Chris Palacio is a coffeehouse kind of guy.
The coffeehouse scene is what he missed most when he moved down to West Palm Beach from New York five years ago. It’s what he sought when he got here.
It was at a coffee spot in Northwood that he met his girlfriend, Liz Brach. And a coffee shop is where he’s spending all his waking hours now, and probably some of his reveries, as he turns Coastars Coffee Bar in Lake Worth into the community coffeehouse of his dreams.
“There’s a coffee shop on every block (in New York City) and there’s a really strong sense of community because of it. They’re open until 2 a.m.,” Palacio, 31, remembers. So when he moved down here, looking to try out a different state, he opened Harold’s Coffee Lounge in Northwood with Keith Palagye. That was four years ago.
“After working there for a couple of years, I felt like it was time to open my own place,” Palacio said.
Along with managing Harold’s, he met a young woman that swept him off his feet. Liz Brach joined him in his coffee shop dream. They choose Lake Worth because of the sense of community, he says.
“Lake Worth seemed like the type of community that would be really receptive to a coffee shop,” Palacio says. “People are really involved in the community and they’re socially conscious, and they like conversation — and a lot of my customers ride their bikes here.”
Coastars opened in January and offers yoga on Tuesday nights ($10 suggested donation), and monthly poetry open-mic nights. Saturday night ushers in DJs or live music.
It also offers baked goods, baked fresh every morning by Kenneth Bean of Mr. Bean’s Bakery. The offerings include a variety of crepes such as PB & J or Nutella, cranberry scones and almond croissants.
And then there’s the coffee.
Coastars uses Counter Culture coffee, based out of North Carolina, a roaster that promotes direct-trade practices, working directly with coffee growers. The company offers training courses, which Palacio attended in Atlanta.
“They take it really seriously and I really enjoy the coffee,” he says. “When I make the coffee here, it’s to order. I don’t grind the beans until the customer orders and then I use a scale, and a timer and the kettle.”
The scale tells exactly how much coffee the barista is using and then how many millimeters of coffee to use, the timer is for exactly three to four minutes brew time and the kettle is used to attain specific brew temperature for the coffee.
“When you use coffee that’s ground fresh, even compared to something ground 20 minutes ago, there’s a real noticeable difference in taste and quality,” Palacio said.
The coffee selection changes by season — current offerings are from Ethiopia, Kenya and Southern Mexico. There’s also an espresso menu and something called a Chemex Brew method (which looks like a beaker and makes four servings at a time — perfect for groups). There’s Yerba Mate and a decadent White Velvet Latte with pieces of white chocolate melted into the milk. The most popular offering is a cold brew — with the coffee steeped in water in an airtight container for 18 hours. Because there’s no heat, certain oils aren’t released into the coffee so there’s no trace of bitterness or acidity.
And Coastars might be the first coffee house actively encouraging you to drink your coffee elsewhere with their “disloyalty card.” Right now, Harold’s in Northwood, Habitat in downtown West Palm, Beat Cup Coffee in Delray Beach and Coastars are on the card.
“It works like a reward card except you’re rewarded by trying all the other coffee shops (on the card),” Palacio said. “I’d like to get more on the card if we build a bit more of a coffee culture.”
COASTARS COFFEE BAR
- Located at 12 South J Street, Lake Worth; 561-383-0400; CoastarsCoffee.com
- Open Monday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.