Call it a Memphis moment. You meet someone who looks like she just stepped out of a DeLorean from the year 2025. And you're like, how did you get here? It happened to me the other day at the new Relevant Roasters Coffee Bar.
Her name is Loma. She's half-Asian with hipster bangs. Before she came to Relevant, she was a barista at Four Barrel Coffee in San Francisco. Before that, she pulled shots at Monmouth Coffee in London. These are among the best coffee shops in the world. So how did Loma wind up in Memphis?
Well, of course, she's from here.
- Justin Fox Burks
- Loma of Relevant Roasters
"I've tried to move back so many times," Loma says. "My family's here, and I get homesick. But each time I came back, I felt like there wasn't really a place for me."
All that changed on her last trip home, in February of this year.
"There was a whole new energy. It just felt like things were happening, you know?"
Try Loma's espresso, and you'll be inclined to agree. On the day I visited, she was pulling shots of house-roasted, single-origin beans from the Sidamo region of Ethiopia. Most espresso shots just taste like coffee, but this one had a personality. It was bright and well-balanced, with floral notes at the front and citrus fruits at the back.
"That's a really juicy shot," says Loma, grinning as she hands me the demitasse. "It kind of sparkles on your tongue."
Relevant owner Jimmy Lewis says he never thought he'd open a coffee shop. The founder of Squash Blossom Market got out of retail 18 years ago, and he says he wasn't looking back. Now he's eating those words — and they're delicious.
"The fact is," Lewis admits, "a coffee bar allows us to showcase the quality of our product in a way that nobody else can."
He's right. Coffee tastes best about three days after it's roasted, and you just can't get that at most coffee shops. But because Relevant sources and roasts the beans themselves, they've got an edge when it comes to freshness. While you're in the shop, try the new Iced Horchata Latte. Made with horchata from La Michoacana, it just might become your go-to summer beverage.
Back in November, Memphis voters passed a referendum that will allow wine to be sold in grocery stores, beginning in July 2016. Since then, reactions have ranged from tepid excitement to outright hysteria. And the question remains: How will liquor stores fare in the face of a big, new competitor?
For an answer, turn to two new liquor stores at opposite ends of the city. They're getting ahead by offering things that grocery stores can't or won't: liquor (obviously), special events, local food, and a wine selection that is simultaneously wider and more focused. So far, it seems to be working.
The first is Doc's Wine, Spirits & More at Poplar and Kirby. Manager Ryan Gill used to line up concerts for the New Daisy, and he's brought that skill set to his new gig. Doc's offers live music once a month. Check their website for details. Then there's the food: cured meats from Porcellino's Craft Butcher and artisanal chocolates from Phillip Ashley Rix, to name just two.
How a liquor store in Germantown came to carry two of Memphis' most prestigious craft foods, I'll never know. But since you can, why not pair Porcellino's Amatriciana sausage with a custom Dolcetto blend from Brutocao Cellars?
The second store is Quench Wine & Spirits, down the street from the Peabody hotel. Their big idea is so old that I think it qualifies as new: They're a liquor store you can walk to. Add to that monthly wine tastings, local munchies, and top-shelf customer service, and you've got a winner.
"We're keeping it classy," says manager Meghan Bridges. "I don't know if you noticed, but we've got chandeliers."