“It tastes almost like beer,” I overheard a man remark joyfully upon trying a free sample of Cloud Nine Reserve coffee handed out after our SoulCycle class. “So creamy.”
When it comes to getting buzzed either on caffeine or alcohol, I almost always turn to tea or wine, respectively. But something about his description compelled me to pick up my own cup of the nitro cold brew even though I really should have been rehydrating. The silky texture and smooth coffee flavor immediately distinguished Cloud Nine Reserve from other chilled java I have encountered and made for an extremely sippable, refreshing pick-me-up beverage. I don’t know whether it was consuming that much caffeine so quickly or my post-workout high that then prompted me to channel Oliver Twist. “Please, sir,” I begged the Cloud Nine Reserve representative, “I want some more.”
He complied and bless his heart, didn’t chide me for my greediness. I introduced myself to this generous soul who turned out to be founder and creator of Cloud Nine, Constantine Zotos.
The son of a Houston restaurateur, Zotos began working at Lola Savannah coffee as a teenager and soon learned every aspect of the trade from brewing to marketing to product design. Later, while getting his undergraduate degree at UT Austin, Zotos applied these skills to conceptualizing a novel cold brew coffee-whiskey amalgam that he believed would be the “perfect” college beverage.
Upon testing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions of the brew, consumers overwhelmingly preferred the latter, so Zotos revised his vision and instead focused on perfecting a nitrogen-infused coffee. Nitrogen molecules are smaller than those of carbon dioxide, rendering it more difficult for coffee to dissolve in water, which gives rise to a more full-bodied taste with less acidity. And, why, for example, I was able to chug two cups on a relatively empty stomach with no resulting queasiness.
Zotos and his business partner Mitchell Webber (who, incidentally, was so convinced of the product’s viability that he gave up a promising career in the Marines) have major ambitions for their humble brew, which is currently available in local restaurants such as Brasserie du Parc, Tea By Sea, hotels such as Embassy Suites, and numerous area farmers markets. In addition to supplying offices and businesses with wholesale kegs, they also plan to open breweries in Houston in service of their ultimate goal: to make Cloud Nine Reserve coffee available to everyone that wants it.
“This is not about being exclusive or unattainable,” explained Zotos. “We want everyone who wants to try, and hopefully enjoy our coffee to be able to do so easily and affordably.”
Although you can take them at their word, I suggest instead taking up Zotos’ offer to me and others (and advertised on his website) to schedule a free tasting at their EaDo office. “Or you can just stop by,” he said, again in concordance with the company’s aim for informality and accessibility. “We’re sort of always in open house mode. Come by for a cup and ask us questions.” Little did he know this writer literally lives two blocks away. I’m sorely tempted to abuse this privilege, but will restrain myself. But that doesn’t mean you have to.