olympia Coffee Roasting. They’ll change out in the future for other roasters that Perkins and Pierce love.

“We initially cupped through 50 roasters from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada,” Perkins says. “Based on the double-blind cuppings, we picked the ones we thought tasted the best. Beyond that, we also considered whether they had a consistent roasting aesthetic, used ethical practices in sourcing their beans” and were able to connect on a personal level.

Visitors to Fleet Coffee can either order a cup of joe to enjoy in the coffee shop’s cozy 10-seat space or purchase a bag of coffee to go. In the coming months, Pierce and Perkins also hope to offer a subscription coffee service for Austinites.

Fleet Coffee is located at 2427 Webberville Rd., across the street from the new Dog & Duck Pub, and opened from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For more information, visit www.fleetcoffee.com.

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