Superior Coffee, Beaufort, SC
507 Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena, SC 29920
It’s been months since I’ve done a write-up on ye’ old blog and before I spend too much time focusing on that, I just want to say it’s good to be back. After I found out I was pregnant and as days creeped nearer and closer to delivery day, I kept thinking something in my life will HAVE to give. I couldn’t keep going at the same pace with a baby. It wasn’t going to be time with my family, my Air Force job or my self-care rituals. So naturally, the blog was the first thing to slip. But in these last few weeks of maternity leave before I head back to work, it’s been nice to return to my passion (during nap time) and revisit this old memory of Beaufort that was brought back to life when my husband and I decided to take a weekend trip to Beaufort with our now two-month old daughter, Eleanor, last weekend.
During my visit in February 2019, I had the pleasure of chatting with the head manager at Superior Coffee, Matthew Haigler, and learning more about this truly lovely location.
Superior Coffee owners Tristan and Jessica Lehnert have owned a uniquely southern business for over three generations. Their original passion of all-natural, no sugar added ciders is embodied in Carolina Cider Company AKA the heart of this location. Where did coffee come into the cider business? A brother of the of the current owners was the first to take up a coffee venture of his own in Colorado. And though Tristan and Jessica initially thought of themselves as coffee enthusiasts and not necessarily coffee specialists, the thought of opening up a coffee shop themselves blossomed over time. They became acquainted with Counter Culture Coffee and took advantage of the educational classes Counter Culture offered. Thus, with their growing knowledge of the specialty coffee scene and space available in their shop, they opened Superior Coffee within the original Carolina Cider Company location in July 2016.
But No Roasting?
Early on in my coffee blogging venture, I discovered that most coffee shop owners either a) roast their own coffee or b) aspire to roast their own coffee. They began by roasting coffee out of their kitchen or garage at home and broke onto the coffee scene as a roaster before they moved on to establish their own brick and mortar location. Or, they take the opposite approach, by opening a shop brewing a trusted local roaster (or a few roasters), and then after garnering up a following around their shop, they establish their own roasting business. While I was in London, shop owners explained to me that simply selling coffee and scones wasn’t enough of a business in itself to turn a profit. Wholesale coffee roasting was key to making coffee shop ownership profitable, and thus sustainable.
Therefore, I was shocked when I heard the Matthew’s response to my question of when Superior Coffee intended to begin roasting their own coffee. The answer: they had no such intention. I was like, huh?
As Matthew carefully explained, Superior Coffee did not believe they could do both coffee roasting and coffee shop management well. They chose to pursue the latter and do it exceptionally well. Besides, they had a wonderful partnership with Counter Culture Coffee, a roaster who was producing notoriously great grounds, providing baristas with training and educating to keep folks like Superior Coffee on the cutting edge of the coffee scene. As for their profit, Superior Coffee benefits from the sale of merchandise in the shop. This extra profit bump keeps their business successful and churning.
I’d never heard such an explanation. But, it was brilliant. And, who was I to doubt it? Superior Coffee is doing so well having just opened a second Superior Coffee location at their other Carolina Cider shop a ways down the road.
Not Just Coffee
Of course, Superior Coffee isn’t just coffee. What coffee shop is just coffee nowadays anyway? As the pictures above demonstrate, they’ve got a boutique-like interior featuring their famous all-natural ciders, farm-house chic home decor items, locally crafted lotions, wine and a hilariously witty greeting card collection.
Aside from their merchandise, their pastry menu is a big local brag as well. Their cookies and pastries are from the local Beaufort Bread Company and their pies and fruit bars are from Southern Living award-winning pie maker Laura Goodman, the baker behind Sweet Cakes. This year, they also began selling home-made sandwiches for lunchtime visitors.
Let me just say, I’ve gotten a WHOLE pie both times I’ve visited. It’s as good as they say and then some.
Coffee and a Bit More
What do I love most about this place? Well it’s hard to say. However, the friendliness of their staff left a huge impression on me. The barista was so genuinely chill, friendly and chatty. I learned that he left the slick scene of California for this slice of southern in South Carolina and hasn’t looked back.
Each time I visited, he brewed up fabulous cappuccinos, filled to the brim and garnished with perfect latte art. The coffee menu has it all; drip, espresso-based drinks and manual pour-overs.
I was so pleased during my visit to see a middle-aged woman come in with her best friend and insist her friend try this ‘great roast’ she had last time she was at Superior Coffee. Though they didn’t have it on drip this time, the barista ground some beans fresh and made them a pour-over. I loved it. A scene like this is typical in hipster-filled cities like Los Angelos, but it isn’t so common small, Southern cities like Beaufort. It’s obvious that if the third-wave coffee culture is spreading to Beaufort, Superior Coffee has quite a bit to do with it.
Oh, and on cooler days, do take advantage of the patio out back.
And here we are. Full circle. No longer pregnant, but me gloriously happy with my little girl in my arms. I’m so grateful to be sharing this coffee shop passion of mine with her before she’s even able to hold up her own head. Before I know it, she’ll be sipping right along side me.