Interview: Panther Coffee co-founder Joel Pollock

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Panther Coffee founders Joel and Leticia Pollock joined daughter Luciana in front of their Wynwood Arts District coffeehouse.

Just when it was beginning to look like Miami might be a specialty coffee desert, Twitter respondents pointed me toward the city’s Wynwood Arts District, where Joel Pollock and Brazilian born wife Leticia Ramos Pollock established Panther Coffee in December, 2010. They arrived in South Florida by way of Portland, where he was a roaster and shareholder for Stumptown, and she worked as a trainer for Ristretto. We met at the coffeehouse on November 28, and Joel Pollock took a brief break from roasting Brazilian beans on a 10-kilo, 1927 Perfekt machine to discuss his family’s very first coffee operation, the Miami coffee scene and more caffeinated insights.

What’s the biggest challenge about opening a café in Miami?


So that’s true anywhere, pretty much.

Yeah, I think Los Angeles, New York and Miami are some of the worst, but we really sat here for six months before we could swing a hammer, which was tough. Our contractor was right in one sense. He said, “You’ll forget about it.” We’ve forgotten about it. We’ve had good luck. People have responded to the coffee very positively, especially given that it’s a different product. It’s unique for the marketplace here.

Why Miami, and why this location in particular?

We chose Miami because we came here on location and didn’t find the coffee we like or are into. Leticia’s from Brazil, and we were living in Portland and wanted to get out of the rain. Wynwood in particular is a really cool neighborhood, a lot of creative stuff going on, a lot of new businesses, a lot of independent stuff, which is a good thing for here, because it’s really sort of a corporate dominated city, and we were excited to be part of something new that’s happening.

Considering there isn’t an established specialty coffee culture in Miami, how did you go about hiring?

We found some people that had some background experience from other cities. One of them was up in Gainesville, another was in Chicago and New York. We really wanted to do all of the training ourselves, because we found a little bit of a blank slate is a good thing when it comes to espresso and barista work, because that way, individuals haven’t developed their opinions on how things should be done, and they’re a little more flexible to go with how we like things.

This might seem obvious, but why was it important for you to roast your own coffee?



Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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