Coffee Culture Elevated at Revival Market
Sean Neef’s work day at Revival Market starts before sunrise.
“The first thing we do is start brewing coffee for the rest of the crew coming in,” he says. “That’s critical.” After that he’s dialing in to the espresso machine—changing the water temperature and the grind settings to make sure his drinks will come out perfect once the doors open.
The front of house assistant manager takes coffee seriously, whether it’s a strong pot of the black stuff for his co-workers or a honey lavender latte for customers. In the last 18 months, Sean has helped dramatically elevate Revival’s coffee program—with a menu that’s tripled in size and taken on flavors from New Orleans to Vietnam.
As a breakfast and lunch restaurant, coffee is a staple of the re-envisioned Revival Market. Few restaurants can also execute a full-service coffee program, but that’s just one of the elements that make Revival an altogether different dining experience.
“What I enjoy most about coffee is that there’s this high ceiling for how much you can learn and keep improving your skill,” Sean says. “As baristas here we’re constantly coming up with new ideas and bring them to the table. That’s what makes this fun.”
To achieve authenticity, Revival makes nearly all of the ingredients that go into its coffee drinks from scratch in house—from caramel to chicory syrup.
“The one guiding principal in making a mixed coffee drink is that each of your ingredients be able to stand alone as delicious,” Sean says. “Nothing should be masking something else. When all of your components are dialed in and great, then you can really experiment as much as you want to.”
Coffee programs are often categorized by which “wave” of the coffee culture movement they follow. The first wave (dating back to the 1800s) was the origin and development of coffee as a consumer product. In the 1990s the second wave was dominated by darker roasts and the café experience itself (think the Starbucks blitzkrieg). The third wave, which emerged in the early 2000s, focused more on the drink-making process, lighter roasts and unique flavors.
Sean says Revival isn’t beholden to a certain approach or wave—rather it’s about crafting quality yet unpretentious drinks. “We want this to be elevated but accessible,” he says.
Sometimes the drinks are inspired by travel. When Chef Ryan Pera and his wife visited Vietnam, he brought back a recipe for Revival’s Vietnamese Egg Coffee made with a savory egg custard that’s whipped into an espresso shot. Sean says it’s a drink he hasn’t seen served outside Vietnam.
Being part of a larger hospitality group can also inform the way Revival executes coffee. For instance, picking up on the cocktail programs at Coltivare and Eight Row Flint, Revival for a while had an “old fashioned” coffee on the menu made with a bit of whiskey.
“Whether people are coming in to grab a cup of coffee and a scone on their way to work or enjoying a completely unique latte drink over breakfast, we want them to enjoy it just the same.”