Nashville, Tennessee-based Crema Coffee Roasters has opened its fourth and largest coffee shop to date, a 2,600-square-foot cafe with a full kitchen in Brentwood.
Crema Co-Founder Rachel Lehman told Daily Coffee News that the new location in the suburb south of Nashville allowed the brand to explore a new interior design approach inspired by the coffee roasting process.
Moving away from the brand’s signature charcoal and red palette, the new spot inside the Brentwood Place Shopping Center features pale greens reminiscent of unroasted coffee, yellows recalling the drying phase and deep caramelized browns found throughout the 65-seat cafe.
“[The roasting process] was a launching point for the designers to understand some of the warm tones that we were looking for in the space, but also something that was new,” said Lehman. “Our other locations are a little stricter on the brand guidelines, and we utilize some of those in [Brentwood] but they’re more of an accent.”
Natural wood, organic material finishes and potted plants freshen the atmosphere while also echoing the company’s broader sustainability agenda. In addition to purchasing carbon offsets and making all deliveries in electric vehicles, the company strives for “zero waste” through compostable utensils and various recycling, reuse or composting initiatives. The company says it keeps at least 90% of its waste from heading straight into a landfills.
“In the south, it’s really bucking the trend to be doing compost as long as we’ve been doing it,” said Lehman. “Even in this shopping center, we are the first people to even ask for recycling and composting, which is so wild.”
Drinks on the new cafe’s menu include signature seasonal concoctions, coffee soda made fresh daily and beverages that incorporate a house-made sauce with chocolate from Askinosie.
Brentwood is the first Crema location to have its own kitchen on site. Toasts, tartines, sandwiches and salads populate a fresh breakfast and lunch menu created by Chef Courtney Whitsett of postpartum meal service Pour La Mère, who previously worked for Crema as a barista and later as social media manager.
“She really understands cafe spaces and what baristas are and aren’t capable of making behind the counter,” said Lehman. “Customers come in once a day, seven days a week, and they want something that’s good and nourishing for them with their coffee. Pastries are great, but not everyone wants a pastry every day. We wanted something that complements really well, and we wanted the quality of the food to match the quality of the coffee that we’re serving.”
Rachel and Ben Lehman gutted and rebuilt a former Nashville gas station to create the first Crema cafe in 2008. The company brought roasting in house three years later with a Diedrich IR-12 machine overseen by head roaster and green coffee buyer Winston Harris. In 2013 Crema opened inside the Pinewood Social. Growth continued in 2019 with the opening of an East Nashville cafe alongside the company’s new roastery.
Coffees continue to flow to directly to consumers, to Crema’s four retail locations and to wholesale accounts.
“We definitely prioritize the quality of the relationship, and the support we can provide to our accounts, over quantity,” said Lehman. “We don’t do white label and things like that. For us, keeping the brand integrity of the product is really important. Wholesale is a part of our business, and of course we’re happy to bring on more accounts, but really where our strengths shine is us showcasing those coffees that we source and that we sell in the cafes.”
Crema’s Brentwood location officially opened to the public on Aug. 30. Once operations are dialed in, the company plans to shop for a larger roaster while ramping expanding the availability of house-made foods to the other Nashville Crema cafes, according to Lehman.
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Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.