Artisanal coffee shops are popping up all over town, and Highland Park’s Quixotic Coffee is taking charge of the new craft coffee market in St. Paul.
Since Jake Nelson took over as the owner of Quixotic Coffee in late 2014, the business quickly ditched its former “coffee purist” ways and joined the ranks of the Twin Cities’
elite coffee squad.
Quixotic not only offers flavorful and creative drinks but snacks and meals catered for people of different diets.
A&E chats with Nelson about St. Paul, coffee culture and supporting local businesses.
What is the history of Quixotic?
The former Quixotic, they were extremely “third wave,” I would call it. So much so that they only did their pour overs manually. So if customers wanted cream or sugar, they didn’t have that available as an option because it was not pure.
A lot of customers were turned off because they came in here and just wanted some batch coffee. They wanted something quick, and they didn’t have that available as an option. So customers had to wait up to 10 to 15 minutes for just an 8-ounce cup of coffee.
When the new ownership happened, was there an effort to change how people viewed Quixotic?
We took over [in December 2015], and it was a really busy season already in the coffee industry. And all our employees quit on the first day.
There was nothing smooth about it.
We were just playing catch up. Where are we getting our beans from? Where are we getting our milk from? Where are we getting our cups from? How does this espresso machine work?
There was a lot of “all hands on deck” trying to figure things out and make sure we could satisfy the customers that we did have.
But as far as, like, developing business and attracting more customers, I would say the main way that we started doing that was through Instagram. So, we took over the Instagram account and changed the feeling and vibe of the account that already was running. And then [we] really just expanded the business through liking people’s pictures and finding people that like coffee and trying to get everyone in the area to know that we were here.
So why St. Paul?
[In] St. Paul, there [is] a really good market because there really wasn’t sort of a “Spyhouse-like” coffee shop. There’s a void in the market for something like that.
Plus, it’s also great because there are so many colleges in the area. So we’re starting to get a lot of St. Thomas students, a lot of St. Kate’s students and Bethel as well.
And Highland Park is a really great area too; it’s a really great neighborhood.
Highland Park also has a lot of loyal coffee consumers. And they know coffee really well, and they know good coffee.
How did you end up working with Bootstrap Coffee Roasters?
We started out with using Blackeye Roasting [Company’s] beans. [Then] Blackeye became super busy with the cold brew, and it made more sense to find a new coffee roaster that had more time to focus on coffee for our hot coffee.
Micah [Svejda] of Bootstrap was the first person that we thought of because he used to be a manager here at this store. He’s also a local guy. He lives just a couple blocks away, and he’s always in here with his wife and kid, which is kind of cool.
His coffee — he puts so much time and care [into the process]. He does small batches, and he’s the ultimate perfectionist. His coffee is probably just as good or better than anyone else in the Twin Cities.
And we wanted to have the best coffee.
Why does Quixotic work with other local businesses?
We’re not just doing it because it’s a good thing to do or the right thing to do. They produce really high-quality products.
Also there is an incentive for us to help each other.
As far as social media and word of mouth and that sort of thing, there’s more incentive for us to represent them and for them to represent us.
There’s a snowball effect.
All [of] that momentum builds up when you have a lot of local producers that are all connected to each other.
What’s coffee culture like in the Twin Cities?
A lot of industries are going more towards the craft and artisanal products, even in distilleries and craft beer market[s]. A lot [of it is] because it’s so easy to be discovered with social media.
I think [Twin Cities coffee culture is in] the top five in the country. I put Minneapolis-St. Paul at five just because of the coffee shops, third-wave shops, roasters, and we
have Cafe Imports, too, right in town.
Recipe: The DeNiro
An adult-style chocolate milk or an easy mocha — however you describe it, it’s delicious.
3/4 glass full of cold brew
1/4 glass of chocolate milk
A splash of almond simple syrup
1. Take a glass half full of ice, and add the cold brew to it.
2. Once the cold brew fills 3/4 of the glass, add 1/4 part of the chocolate milk to top off the glass.
3. Add a splash of almond simple syrup.
4. Shake or stir to combine all the flavors, and enjoy.