Project Coffee opens in Siesta Center, boasts unique blends from various regions
By Jane Bartnett
Lovers of specialty coffees have a reason to rejoice.
Project Coffee, one of Siesta Key’s newest entries to the casual dining world, opened its doors July 28 in the Village’s Siesta Center. This 100% vegan establishment is a perfect place to drop in to relax and enjoy a specialty coffee, tea, pastry, bowl or smoothie. Hot chocolate and ice-cold drinks are also on the menu.
“This is a neighborhood kind of place,” said co-owner Ian Steger, a Siesta Key native who grew up on Midnight Pass Road, as he stood behind the counter of the welcoming and brightly lit space that exudes a cool, calm and coastal atmosphere with its soft blonde woods and small tables.
He is one of five owners of this four-year-old successful Sarasota business that now boasts three locations.
In 2019, Steger and Emily Arthur opened the original cafe in Sarasota’s Burns Court neighborhood. A second shop opened in January 2023 in the city’s Rosemary District, featuring a café and a full coffee roastery.
Coffee is this young entrepreneur’s passion. Following his graduation from the Sarasota Military Academy, Steger began his career in the restaurant business working at Sarasota cafes and restaurants. After sampling an Ethiopian coffee at Starbucks that tasted like blueberries, he became fascinated with specialty coffees.
A fast-growing trend in the food world, Steger reported that a growing number of Michelin Star restaurants are adding specialty coffees to their menus.
Importing directly from Mexico, South America and Africa, Project Coffee’s brews are served by the cup as hot or cold drip, double-shot espresso, double-shot Americano, hot or iced latte, double-shot cappuccino, and cortado coffee. Only oak milk is used.
“Our coffee offerings change every few months,” Steger reported. Next month, he and Project Coffee’s head roaster Kieran Walker will head off on a seven-day trip to Colombia, where they will meet with their importer.
“Each growing region has different coffees growing at different times of the year,” Steger said. “Many coffee growers are transitioning, turning their businesses over to the younger generation and expanding to grow specialty coffees. We’re very excited to work with them.”
Coffee, he explained, grows on trees. “It’s a stone fruit like a cherry. Picked by hand, the fruit is peeled away, leaving the pit that is dried and sorted by size,” he said.
South American coffee, he added, is washed in water and then dried, while process for African coffee involves drying the coffee on concrete beds before reaching the desired moisture level.
Bags of Project Coffee’s whole bean specialty coffees are sold in-store and online at projectcoffee.us. In-store customers may have the coffee ground for either French press or drip.Currently, a bag of the rare IPA coffee from Quindio, Colombia is being sold for $29. Described as “a masterful example of experimental processing,” it features flavors of lemongrass, lime and green tea.
From Cusco, Peru the Yanatile Reserve coffee promises flavors of milk chocolate, almond and sugar. It retails for $22 per bag.
Coffee from Narino, Columbia is also $22 per bag. It has the taste of cacao, brown sugar and apple.
Two Ethiopian coffees that retail for $24 each are also offered: The Bale Mountain G1 Natural Coffee from Guji holds flavors of blackberry, wine and red grape, while Tore #3 from Yirgacheffe is reported to be crisp, clean and lemony with flavors of Meyer lemon, hibiscus and chamomile.
For an everyday coffee, Steger recommends the Colombian Aldemar Urbano. Retailing for $22 a bag, the coffee has a creamy taste with hints of cane sugar sweetness and flavors of cacao, brown sugar, and apple.
Looking for a special decaffeinated coffee? Steger suggests the San Cristobal Decaf coffee from Chiapas, Mexico with flavors of cacao and red fruit. It also retails at $22 per bag.
Tea lovers will be happy to find mocha latte, hot or cold; chai tea, hot or iced; golden latte, hot or iced; loose leaf tea, hot or iced, and hot chocolate.
A selection of cold drinks includes Kombucha, Topo Chico, orange juice, Mexican Coca-Cola, and water. The Key Lime Lassi, a special drink made with Matcha, coconut yogurt and key lime, is sold only in the Siesta Key store.
Located at 5055 Ocean Blvd., Project Coffee is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.