8,000 SQUARE FEET OF PURE COFFEE BLISS
By Darien Davies
If you’ve ever seen that part in the movie Elf: “It is a crappy cup of coffee. No, it’s the world’s best cup of coffee,” and laughed, then you know just how true that statement is. Just because someone can claim that a cup of coffee is the best in town, the best in the world, or the best you’ll ever have in your life, doesn’t mean that it’s true. Well, that is unless you’re Alex and Christian Le Clainche from Pumphouse.
Coffee might as well run in their blood, so it makes sense. (Probably why they work so hard and have difficulty not moving.) Their grandfather, a millionaire three times over — and bankrupt three times over — envisioned living out the last days of his life enjoying dirty hands cultivating coffee on his coffee farm in Jamaica. Sadly, it didn’t quite pan out for him, but the introduction to that life stuck with his grandsons long after.
“I was surprised by the stark contrast at being at sea level and it being hot — you’re in the water all day — and then all of a sudden you’re up in the mountains at the coffee farms and it’s the middle of the day and you’re wearing a sweater,” said Alex, who was about 9 years old at the time. “When I started looking to get into coffee, I was reaching as to what I was going to do and what might be a good fit. There was a long process of a discovery, but I think there was some underlying romanticism between having those memories as a kid and those kind of shifting year over year that helped me turn in that direction.”
Pumphouse opened as a business in April 2016 and the brothers literally had to grind to make the business percolate. They hustled at the West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens green markets and attended almost every event they could where they could offer free samples and talk to potential future customers and clients about the nature of their beans. Slowly but surely, and even with the COVID pandemic thrown in the mix, they made it happen because they listened to the many inquiring coffee lovers who kept asking, “Where can I get your coffee served by you guys?”
“It was a lot of running with scissors. We were the new kids on the block. No one wanted to touch us with a 10-foot pole. I liken it to craft beer in the sense that it wasn’t but 15 years ago that it was Budweiser and Coors that owned the taps. Then all of that shifted,” said Alex, who states that they took a pretty aggressive grassroots effort to generate awareness for their business. “We knew it was going to take time. We started at a time where it was early, but on the flip side of that, too, if we started any later, it would have been quite difficult for us.”
So, they found a small warehouse space, moved in their roasters, and got to cooking. Almost organically, thirsty visitors found their information online and wandered into their warehouse, looking for a cup o’ joe. True to their nature, they had a coffee maker and always offered a free cup. Word spread, their wholesale accounts grew, deals poured in and local spots offering their expertly crafted coffee increased at a rate that couldn’t be ignored.
“While we’ve helped to broaden access to better coffee in our backyard, not everyone was going to take coffee as seriously as we do,”
said Alex, who decided that he didn’t want to sell something that he didn’t believe in. “We’re either going to go to zero, or we can come out of this with something. As a small business, it’s David versus Goliath. I have a slingshot; how can I make this work as best as possible? [Finding the Pouratorium space] was a huge win for us. We’ve never made any serious mistakes because we’ve never been able to afford them.”
Which brings us to now, almost seven full years later. The brothers, in addition to Will, an extreme roaster, coffee visionary and their first ever addition to the team, and about 30 team members between three locations (Grandview Public Market, the Pouratorium and a shared space with Cones & Coffee), they’ve been able to successfully meet the market for premium coffee. But they even take it a step further, making the Pouratorium something unique in and of itself. It’s basically where the finest coffee beans turn into the most grand and delicious coffee cocktails imaginable.
The 8,000-square-foot cafe, roastery and lab exist to create the perfect espresso, coffee, cold brew and tea, as well as scratch-made food, beer, wine and “plenty of other surprises.” There’s room for guests to chill with their cold brew or mellow out with a macchiato, meet up with friends, get some emails sent or sit back and watch as coffee beans are roasted right in front of them. The best part — in addition to transforming how great a cup of coffee can be — is that they’re open seven days a week at 7 a.m.
But it’s not just about serving coffee, it’s about educating their team and wholesale partners at large about how to roast, serve, assess, respect and think about coffee. They plan to use the lab as the space to do that.
“It’s the kind of place where we can bring you in and do foundational training and get you up to speed, get you confident, get you understanding what you’re going to be selling and how to produce it consistently and learning not only about the craft but how to execute properly,” Alex said.
Yep, it’s a new kind of coffee, from a new kind of team, brewing a new kind of future. All we know is that it’s delicious and we wonder how we ever lived without it before.
1016 Clare Ave. STE 5A, West Palm Beach