Blue Tile Coffee’s New Shop Brings Quality & Community to Washington Avenue
Blue Tile Coffee, which started as a long-running pop-up at Gristworkz brewery, is now in its own sleek, new, brick-and-mortar at 3663 Washington (in the same building as H-E-B and the St. Andre apartments). If the name sounds familiar, it might be because even during the pop-up, owner Jonathan Elkins’ and his team’s expertly crafted drinks and delicious snacks landed Blue Tile in my Best Coffee Shops in Houston list. Elkins’ résumé includes 13 years of experience at local roasteries and shops, such as Java Pura, Boomtown Coffee, Mercantile and Tea+Victory. If you like fancy coffee, chances are he’s served you before.
The name, Blue Tile Coffee, is a reference to the blue and white tiles that adorn many Houston addresses. The theme, and accompanying blue-and-white color scheme, is subtly integrated throughout the shop.
Before mid-March of 2020, Houston specialty coffee shops were like taverns and pubs with a feeling of community among shop owners, employees and customers. Patrons could walk in, sit at the bar and leave with several new friends or ideas. It was common to see baristas and roasters from around the city congregating at each others’ shops, bringing hard-to-find coffee beans to share, discussing favorites with anyone that was interested and hosting friendly latte art competitions. Then, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, that culture seemed to disappear overnight.
While it’s not the only new coffee shop that’s opened in 2023, Blue Tile marks a return to form. Blue Tile is primarily using beans from Amaya Coffee, one of Houston’s most-recognizable and longest-running boutique roasters. Amaya is mostly known for South and Central American coffees and mild, flavor profiles that aren’t necessarily memorable. Despite the mild roasting style, Amaya is easily one of Houston’s most consistent roasters, and you will almost never receive a bad cup of coffee brewed from its beans. Blue Tile is also highlighting additional craft roasters. such as Little Dreamer (another Houston roaster) and San Antonio-based Estate Coffee Company.
The espresso drink menu features all of the classics, such as lattes, flat whites and cappuccinos, and the team routinely changes out which beans are being used, making each visit a little different. Other favorites, like cafe au laits, chai lattes and cold brew are also expressed on the menu board. Blue Tile stands apart from most other coffee shops thanks to offering Vietnamese Coffee, housemade Agua Fresca on draft and an outstanding nitro cold brew. The infusion of nitrogen adds silky texture while mellowing the harsher notes. It’s a noteworthy version of this drink, which seems increasingly hard to find. Pro tip: if it is, ask if they can make you a pour-over. While it takes a few extra minutes, the on-the-spot brewed coffee is worth the wait.
For those that prefer added flavors in their drinks, there are plenty of options. There are currently six housemade syrups, including vanilla, lavender, Café de Olla(inspired by a style of spiced coffee, with origins in Mexico) and turmeric-agave. Chocolate is available for mocha fans, as well as honey, agave and simple syrup. If you are not in the mood for coffee, there is also a selection of teas and a matcha latte.
Pastries are provided by Lucianna Emiliani of Cafe Louie (which still exists as a business, albeit no longer with a storefront), including variety of croissants, scones and mochi treats. For more substantial bites, guests can order a loaded egg and cheese sandwich or taco, with add-on options, that include bacon, soy chorizo or beans, prepared by chef Julio Moreno, formerly of Tout Suite and Cochinita & co. So far, I haven’t found a wrong choice.
Much of Blue Tile’s success can be credited to the staff. Everyone is friendly and well-trained for their stations, and there are usually plenty of employees including several experienced baristas. Elkins himself is typically on-hand at the shop and, thanks to his years of experience, able to jump behind the bar or assist with any other task. Despite having only been open for about six weeks, the shop is running like a well-oiled machine.
The atmosphere at Blue Tile is relaxing and offers plentiful seating both indoors and out. Additionally, there is a variety of seating choices, such as couches, chairs at dining room tables and barstools.
With the variety of delicious beverages, attentive staff, inviting atmosphere and simple-but-tasty food options, Blue Tile is a reminder of what coffee shops should be like. The shop is open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.