Byron Gomez kind of stumbled into the coffee world. But the Baton Rouge native’s latest project is anything but unintentional.
Nearly a decade after the head of the coffee program at the teeny and considered French Quarter coffee shop Spitfire became a barista “accidentally,” he’s launched his own roastery with the aim of bringing great-tasting, interesting and sustainably sourced coffees to New Orleans.
“I really didn’t know how much I would fall in love with being a barista,” the 29-year-old owner of Crux Coffee Roasters told Very Local in a recent interview. “[That] is probably a good thing because it’s taken me like 10 years to get to where I’m starting a roasting company.”
Gomez said that he thinks that the time is ripe for specialty roasters in the city, noting the way that New Orleans has gotten into third-wave coffee since he moved back to the city in 2012.
“I was kind of in shock at the lack of specialty coffee,” he said of the landscape back then. “There certainly were people around before Spitfire but it’s kind of exploded over the last few years. I think Spitfire was a big catalyst of that. I’m really happy to have been part of that team and watch it kind of blossom and explode.”
Gomez wants his roastery to be a place where adventurous coffee drinkers can find an interesting cup that they don’t have to feel guilty about. Luckily, quality coffee leads to more ethically sourced beans somewhat naturally.
“My driving force behind wanting to be a roaster is a lot of the sustainability efforts,” he said. “The only thing that makes coffee cost any more is quality. [Coffee industry people] kind of dress it up and try and sell you on the idea of the farmer and the farmer’s dog and that the coffee is picked by hand and more than 10 sets of hands touch it before you get it. But really what drives the price up is quality. Crux is focusing 100% on quality kind of indirectly to fuel back into those sustainability efforts.”
The barista and roaster sees Crux as part of a wave of new roasters that will come to New Orleans as the city’s interest in specialty coffee continues to grow. However, he hopes to set Crux apart by being able to trace his coffee back to the source and share that story with customers.
“The slogan or mantra that I’m kind of pushing is ‘great coffees tell great stories,'” he said. “Everything from seed to cup, I want to be able to have all of that information traceable and ready. Hopefully, for customers who don’t care to dive into all that information, that manifests in the cup and every coffee that they taste is unique and individual.”
Ultimately, Gomez just wants to be a source for seekers who want something “new and exciting” out of their coffee.
“For the longest time coffee was kind of viewed…as this monotone commodity,” he said. “[Crux is] throwing this idea of consistency out of the window and introducing people to chasing the dragon of just how deep that [specialty coffee] rabbit hole can be. Who wants to taste the same thing every day?”
Crux Coffee can currently be found at Spitfire and the soon-to-be reopened Pax Treme coffeehouse. Learn more at their Instagram.