Crema, Nashville, TN
15 Hermitage Ave, Nashville, TN 37204
Are you as surprised as I at the vast number of coffee shops in Nashville? Nashville is a hidden coffee mecca that I hadn’t heard a peep about before visiting. After hitting up over 10 shops, I became convinced that this city is going to be the next Portland. The coffee culture is huge and there are plenty of millennials and hipsters to support it. I’m all about it! Here’s a shop that isn’t just roasting and serving great coffee, but hosting courses so consumers can get closer to, and become more appreciative of, single origin coffee.
a small shop roosted on the edge of music city that has earned the devoted attendance of locals and the praise of visitors.
The story behind this shop is one of determination. Rachel and Ben Lehman, the co-owners, decided to make their coffee dream happen in 2007. Without a penny to spare and the mirror as the only funding source to look at, these two set out to transform an old engine repair shop into their dream coffee house. In order to survive the first two years of entrepreneurship, Ben continued working full time at his corporate job to keep capitol flow and food on the table. Rachel began the long journey of 70+ hour work weeks to get things up and running at Crema. Both of them put in the legwork themselves to scrub engine grease off walls and floors and create the mold of the splendid little shop Crema is today.
To note, when Crema was much smaller in size when it first opened in 2008. Half the shop was rented out to help pay the bills. At the start, everything was smushed into one small component with the coffee bar as the focal point. The shop underwent a transformation over time as business boomed and the Lehman couple tore down the concrete wall to practically double the shop’s size. The shop was originally a tad darker (and a lot cozier) than the airy, white washed and shiplapped beauty it is today.
The Coffee + a little food
The coffee menu offers the full third-wave coffee range (excluding their own cold brew): espresso-based drinks, pour-overs (to include a Japanese pour-over), and filtered coffee. I most appreciated the opportunity to select from four distinct single-origin roasts for my pour-over. More often than not, most tend to only offer one single origin roast for pour-over.
I had a great pour-over and chat with a friendly barista. I was hooked on the shop enough to come back for a second on my way to spin class the next day. Being late, I opted for a Chai Latte over coffee. I was so pleased to discover that they make their Chai’s with an authentic Indian tea concentrate from Chai Walla, as opposed to a thick, sugar chai from powder. It was spicy and aromatic, both things I look for in a well-made Chai. Though I didn’t try it, I’ve heard their coffee soda is phenomenal, so consider giving that a shot when you visit as well!
The food menu at Crema is fairly small. There are a few savory options, such as quiche and avocado toast, and their sweeter options come in the form of pastries from Dozen Bakery. Though there are enough food options to stop you from going hungry, I wouldn’t recommend showing up very hungry.
Crema took a little while to get on the independent roasting track. At the outset, they brewed beans roasted from Nashville’s Drew’s Brews and Texas’ Brown Coffee Company. Similar to other coffee shops akin to the third wave movement, this duo was intent on developing relationships with growers and wanted direct trade to become apart of their roasting cycle. Three years later, they’ve achieved just their goal of roasting their own brew in house.
As the wall was knocked down, a Diedrich roaster showed up in the back and roasting became apart of the soul of this ship. Rachel and Ben began to travel the world to meet their growers and play a first-hand role in fostering their direct trade dream. Passionate about coffee education, they also initiated coffee cupping classes so customers could learn a little bit about the science behind really tasty coffee. It also gave customers a chance get closer to the origins behind single origin beans. Crema’s classes are still offered and may even become more common in 2018 as Crema looks outward toward expansion.
Since its creation, owners Ben and Rachel have been vocal about wanting to do JUST ONE thing well: coffee. Expansion was not at the top of their list. However, around this time, other Nashville coffee giants were expanding rapidly (think of Dose and Barista Parlor). In order to survive, Crema had to flex their vision and open their vision to expansion as well.
Just across from Crema and visible from its iconic patio is Pinewood Social, which has now become a quasi second location for Crema. The owners of Pinewood Social were regulars of Crema and after conceptualizing the hip hangout of Pinewood Social, they were on the hunt for someone to serve espresso. Who better than their favorite local shop? Fast forward to the present where Creema now serves up both coffee and coffee cocktails from a lux espresso bar at Pinewood.
Rumor also has it that there will be a full second brick and mortar location coming soon to East Asheville. According to the Nashville Business Journal, Crema has acquired a second location in up-and-coming neighborhood. While the verdict still isn’t out quite yet, it looks like Crema may begin to depend on its original location on Hermitage St for coffee education courses and use this second for serving up brews.
Main Location and Seating
The shop is located next to a Shell Gas Station on the edge of downtown Nashville. Crema is also well known for its gravel parking lot, that the owners proudly constructed themselves.. Parking gets packed quick, so you may find yourself walking a block from nearby lots during busy spells.
The tables inside are plentiful and the deck out front provides a beautiful perch on a sunny day. There’s a large number of solo studiers or solo workers set up on the school-like tables inside to get work done inside. The decor is mindfully simple and pictures on the wall tell the story of the growers.
Extra fun fact: Crema is also zero waste, meaning everything is either compostable or recycled.
The Bottom Line
The moral of the story: this place would be a great addition to your list. It’s quaint. The coffee is delicious and intentionally served. The staff is friendly. And… the owners are serious about bringing you tasty coffee from responsible growers. If you’re looking for something unique and educational to do, pay a visit to their site and look for a coffee tasting (cupping) class. Or maybe practice your latte art skills with a friend. Alternatively, I’d recommend choosing a sunny day and making this place your post-lunch perch to re-caffeinate and relax on their deck.