Few things stir my soul more than my first cup of coffee in the morning. It’s a full-sensory experience– aromatic grounds and cool cream, the sound of grinding beans, the almost-too-hot first sip and artistic aesthetics of a cup that’s poured just right.
I could go on, but I’m getting thirsty and my leg has begun twitching. My point is, coffee is a close friend and point of passion for not only myself but millions across the country and countless others around the world.
Though Starbucks has long stood as the homogenized, ever-present coffee shop standard in much of America, there is a growing movement in neighborhoods to eschew the coffee-brewing behemoth for something more community-based. I’m proud to say that Central Florida is no slouch for those looking to get caffeine wasted, and Foxtail Coffee Co. now plays a big part in that.
Sly as a Fox
Something that immediately struck me about Foxtail Coffee is just how social media savvy they were and are. Months before the place was even furnished, I’d heard rumblings about the “new coffee place”. Following their Facebook page, I was treated to frequent updates on their storefront setup, as well as notices on their pop-up shops hosted at many of Orlando’s favorite bars, pubs and farmers’ markets.
The legend of this place was already growing, but I was still holding judgment until after I actually drank the stuff. Pretty pictures and active social media, after all, do not make up for cruddy coffee, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by their effective use of social.
SPOILER ALERT: On first visit, I drank a cold brew. The sun came out. Birds chirped. My soul returned to my body. Call me a fan.
What Does the Fox Say?
As I mentioned, Central Florida–and Winter Park, especially–has no shortage of craft coffee spots to enjoy on business or pleasure. Austin’s Coffee, Lineage Coffee Roasting, and Vespr Coffeebar are just a handful of the local fan favorites. How does Foxtail Coffee stand out from competent competition and make a case for its place in the craft coffee scene?
I sat down with Michael Severn, general manager of Foxtail Coffee Co., to talk about the new shop over a cup of the good stuff.
So, Mike, what exactly do you do at Foxtail Coffee?
My primary role is store manager. I ensure that everything the founders, Alex and Iain, want done, gets done! I also hop on the coffee bar when I’m all caught up on objective #1.
Where did your passion for coffee come from?
My passion for coffee grew over time. At first, it was something I just casually drank. Then I began learning and practicing the craft aspects of coffee and eventually I grew fully into the realm where I could appreciate not only what coffee did for me physically, but how it brings people and communities together. It’s the kind of job I’ve always wanted.
What’s the story behind Foxtail Coffee?
The short version of it is something that I think people will really relate to. It all started with two longtime friends, Alex and Iain, who really wanted to build something cool together. Luckily for all of us that something was Foxtail!
What’s your favorite item on the menu?
That varies depending on my mood. My everyday pickup is the Foxtail Original cold brew, but if I’m feeling sweet, I find it hard to resist a cafe con leche. Picking a favorite is so hard to do; there’s a mood for every coffee for me.
Why do you think Winter Park and Orlando have turned into such craft coffee towns?
I think it was an inevitability. There’s been a cry for quality over quantity in Orlando growing for years, and it was peculiar to me that it took so long for coffee. It’s something that’s been peeking through at points in the city, but sometimes getting people to see coffee, and more specifically cafes, as more than just a spot for a quick cup was lost to us, not only as Floridians but as Americans as a whole. We just want to bring it back to being about people and not just a commodity.
What do you think sets Foxtail Coffee apart from others?
One of the biggest things that sets us apart is our desire to never be apart from the people we serve. We take great care in all aspects of our cafe and a cafe is more than just the coffee. A cafe is the building, the roaster, the espresso machine, the barista, the consumer, and so on and so on. None of them can be neglected, and I think a lot of people are tired of going to a space to just be neglected. We believe in taking the extra time not only to prepare an excellent beverage, but to also have excellent interactions with the people who come in to see us and join us in our space.
What’s your favorite city to grab a cup of Joe?
It sounds cliche of me to say Seattle as a coffee drinker, right? Well let me tell you about Seattle! Part of Olivia’s (my wife) family lives out in Seattle, so we go out there almost every year. We treat a couple of days as our tour de force of the city’s food and drink scene, and in Seattle, that means a whole lot of coffee. I was personally blown away at Stumptown a couple years ago. I literally walked into their roasting area and had a conversation with one of their roasters for a half hour about coffee and the details of his roast process. Not only was I impressed by his knowledge, but I was impressed with how so much of what they were doing at the time was geared towards the areas that Stumptown was in. For them, each space was it’s own, but they were all there to serve their communities (at the time they had a roaster in Seattle, Portland, and NYC).
What’s your preferred brewing style? Why?
When I’m at home, I default to pour over more often than not. It’s a great method for cupping a variety of coffees and dissecting more subtlety and complexity depending on the varietal of the coffee. I really enjoy slightly more manual methods of brewing, especially ones that can be better or worse based on human error.
What do you see for the future of Foxtail Coffee?
The future of Foxtail Coffee is a bright one, and one that I can’t wait to see play out. Currently, we’re not sure what we want to do next. Well not completely, we have plenty of ideas brewing. Some we’ll be announcing shortly, but I love surprises and I’d hate to spoil any early.
What’s your favorite thing about setting up shop in Central Florida?
How unexpected I think it was. I mean, December 1 hit and it was like we just lowered our shoulders and burst out! We knew that it would be busy–our founding team did a great job at cultivating a lot of anticipation for the brick and mortar opening–but even we weren’t completely ready for how well received it was. It meant a lot of long days for a lot of us, but that’s where passion took over and the team rallied.
Most importantly, how do you take your coffee?
My only personal mantra about coffee is this: Death before decaf.
Flavor by the Fox-ful
Let’s get down to brass tax here. Is it any good?
End of blog post? No, of course there’s more to it.
Places to Park It
Though parking can be a bit scarce in the lot behind the Foxtail Coffee building during its busiest hours, there are plenty of street parking options available in the area.
When it comes to seating, quarters can also get a little tight during rushes. Luckily, there’s ample room on the dog-friendly, bench-covered patio/courtyard area that Foxtail Coffee shares with its neighbors.
Location & Looks
Sitting right on Orange Ave., Foxtail Coffee is conveniently close to many popular Central Florida ‘hoods, including Baldwin Park, Mills 50 and Downtown Orlando. As for the shop itself, it is a collection of dark woods and exposed metals, making it a rare balance between industrial and cozy. Covered in coffee contraptions and the aroma of the on-site roaster, it’s something of a mix between a mad scientist’s lab and cabin.
The selection is what you might expect from a quality coffee shop, featuring the likes of cold brew (both bottled and on-tap), cappuccinos, lattes, and a selection of espresso drinks, as well as fresh-brewed coffee that can be French pressed, poured over or siphoned based on your preference.
Want to take a little Foxtail home with you? Mugs, house-roasted coffee beans, and other accessories can be yours, all with the style that’s apparent in everything bearing the Foxtail Coffee Co. name.
The Final Sip
Beyond all else, I’d say the one word I walk away from Foxtail Coffee with is “quality”. It’s present in the ambiance of their café, the richness of their coffee and the attention they pay to their growing and loyal fanbase. Though their social media surely spread the word initially, it is friends, coworkers and family who are responsible for Foxtail’s growing success. I know that’s what got me to finally give Foxtail a visit–a friend who has to visit every time he’s in town and the coworker who gushed about her experience there.
Now, I am the preacher. I posted a picture of my first cold brew on Instagram only to find that the Foxtail Coffee Instagram page picked it up to use on their own social media channels (giving credit to the photographer, of course). It was the perfect layer of foam to top the latte of love I’ve developed for the place.
As far as recommendations for your next business meeting or remote work day, I’d definitely scope the café before or after morning and afternoon rushes to secure a table before cementing plans. Yes, my biggest gripe is that they’re too successful; not bad for a new business.
Mike impressed something on me during our interview that embodies Foxtail’s entire approach to business: coffee is community, not commodity. Even as we sat on the benches just outside the shop on that overcast Monday morning, we were stopped by multiple regulars who simply wanted to say hello and catch up with him. It felt like I was interviewing a beloved mayor or the varsity quarterback. It became instantly apparent that he and the staff of Foxtail have become much more than coffee pourers to this little nook of Central Florida professionals, students and residents.
Foxtail Coffee Co. stands as consecrated, common ground not just for quality coffee, but for a diverse community yearning for a new space to share thoughts, ideas and a genuine human connection. Coffee is community.