Dr. Bean's Coffee Roasters, which is co-owned by Dr. Albert Bean and Charles Billings, imports coffee beans from around the world and "roasts them with care" to ensure an unparalleled coffee-drinking experience.
"We have always been looking for a customer-facing location," Billings says. "When the food hall approached us about the opportunity [to move in], we thought it was the best of both worlds."
As an incubator, Puck Food Hall offers a safe space for culinary minds to show off their creations with very little overhead, as well as a sense of camaraderie among the chefs and creators involved.
- Lorna Field
"I guess it's like culinary heaven," Billings says of Puck Food Hall. "It's sort of like this beautiful melting pot of everything going on in the culinary side of Memphis."
Bean, an E.R. doctor at Methodist University Hospital, had always wanted to start a coffee business.
"Where do young doctors spend most of their time when they're studying? Coffee shops," Billings explains. "Because they're going to class for 12, 13, 20 hours a day in hospitals. So [Bean] had always had the idea to it."
Billings and Bean met as neighbors when they were young, and it wasn't long before the two started to develop Bean's vision.
"We had always talked about wanting to do something together. And then he took a tour of a coffee farm when he was in Panama, and that sort of rekindled that fire for doing coffee," Billings says. "Three weeks later, he's at a medical conference in Portland and met the guys from Water Avenue Coffee. They're sort of coffee royalty and really great people who started to inspire us."
Billings and Bean realized that there was a burgeoning coffee community right here in Memphis and wanted to be part of it.
"For the last five years, we've been sort of hyper-locally growing and building our coffee community," Billings says. "Memphis has always had that local feel to it. Now there are six or seven local coffee roasters.
"It's just a really, really big coffee community and a really neat time for coffee in Memphis in particular. And the community itself is great. We'll meet for cocktails and just sort of talk about the things we're doing with coffee, what's fun, what's exciting to us — any technical stuff that we're having problems with, we can reach out and communicate."
Members of the Memphis coffee community seem less competitive and more collaborative and supportive, Billings explains.
Billings' and Bean's hard work has been paying off, too: Dr. Bean's is winning awards across the country, including second place in Coffeefest's best American espresso competition.
"We also participate every year in one of the biggest roaster competitions in the country, which is called Golden Bean North America. This year, we came home with 17 medals — three silver and 14 bronze," he says.
A large part of their success comes from their commitment to sourcing coffee beans from only the most reputable and prestigious farms in the world, including the Elida Estate in Panama. And as head roaster, Billings takes his duties seriously.
"We are the stewards of all of those farmers' hard work, and then it's my job as a roaster to highlight the best I can of that and then to train the baristas to really tell the story behind the coffee," he says.
Both through their kinship with the local coffee community and by participating in national competitions, Billings says that they're "always learning, always teaching.
"You're always challenging yourself to do a little bit more and be a little bit better."
Stop by Dr. Bean's Tuesday through Sunday at 409 S. Main, and be sure to try the Spiced Sweet Potato Latte before it's gone.