Panther Coffee Brews Up a Specialty Scene in Miami

Categories: Review

Joel Pollock sniffs a sample of beans from the roaster.
Of all the competitors at Panther Coffee on a recent Friday night, Jed Baxter slurps the loudest. It's a sharp noise, like a vacuum sucking up a spilled drink. The rules of the game are simple. Before him sit 12 cups of coffee, arranged in sets of three. In each group, two brews are the same; one is different. Baxter must identify the odd cup out.

Wearing cuffed camouflage jeans and dark oxfords, he turns to his skittish rival. Does she stand a chance? Not likely. Baxter has tattoos. And his slurps intimidate.

Quickly, the 25-year-old professional coffee taster dunks a silver spoon into one cup, slurps, and moves on to the next. He pushes the final cup past the finish line. The four-minute mark soon arrives. Hands up! He gets four out of four correct and whisks on to the second round.

But not everyone in the crowd is a pro. At this inaugural event called Tridays, there are tourists, a giggly kid in sandals, and New Times staff writers Terrence McCoy and Michael E. Miller. Even I signed up -- mostly for research -- but also because I was under the notion I knew a thing or two about coffee. (I was wrong.)

With 19 contestants buying in, there's nearly $200 at stake. All of that just for drinking some coffee. The slurping was sure to get serious.

Which is exactly how Panther Coffee's business prospects look these days. A few years ago, even this rather innocuous tasting competition would have seemed out of place in Miami. The specialty coffee scene here was minute. But in 2011, a coffee-roasting triumvirate made its Magic City debut: Panther Coffee, Alaska Coffee Roasting, and Eternity Coffee Roasters.

Since then, Panther Coffee -- which soon emerged as the cadre's strongest -- has earned mad street cred. The New York Times has extolled it three times. American Express featured the coffee shop in a commercial during the 2012 Academy Awards. Finally, earlier this year, Panther Coffee won the prestigious Good Food Award, a national prize for responsibly produced foods.

But now the coffee shop wants more. Going beyond roasting and brewing, its owners strive to educate the local community on specialty coffee.

Location Info

Panther Coffee

2390 NW 2nd Ave., Miami, FL

Category: Restaurant

Panther Coffee

1875 Purdy Ave., Miami Beach, FL

Category: General

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