Jeremy Doss, founder of Artistic Bean (in Townsend), is a study in contrasts. Originally from Alabama, he moved to east Tennessee from New York City. An artist and dancer, he’s quickly becoming an important figure in regional coffee. His soft-spoken personality wouldn’t imply someone who’s been successful in multiple arenas.
In New York City, while working as a choreographer, Jeremy met his future wife who, he says, “pulled him into the coffee world.” On a trip they took together, he discovered that coffee could be something more than what he’d previously experienced. The couple moved to Townsend in 2003 and eventually his obsession with coffee grew and his art “studio started looking more like a coffee house.”
He opened the first Artistic Bean in 2014 and is expanding rapidly. A second location opens in Maryville (1738 W. Broadway) this weekend and the target date for the new location at the nexus of Old North and Fourth and Gill in Knoxville has a target opening date of May 16. This location will be owned and operated by Mohammed Fawaz and Will Sims – the owners of the Juice Box, which I wrote about just a couple of weeks ago.
Jeremy says the distinction in his coffee shop is the particular way in which the coffee is made. It starts with the beans, which are organic and free trade. He gets beans from Columbia, Sumatra, Mexico and Guatemala and roasts them himself in small batches. You can watch him roasting them if you drop into the Townsend location. He also has a Mexican decaf that uses a mountain water process to remove the caffeine which he says produces an “amazing range of flavors.”
After experimenting with numerous espresso machines, he settled on a manual model that he feels makes a tremendous difference in the coffee, making it smoother and more balanced. While automated machines have a constant issue with water temperature, the process is different in a manual model. It’s a different enough process that experienced baristas need more training – which is what he’s doing now in preparation for the openings.
One of the most rewarding comments he’s heard has come from European visitors to the Townsend shop who tell him that his is the best cup of coffee they’ve found in the country. He credits much of that to the fact they are using a machine that has been made (and only slightly changed) in Italy since 1905. It’s a Victoria Arduino Athena Leva and the copper version (his in Townsend is chrome) is a beautiful piece of machinery.
Mohammed had eyed the corner spot in the building from the time Kbrew vacated and decided to take it without being certain how he would use it. He noticed two things: People continued to come to the location for coffee and he kept hearing about the Artistic Bean in Townsend from people who drove there for the coffee (they also sell the beans). After meeting Thomas, they agreed to do, essentially, a franchise. The agreement was made on a handshake with the promise they would adhere to Thomas’ quality standards.
Once open, you’ll find a full range of coffee drinks from basic to the most fancy. The mocha sauce and white chocolate for the drinks will be made in-house. The chai is made from scratch. You’ll also find baked goods by Connie Millar of Wild Mountain Rose Bakery. She also bakes for Copper Cellar.
You’ll notice similarities and differences from the space’s last incarnation as a coffee house. Nice ceiling tiles have been added, the bar around the edge has been lowered to make the small shop feel more spacious. The counter is the biggest and most fun surprise. It’s the actual front-end of an Indian-made Tata truck. The lights actually work. Mohammed and Will hope to have additional outdoor seating along the side of the building.
The tentative opening date is May 16 and hours haven’t been firmly set, but they plan to open early and say the hours may be roughly, 6:30 AM to 7:00 PM during the week and perhaps 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Saturday with Sunday yet to be determined. Mohammed is considering a coffee giveaway the first day, so watch the main Facebook Page for more information. He ended our interview saying, “If we can get people to taste it, they will understand the difference.” I’m intrigued.