The smell of roasted beans, the challenges of maintaining an aesthetically intelligent space, and creating an especially unique menu - projects that have all been stopped by COVID-19. Say hello to XO Espresso Bar, a coffee shop that carefully sources and sustainably roasts their beans and is using their quarantine time to improve their menu and give back to their community through Heroes on the Front Lines. XO Espresso Bar will personally match any donation that is given for nurses, doctors, EMTS, and anyone on the front line and will also deliver the coffee to them in your name.
“We’re a team of 7 people, our focus is that we take care of each other," said co-owner Puja McLennan. "We’ve been in business for a year and a half now but we’ve cultivated such a great community. We’re trying to find ways to support ourselves and take the safety considerations going on. It’s tough for everybody.”
The quarantine has forced them to take certain actions they hadn't before, such as finish with their website and sign up for deliveries on third-party services. They are also using the time to better train their team of baristas to come back stronger than ever.
"We're not as busy at the moment so we're utilizing this time wisely. People can expect a better version of us before Corona," David said. "We’re working on fun recipes so people can expect a lot of the same but some new fun drinks. And there will definitely be more of an appreciation for life and the community that we’ve created."
The coffee community they have helped create arguably started about 10 years ago, when Dave, an Australian native, and Puja, a Kenyan native, first met in West Palm Beach. They moved to Miami in 2017 and decided they wanted to start their own coffee passion project. He has always worked in the hospitality business and she grew up in a big coffee culture; for them it "just made sense."
“We were doing Brickell City Farmer’s Market and the business evolved from such a loyal following that it evolved to a permanent spot in the ICON [in Brickell]. It’s a very nice community," Puja said. "One thing led to another and we came across the opportunity with the Lincoln Eatery so we took the leap to make our first brick and mortar. This is more of a food hall.”
In June of last year, the couple decided to take the leap and roast their own beans in the name of evolving and responding to customer demands. They use a ventless roaster that allows them to roast on a low carbon percentage. Since then, they have been supplying their coffee either online or in-store; soon, customers can sign up for a subscription-based service as well.
Even if you don't enjoy coffee, their menu also has plenty of Wellness Drinks, Matcha and a wide-range of lattes; some of their most popular drinks include Charcoal Lattes and Blue Butterfly Lattes, which is imported from Thailand and is great for your immune system.
If you think a Blue Butterfly Latte is weird, Puja thinks there's something even weirder on the menu: Turmeric.
"I grew up with Indian descent in Kenya, my mom would give me turmeric when I was sick. I never looked at it as a leisurely drink," Puja said. "To this day, my mom is surprised we have it on our menu but it is wildly popular amongst those who want to boost their immunity."
In fact, many "strange" orders sometimes end up on the menu.
"We don't want to be that hipster place that’ll judge you for your order," Puja laughs. "We’re always surprised like when someone is ordering Matcha and Espresso but then we’ll try it and see it’s good. We don’t judge but we learn from our customers."
So the question is: What are you ordering next and what Hero on the Front Line are you treating to coffee today?
Brickell Location: 475 Brickell Avenue, Miami, FL 33131
Miami Beach Location: 723 Lincoln Lane N, Miami Beach, FL 33139