Wake Forest, N.C. — Tracy McKenzie wants to give a coffee a voice. A voice that speaks for the farmers that grow it, the workers who harvest and process it, and one that ultimately speaks to the customers who drink it. McKenzie has been in pursuit of great coffee and telling its story ever since one of his students introduced him to specialty coffee more than 10 years ago. This started him down the path of home roasting coffee during his free time when he wasn’t working at his day job as a professor. At the urging of his friends, McKenzie began selling his coffee two years ago under the name Back Alley Coffee Roasters. The name is a nod to his days of doing roasting demonstrations and enjoying coffee with coworkers in the “back alley” during breaks at work.
Earlier this month,McKenzie and his wife Beth moved the Back Alley Coffee roasting operation to small a building on Brooks Street in downtown Wake Forest. In addition to being the home base for their roasting operation, they’ve remodeled the front space, which used to be part of a car dealership long ago, to open a small coffee shop called the Back Alley Coffee Pour Over Lab. The concept behind the pour over lab is to provide customers with individually crafted cups of coffee crafted using the manual pour over brewing method.
While it only takes a few minutes to make a great pour over, if you a more prone to grab your coffee on the run they also offer drip coffee and serve a great cold brew coffee dispensed from a nitro tap. Cold brew is my drink of choice these days for the distinctive crisp clean taste and low acidity that results of from that brewing method. As far as food, the shop sells baked goods from a small local baker like biscotti and muffins and also offer steak, chicken, and veggie breakfast tacos from Taco Revolution.
The cozy shop space has an industrial and rustic feel with a concrete floor and reclaimed wood used for the tables and pour over counter. It’s a smaller space with an inviting atmosphere that gives the customer a great view of the barista crafting their drink on the pour over bar. There is also a nice amount of seating with four tables that run along the left side wall with built-in bench seating. There are also several stools along the counter by a large front window that overlooks Brooks Street and several more outdoor tables on the patio out front.
Adding to their overall community approach to coffee, In addition to serving up great specialty coffee and developing relationships with the farmers that source their beans, Back Alley strives to give back to the community through their Net 50 campaign in which they give non-profits they partner with 50 percent of the net profits for any purchases in which the non-profit or its constituency is responsible.
Back Alley is holding a grand opening celebration Saturday to introduce the community to their shop. The event will feature several special deals like 31 cent cups of coffee free samples of their breakfast tacos. The Back Alley Coffee Pour Over Lab is located at 314 Brooks Street in downtown Wake Forest and currently open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.