Situated 120km north of Nairobi, Kianderi is in Murang’a county, bordering the more well known Nyeri District to the south of Mt. Kenya. Smallholder farmers in this area are generally of Kikuyu ethnicity. Kianderi ‘Factory’ is a washing station established by the Weithaga Farmer Cooperative […]
We have two incredible lots from Kabirizi, which also come from a new washing station in its first year of operation, this one in Rwanda’s southern province in the district of Nyamagabe. Built and operated by two farmers from the area who wanted more control […]
Visiting Atlanta for SCAA this year, Octane was first on my list of shops to hit. I’d been to their Grant Park location before, three years ago, from which I still have notes: gray metal and light wood, bright blocks of sunshine, and a Peruvian brew (full-bodied, brown sugar, black cherry, almond). I wondered how their other locations were and decided to stop by their original shop on Westside.
The Westside location has a decidedly different feel, darker and filled with students. Where the Grant Park location is rectangular, high-ceilinged, and window-walled, Octane Westside is a corner shop shaped in an obtuse angle that lends well to a flow of customers that never seems to stop. Here the converted stable windows are half blocked with black mesh screens in the early afternoon, making a cave of productive buzz.
The music is loud, but pleasantly so, relaxed and upbeat when I walk in. I glance briefly at a case of decadent doughnuts, which I half consider before ordering. The drinks list is bountiful: espresso, coffee, and French Press options alongside a long list of loose leaf teas and other beverages. Keeping pace with the latest trends, there’s a nitro iced option as well as classic espresso drinks. On the French Press, they’ve got a triforce of single origin, blend, and decaf to choose from. There’s not much banter at the counter as I order an Ethiopian and turn to search for a seat.
And I do search. The place is packed – every time I think I see a free table I discover someone’s backpack or laptop holding their place. I’m glad I brought mine; looks like this is the place to get work done. I finally settle at the window bar with a solid view of bamboo grass and slivers of parking lot. The chipped wood counter mirrors the one at the bar, behind which liquors gleam against rectangular tiles in shades of matte gray. Steel lab stools with their Masonite board seats remind me of studio classes, and I privately ache at the idea that I’m not in college anymore.
Adequate surrealist paintings break up the brick walls and the floor is poured concrete with a few shrinkage cracks. Behind woodboard, baristas chat with one another or search for cups in spare moments between the throngs. The pastry cases are near empty by four. Others are taken up by awards: Octane’s garnered three Atlanta’s Best and five SCAA/SERBC/Barista Mag awards in its twelve years.
At the moment they’ve just finished setting up a new roastery in nearby Grant Park, a move closer from its former Birmingham location. It’ll serve all seven of their shops littered throughout Atlanta and Alabama. Coffee culture has admittedly been slow in the Southeast, but there’s no doubt that Octane is one of few bright stars leading the region’s coffee scene. Above the bar, clear plastic wings form an indoor awning, mottled like shower doors and diffusing the brighter lights behind them. I’m grateful for this attention to light and its implicit psychology. Hanging from the high ceiling between i-beams, AC vents, and gentle fans are thin black rails with puckering orange bulbs, and I imagine it’s lovely in here at night. Reflecting them from its center stage, a silver disco ball revolves slowly.
A curly-haired barista sets a hefty white mug down beside me. The menu’s tasting notes say juicy grape, citrus, peach, and apricot, but I’m getting a pleasant nuttiness from it as well. Light in body, I feel like I could sip it for a long while, and I do. As I sip, I look over the thirteen tables lined in rows crowded with students on laptops. There are a few conversations but mostly this is a workspace of laidback concentration. Octane feels straightforward, neither pretending anything nor dumbing itself down. From the looks of it, the company has achieved their goal to be “a creative hub where connectivity can happen.”
I wouldn’t mind transitioning from coffee to a cocktail and working through the night.
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