Houston Coffee Shop and Roastery Suffers Storefront Damage After Hit and Run

damaged Xela storefront

In 2015, Benji Aguilar and Kaitlin O’Brien founded Xela Coffee, building it from a grassroots roastery with a cult-like following to a popular Second Ward shop at 4409 Canal within a few years. Unfortunately, in the early hours of Sunday, March 12, they suffered a significant setback. Security footage shows that a car jumped a curb, hit the tree directly in front of the coffee shop’s service window and crashed into a corner of the old wooden building. The driver and passengers fled on foot and have not been located or come forward to take responsibility for the damages. Damage to Xela Coffee’s front wall, which was adorned with a detailed mural of coffee cherries, is extensive and needs to be replaced. Aguilar and O’Brien are hoping that the business will only need to shut down for a few weeks during reconstruction. and the shop is forced to pay for repairs out of pocket. In lieu of seeking investments or setting up a go fund me, the owners are simply seeking an increase in business for their “insanely good coffee, tea and lifestyle merch”.

popular third-party roaster for other specialty shops, the brand has been well-known among coffee professionals for years. Part of Xela Coffee’s charm is its modern roasting style, which coaxes out fruity and sweet coffee elements and a full body thanks to a darker roasting technique and a fuller body. The result is elegant coffee that bridges a gap between the hearty brews that many grew up with and the medium and light roasting styles, resulting in a tea-like body, that has been favored by some modern roasters over the past decade. 

Bottled coffee drinks from Xela Coffee Roasters.
Bottled coffee drinks from Xela Coffee Roasters. Photo by Ryan Baker.

Xela was also one of the first roasteries to serve coffees from what was at the time less well-regarded coffee-producing countries, such as Mexico and China. (I still clearly remember the bold, peanut-buttery notes of the 2017 roast from another underrecognized coffee producer, Yemen.)

Branding has been a major part of Xela’s strategy. It now regularly produces jackets, shirts and hats. The branding is also evident in Xela’s bottled beverages, which include a large selection of chilled lattes and teas.

Espresso drink at Xela Coffee Roasters
Founded in 2014, Xela Coffee Roasters has slowly but surely climbed to being a well-respected Houston coffee business. Photo by Ryan Baker.

Of course, made-to-order hot drinks are also available. For the past month, the staff has been producing weekly specials with housemade milks, such as pistachio-macadamia and date-Brazil nut. Customers can also purchase coffee beans by the pound. 

The shop focuses on to-go orders, but has plentiful outdoor seating. During the spring and summer months, the surroundings turn into a botanic oasis that’s curated by O’Brien. As was the case with the now-destroyed coffee cherry artwork, the building’s walls are covered in Houston- and coffee-themed murals by local artists. While the shop does not feature many amenities, it is a perfect place to take a minute to slow down and relax.

Despite its following, Xela Coffee is still considered a hidden gem. With the sudden need for repairs, there is no better time than now to give it a try. The shop is open Wednesday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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