Coffee Community Blooms during COVID-19

San Antonio’s Ninth Annual Coffee Festival


Amanda Sellers/The Paisano

Texas Grounds Coffee Company, the owner, Jennifer Howard is pictured

Amanda Sellers, Staff Writer

San Antonio’s Annual Coffee Festival has finally come around once again after being put on the back burner for a year due to COVID-19. Coming into its ninth year running, the Coffee Festival is going strong with many new coffee roasters venturing out to share their newfound passions with the flourishing community.

“This year, being hosted at Travis Park, instead of its usual venue at La Villita Historic Arts Village, has been different, making the festival very ‘all out in the open,’” Galaxy Productions Producer Faith Radle said. “This is a different space, it’s all kind of out in the open versus La Villita, which has got nooks and crannies and sort of has a different feel.” 

Radle and Coffee Festival founder, Linda Brewster, both attribute the new explosion of Coffee Roasters in San Antonio to COVID-19. 

“With a lot of creative industries, when there’s a downturn, what are people doing? They’re looking for what their passion projects are, what do they wish they were doing? What do they want to try? Often, people start up things on the creative side,” Radle said. Brewster mirrored the sentiments in enthusiasm for the community’s growth. 

“People used to drive to work, stop at a coffee shop along the way. Well, now they don’t drive to work anymore, right? So people started figuring out ‘how can I make coffee shop quality coffee at home?’ The San Antonio coffee roasting community has grown more since COVID-19 than I ever imagined. These are small mom and pop shop folks that have decided to explore the world of sharing their love for coffee with other people,” Brewster said. The frenzied expansion of coffee roasting in San Antonio has been a fertile breeding ground for many new coffee roasters coming from all kinds of different backgrounds. 

Veteran-owned Texas Grounds Coffee Company, located in Helotes, Texas, started three years ago as an experiment between two next-door neighbors, Jennifer Howard and Phil Santillanes. 

“We started four years ago. I got out of the military and I met my business partner, and at that point I was in healthcare administration, but my partner was a teacher. We fell in love with the community so we decided to leave our positions and open up a coffee shop together,” Santillanes enthuses that the community growth has been tremendous and nothing short of encouraging for both him and his business partner, Howard. 

Texas Grounds Coffee Company social media manager, Meghan Smith, describes that both founders were searching for something more substantial in their lives and found coffee in the midst of it all. “Jenn’s more the bakery side. Phil roasts the coffee and they are actually neighbors. They live across the street and they got talking and she brought over her stuff. She said ‘we’ll come together and see how it works.’ They officially joined together three years ago and it just kinda kicked off. We roast in-house every single day. People come in and smell the coffee and hear about us,” Smith said.

The Coffee Festival also promotes businesses with deeper roots than other newcomers. Isela Hernandez, founder and president of Hernán Traditional Mexican culinary products, began her journey 14 years ago; creating authentic and delicious Mexican hot chocolate products to go along with their kitchenware. 

“I started about 14 years ago with a line of Mexican kitchenware. The idea was that if you wanted to prepare traditional Mexican food at home in an authentic manner, you would use our products. From there, we have a Mexican hot chocolate frother, it was an item on our line, so I decided to sell Mexican hot chocolate along with it and that’s how we got to the food space,” Hernandez said. 

This booth differed from the rest of the roasters in that they were showing off their specialty Mexican hot chocolate formula that has been wildly popular with its customers. “In specialty foods, we have a line of moles and Mexican hot chocolates, which is what you’re seeing today. Because it’s the coffee festival, we’re showing our Mexican hot chocolate con café. All you need to do is put a tablet in with your warming milk, any kind of milk and it dissolves in a few minutes,” Hernandez said. 

The tasting line for Hernán was wrapped around the park for the majority of the day, seeing no end in sight for many hours. Along with the settled veterans of coffee came the newly sprouted Dos Perros, who emphasized their custom blends of brew specific to each order that comes through. Lisa Torres, the owner, noted that they’d been in business for less than a year, and have been roasting for about two and a half.


“We love coffee and we just wanted to do our own roast and it became very popular and all of our friends and family decided that they wanted to have some so it blossomed into this,” Torres said. 

What sets them apart from other roasters is their amazing system of custom blends. “We do custom roasts because everybody’s so different; your taste buds are completely different from mine. So what we want to do is create the best experience for you. So what we’ll do is we’ll describe the bean, and then if you can tell us how you want it roasted: light, medium, dark and then we grind it the way you want it,” Torres said. 

On top of being relatively new to the coffee scene, they make a distinguished effort to support the community around them as well. “We also donate a portion of our proceeds to different animal rescue groups here in San Antonio. We’re with Texas Chihuahua Rescue for this month, so whatever we make for the month of February, we’ll give them a portion just to help support their mission. We change the organization every month,” Torres said. 

This year’s Coffee Festival was undoubtedly a raging success and founder, Brewster is thrilled that so many people have come together to celebrate coffee. “Every single roaster is just a unique expression of themselves. I think one of the parts I enjoy the most is when new roasters present their logo and their story. It’s so fascinating how they decided to go into coffee. The [goal of the] Coffee Festival is to bring people together in a community atmosphere, learn about coffee and take a pause from our busy lives for a day,” Brewster said. 

With over 25 different roasters present on Saturday, the coffee community was at full capacity; completely selling out days before it opened. The coffee community in San Antonio is growing at an unprecedented rate and the enthusiasm for the product will surely continue to blossom within the year.