Buddy Brew coffee roaster Phillip Holstein leans into the roaster, ear to the beans. He’s listening for the first crack. Buddy Brew roasts its beans for 10-15 minutes, a medium roast.
“You can manipulate the flame and bring out brighter acidity with citrusy aspects,” Holstein says. “You can highlight different undertones.”
Owners Dave and Susan Ward began roasting at home for themselves and friends in 2002. Soon, the home roaster was traded in for a Diedrich 1R-7 commercial roaster to keep up with the demand of their new online store. And by 2010 the self-proclaimed “coffee freaks” had enough business to open up a shop on Kennedy Boulevard.Named after their late great golden retriever, Buddy, the storefront was initially intended to be a commercial space for wholesale roasting, not a bona fide coffee shop.
“We both quit our jobs,” Susan says. “Suddenly, it went wild.”
Coffee was served up front, available for purchase for $2 per bottomless cup via the honor-system metal can on the counter. Quickly, the Wards’ roasting space turned into a bustling who’s-who meeting spot for coffee in Tampa.
“More than 100 hours of labor overall goes into brewing a $2 cup of coffee,” says Dave. “It’s an affordable luxury.”
The metal can “cash register” still sits on the counter today, but the drink offerings have gotten infinitely more diverse (as has the customer base, including regulars like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn). The company does a lot of wholesale coffee business locally, with beans often hand-delivered via bicycle. And during the 2012 Republican National Convention, it was Buddy Brew’s coffee that fueled journalists and politicos in the Google Lounge. The Wards also recently landed a major deal with Whole Foods locations across Florida.
The space at 2020 Kennedy is currently being expanded to increase roasting capacity and seating. Holstein does most of the roasting these days, while the Wards continue to grow the Buddy Brew empire under Dave and Susan’s motto: “Brew good, do good."
Buddy Brew, 2020 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa; 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. (inside Oxford Exchange). buddybrew.com.