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Alabama’s Domestique Coffee: Reinventing the coffee experience

It’s been a great year so far for Nathan and Michael Pocus, the Birmingham brothers and founders of Domestique, a decade-old coffee-roasting company with a growing roster of cafes and a clear vision for the future.

(Domestique Coffee/Facebook)

In February, Food & Wine Magazine listed Domestique’s coffee beans among the nation’s best, citing the quality of the roasted product and the Pocus brothers’ focus on sustainability, fair trade, and similar practices in their business.

Then, in April, Domestique was awarded a $50,000 top prize in a competition held by Alabama Launchpad, a startup incubator program run by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. The prize money will help the Pocus brothers finish a mobile user app, the next step in the evolution of the company.

Domestique was inspired by a 2013 bicycle trip the Pocus brothers took through Haiti while filming a documentary. That sojourn inspired their idea to start importing green coffee beans from the impoverished country to boost economic opportunities there. The founders describe Domestique as a coffee, hospitality, and lifestyle company.

(Domestique Satellite/Facebook)

In addition to a roastery on Birmingham’s Southside, Domestique also has cafes in Birmingham’s Avondale and Five Points South neighborhoods, and in Homewood. Each has a unique personality. The original, Satellite, is inside the Avondale event space Saturn. Panache in funky Five Points followed in 2019. The latest is Dawn Patrol in Homewood, which is attached—appropriately, given Domestique’s backstory—to a bicycle shop.

The company leadership, which includes Birmingham native Krysta Parsons, likes to stay ahead of the curve. It was one of the first in Alabama to produce nitrogen-dispensed cold-brew coffee. The long-term goal is to open a series of Domestique cafes next to EV charging stations along interstates, where drivers can enjoy a coffee drink while charging their vehicle’s battery.

“It’s really the perfect amount of time to come in, hang out, have a nice coffee—slow coffee, not just the drive-thru style but the third-wave, high attention to detail product that I think people want,” Nathan Pocus once told me. “You can’t find that outside of city centers.”

(Domestique Coffee/Facebook)

Domestique is a darling of Food & Wine. The Birmingham-based publication included Domestique’s Satellite and Panache cafes in its 2022 list of best coffee shops in every state. In March, when the culinary authority placed Domestique’s roastery in its national Top 10, executive editor Karen Shimizu wrote that its beans produced “some of the most nuanced and satisfying coffee I’ve ever had.”

Domestique takes its java very seriously. The company’s website even includes a detailed best-practices guide for making its coffee by different brewing methods, including common drip makers, French press, and pour-over. The family-owned business seeks premium beans in lesser-known regions grown by farmers using sustainable practices. Current offerings include coffees from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ethiopia, and Guatemala. Each batch is finished in Domestique’s unusual fluid-bed roaster at temperatures and times designed to bring out that crop’s individual flavors and characteristics.

“Our roast facility is an expression of our farm partners,” Nathan says. “Our cafes are an expression of our roast facility. The end result, what we taste, wouldn’t be anything without the commitment to quality and sustainability at our different farms.”

Buy bags of Domestique whole-bean coffee at its cafes. Both bags and bulk beans can be ordered online for shipping. Stores carrying the beans include Birmingham-area Piggly Wiggly, Whole Foods, and other boutique markets.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown, a subsidiary of Yellowhammer Multimedia)

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