By Douglas J. Guth | PhotoS by Thomas Skernivitz
The aptly named Pour Cleveland, located in the 5th Street Arcades, first introduced Counter Culture Coffee to downtown workers last November. The airy, bright, urban chic space differs from your normal franchise coffee shop not just in its decor but also in the way the drink of the house is served, Eisenstat says.
Pour-over is a style that grinds the beans for each individual cup of coffee before it is brewed. Ground beans are placed in a funnel into which a barista pours slowly hot water, resulting in a fresh, flavorful extraction its supporters believe is far afield from anything else brewing in Cleveland.
“It’s extremely quality-focused,” Eisenstat says of the pour-over method. “We’re built not just around coffee but an experience.”
It’s taken Clevelanders time to acclimate themselves to a new way of brewing, the 30-year-old shop owner adds. People walking in for a quick cup of to-go joe are surprised and even a bit intimidated by a process that takes a few minutes longer than they’re used to.
Coffee consumers who stick with Pour will find naturally sweet, fresh-made single-origin coffees from all over the world, Eisenstat, a Rocky River resident, says. A Guatemalan blend called Sipacapa, for example, has notes of dark chocolate, raspberry, and lavender, while Ngunguru from Kenya features raisin and grapefruit with a merlot-like body. A pastry case of locally sourced goodies is also available.
The hand-crafted care put into each cup is akin to getting a good steak, Eisenstat says. “You want the steak medium rare so the flavor isn’t cooked out,” he says. “Our coffees are roasted lighter to bring out the inherent flavor in the beans.”
If Eisenstat wasn’t always so high-minded about coffee, it’s because he didn’t know any better. He only drank coffee to stay awake when studying for his degree in tax law and estate planning. While at Georgetown University, he happened upon a pour-over coffee shop. There he drank his first life-changing brew of freshly ground beans.
Inspired by the experience and disillusioned by the job prospects in his field, Eisenstat spent two years writing a business plan. He returned to Cleveland in 2010 following a six-month whistle-stop in Chicago, opening Pour Cleveland over Thanksgiving week last year.
The rookie entrepreneur’s vision was to create something new and exciting for Cleveland. Eisenstat traded the earth tones of franchise shops for clean, modern lines and lots of natural sunlight. As for his product, he didn’t want anything to do with flavor syrups, just unadorned goodness straight from the beans themselves.
Eisenstat funded his venture with borrowed money from friends and family, along with a crowdfunding campaign for the Arcade sponsored by Downtown Cleveland Alliance. The leap was a scary one, but it was a risk he needed to take.
“Coffee is something I’m passionate about,” the father of a 15-month-old boy says. “My wife (Maggie) has been very supportive.”
Getting people to be open-minded about specialty coffee has presented a challenge, the bearded shop-owner says. However, the negative stereotype of the snooty know-it-all barista does not apply at Pour, he adds. The friendly staff encourages questions, and Pour Cleveland is planning to reach out to potential customers through home-brewing classes and public tastings. A website is also in the works.
“Educating customers is a big part of what we do,” Eisenstat says.
Approaching Pour Cleveland’s first-year anniversary, Eisenstat feels his start-up coffee shop can be another piece of downtown’s ongoing revitalization. If more people want to say no to corporate coffee while having the same thrill he did when sipping pour-over for the first time, then all the better.
“People moving to a city want new, fun, and interesting things,” Eisenstat says. “This is a different approach to coffee. Those who were skeptical at first keep coming back.
For more information: facebook.com/PourCleveland