New ATEC coffee bar attracts students

Photo by Anna Phengsakmueang | Mercury Staff.

At mid-morning on Thursday, ATEC is still fairly quiet. Suddenly, from under the big staircase, there comes a tiny puff of steam. A moment later, there’s a smooth click and a low hum. 20 seconds later, there’s the unmistakable scent of fresh espresso.

The smells and sounds come from an espresso machine at the heart of Lemma Coffee’s new outfit at UTD. From behind the counter, barista Michaella Headrick pours freshly steamed milk into the shape of a heart on top of a latte.

At night, the coffee bar, mounted on wheels, can be tucked away completely under the stairwell. The only connection to the building is an electrical outlet. In lieu of plumbing, Lemma has a small tank of filtered water and a tank for wastewater that’s emptied in JSOM.

Lemma Coffee is a small-scale coffee roaster based in Denton, about 30 miles northwest of campus. The UTD stand, which opened Jan. 28, will be their second brick-and-mortar location and their first venture outside Denton.

Chase Record, a barista and quality control specialist, said Lemma sources and roasts all the beans themselves. He said it ensures the company’s standards are followed and customers can get the best coffee.

“We do a lot of single-origin coffees. This way, we can pick the coffees for the flavors, not just the roast profiles,” Record said. “With blends you’re going to get a lot of different regions, roast profiles, things like that.”

For Lemma, single-origin sometimes means the beans are sourced from a single farm. Record said they buy four to eight bags at a time. The bags weigh around 150 pounds each.

“One of our offerings, our Alto Cielo Colombia — we just roasted the last of it yesterday, so here in the next week or so, it’ll be completely gone until the next season.”

For fans of flavored coffee drinks, Lemma makes its own syrups as well. Currently, there’s chocolate, caramel and vanilla, but Record said the selection will be expanding as they get more business. Lemma also offers vegan and non-dairy option and sells a range of vegan and gluten-free bakery goods from locally-owned Reverie Bakeshop, located at the intersection of Coit and Campbell.

Record said the coffee bar has gained traction. Atop the refrigerator display, there’s a framed dollar bill, signed by ATEC Dean Anne Balsamo.

“They’re there for us too, which is really nice,” Record said. “They want to see this in multiple places across campus, we just have to get this up and running.”

Lemma Coffee signed a contract with Chartwells on campus to open the tiny coffee bar. In lieu of rent, they pay a small operation fee.

“It’s like, what are the little things we have to do legally we have to do to get in here, like getting up to health code,” Record said.

Record said he’s confident that even ATEC’s big, open atrium can feel cozy with time.

“We want to get another table and some chairs, and we want this to have a coffee shop-like vibe, where people can just come and hang out,” Record said. “We want to bring a lot of life to this building.”

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