Dr. Bean's Coffee and Tea Emporium stands out from other local roasters in Memphis. At its helm is Dr. Albert Bean, an emergency room physician who brings precision to the art of preparing coffee.
After working at pop-up events around town for the past few years and partnering with numerous local establishments to feature freshly roasted coffee, Dr. Bean's Coffee and Tea Emporium plans to open its first shop next year downtown at 72 Madison Avenue.
Dr. Bean’s co-owners Charles Billings and Dr. Albert Bean began roasting two and half years ago. The traveled to Portland and attended American Barista School for barista and early roasting training. They came back to Memphis and began doing training roasts and small batch roasting in a one-kilo roaster to produce samples for friends and family.
Billings and Bean, who had once been next door neighbors, decided to start the business after realizing that the Memphis market could develop more local coffee roasters.
“Our goal is to continue learning about coffee, always educating ourselves about roasting and preparation,” said Bean, who initially became interested in coffee after taking he took a tour of a local coffee farm on a trip to Panama. “We’re really trying to make the end product that the customers will have the best it can be, either in our cafe or at home or in another shop.”
One year later the pair traveled to Waterbury, Vermont for another week of training.
“We really want to focus on roasting the beans and accentuate the flavor of the coffee,” said co-owner and roaster Charles Billings. “Instead of simply doing a light, medium and dark roast, we wanted to find what that bean’s story is and develop the flavors of the beans.”
Getting into producing coffee as his first business venture outside of his chosen profession was an easy transition for Bean, an emergency medicine specialist at Methodist University Hospital.
“In the emergency department, you have to deal with flow and different people, so being in café those skill sets easily cross over for me,” said Bean, who has worked as a doctor for the past 18 years. “The other part is I do enjoy the science and creation aspects of coffee.”
Dr. Bean’s currently roasts an average of 400 to 600 pounds of coffee each week at its roasting facility in the New Chicago neighborhood.
“Once our shop opens, that production will easily double,” said Billings. “We have the capacity to roast 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of coffee per week with the equipment that we have now.”
The roaster maintains great relationships with the neighborhood’s residents.
“It’s definitely a friendly environment for us,” said Bean. “The residents seem to be pleased with us, and we give them a bag of coffee occasionally and chat.”
In the past two years, Dr. Bean’s has partnered with a number of restaurants and cafes around town including Tart in Midtown, Bedrocks Eats, 387 Pantry, Miss Cordelia’s, Elwood’s Shack, Curb Market, Muddy’s, Palladio, and the soon-to-open Tart Express downtown.
Once the shop is up-and-running, Dr. Bean's will join other local in-house roasters including French Truck Coffee and Ugly Mug Coffee.
“We want to partner with other local shops and promote coffee as a Memphis thing, keeping things as local as we can with our coffee and how we do it,” said Billings.
Bean owns the building at 72 Madison Avenue where the new shop will go in, although he had initially planned to turn the building into a residence.
“We decided we wanted to put a flagship cafe in Downtown Memphis, and this building is perfect for that,” said Bean. “It’s close to very nice hotels and local businesses, and the law school and some high-end apartments are less than a block away.”
The coffee shop will be located in the basement of the building, and designs call for a standard coffee bar that will serve cold brewed coffee, espresso drinks, and drip- and pour-over coffees. Tea lovers will also be able to enjoy fresh kombucha, Toscana and whole leaf teas.
As luck would have it, renowned barista Lance Hedrick is moving to Memphis and will be partnering with the shop, which will employ 7 to 12 people when it opens.
Billings hopes to have final plans approved this month, with a possible opening in three to five months.
Plans for the rest of the building, which is currently empty, could include residential units on the upper floors.
Competing in national coffee competitions has been and will continue to be a focal point for the duo moving forward. In September, they entered the Golden Bean competition in Portland, Ore., and won a bronze medal for their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Natural in a pour-over contest.