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Brewing a Captivating Cup of Awesome

By Diane Bedard Posted on August 27, 2020

The Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters Story

When James Cook was five years old, he would get up early every morning to make the coffee for his grandpa. He would push the button on the coffee maker they had set up from the night before. No one could have imagined what it would lead to and how coffee is still his passion today.

Growing up in his family’s restaurant business in California, James Cook loves creating coffee-infused recipes and combining eclectic ingredients to make menu items come alive!

Heather met James at Johnson & Wales University. Together they would roast the green coffee beans in a popcorn popper, testing for taste. They married and continued their pursuit of the perfect cup of java.

After graduating, James worked in top hotel restaurants in the northeast U.S. The weather drew them to Florida, and eventually at the Ocala Hilton. With a major economic downturn, he found himself without a kitchen to call home.

Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters is Born

In 2008 Stephen Dorst, who was passionate about providing fresh roasted coffee to Citrus County named his new coffee shop after his Blue Heeler Cattle Dog, Barney. He opened the doors and, sadly, died two days later.

cattle dog coffe roasters logo
Stephen Dorst named the business after his Blue Healer Cattle Dog and created the logo.

His hand-crafted cabinets, counter and coffee bar sat alone in the little shopping center at 2416 N. Heritage Oaks Path, until James and Heather Cook saw the potential. They met Stephen’s family and took the time to learn about his hopes and dreams.

Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters is Reborn

On February 23, 2009, James and Heather reopened the little coffee shop. Featuring fresh roasted coffee, a progressive and eclectic menu and high-end loose-leaf teas, Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters was developed with a goal of being the perfect place “where friends come to meet”.

For ten years, Heather has worked behind the scenes at this fabulous beanery and eatery, while holding a full-time position. Now she is the Head Roaster. James works hands-on with the business every day, hiring, training, cooking, and greeting customers.

The original Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters location in Hernando. Fresh roasted coffee and tea are displayed on the coffee bar. James Cook is holding a 12-oz package of whole beans. Image by Diane Bedard

“Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters customers are so important to James and me because they are what fuels our passion for coffee. Our customers mean so much to us that we know them by name.  We want everyone that comes to Cattle Dog to feel right at home.  All are welcome at our table,” says Heather.

It all started with a single store and a small roaster. “I would roast the beans at night, because it gets so hot that it was uncomfortable for the guests,” James explained.

Cattle Dog Coffee Roaster’s original roasting machine was located in the Hernando store, where beans were usually roasted at night because it got the place so hot. Image by Diane Bedard.

Over the ten-plus years this dynamic duo have been crafting award-winning food, roasting the most variety of single-origin coffees available in the U.S., creating their own brand of k-cups that allow customers to mix-and-match the perfect variety for their household needs, and opening several stores.

Today, there are five official Cattle Dog locations, with another planned to open soon. Each offers a different interior, a consistent menu, and service-oriented staff.

Fresh coffee from around the world, roasted locally. Each of these bags holds approximately 132 pounds of coffee beans, which James will roast into its perfect brewability state. Image by Diane Bedard.

The Best Coffee Anywhere, Roasted Fresh

Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters purchases coffee beans from over 14 countries ranging from Guatemala to Ethiopia. The beans arrive in their raw state and are roasted at the local roastery daily.

James and Heather visited Africa in 2018, where coffee farms were a part of their extensive and exotic itinerary.

Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters offer freshly roasted beans for sale in 12-ounce packages. You can choose from their wide variety of beans that are roasted daily. (Yes, it smells great in the store.)

Always good food, good friends and great coffee at Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters on Tompkins Street.

What to Expect at a Cattle Dog Store

Whether you are visiting a Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters store, you are sure to be greeted by an employee in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. The food is always consistent and creative. The coffee is amazing – no matter which variety best serves your taste buds.

There is always House Roast available on tap, as well as a featured Dark Roast of the day. If you have a hankering for your special cup, an Americano is quickly made to order. Lattes, mochas, expressos, cappuccinos, iced coffees, and even fresh teas are crafted for guests by their diverse and professional staff.

Pair your coffee with a homemade breakfast sandwich, bagel, or freshly baked pastry because it is all good. Lunch items, such as flavorful and healthy salads, Paninis, and wraps are on a menu that changes quarterly – “keeping it fresh,” as James says.

And be sure to save room for an almond horn or chocolate chip cookie (note: should really be called a chocolate chunk cookie) – NatureCoaster’s two favorites. Oh, and Fridays are Lobster Roll and Lobster Bisque days.

In 2016, they added “nitro” nitrogen-infused coffee to their offerings in-store, as well as coffee flights. March 2017 saw James and Heather selected to take their cold brew to Coffee Fest in Nashville, Tennessee where they competed nationally for the title of America’s Best Cold Brew. Cattle Dog was only one of two roasters selected from over 70 Florida roasters and 200 coffee shops in the State.

One of two coffeehouses in Florida selected to compete, Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters took its smooth Cold Brew to Coffee Fest in Nashville to try and win the title of “America’s Best Cold Brew!”

Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters features Award-winning Food

In April 2017, Inverness held its preferred qualifier event for the World Food Championships; The Taste. This local event brought together local restaurants to compete to win a Golden Ticket to enter the World Food Championships!

James took his culinary training, creativity, and passion, entering his Butternut Squash Ravioli and Pan Seared Scallops with signature Tomato Bacon Jam and a Cream Polenta. He won the local event’s top award, and went on to compete with hundreds of top chefs from around the world for the $100,000 prize. He placed 17th in the first of three rounds, not bad for a first-timer.

James Cook displays his Top Ten ribbon at the World Food Championships in 2019 where he earned his place in the top Ten Worldwide! Image courtesy of Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters.

In 2018, Cattle Dog of Inverness again won the Golden Ticket at The Taste of Inverness with their Pan Seared Scallop on Roasted Garlic Polenta. In the first round of competition, owner and chef, James Cook made the top ten. Second round, he placed sixth, and finally, he won fourth place nationally with the fantastic dish at the World Food Championships!

In 2019, Cattle Dog again earned its place to compete in the World Food Championships! This time a crew of four from the restaurant participate, included Heather and James. This time, the crew worked their way up through the first two rounds and won tenth place nationally!

The Twisted Mad Corned Beef Panini. Image courtesy of Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters.

Every time we visit a Cattle Dog location, the menu’s creative use of food reminds us that this is a place that lifts the Nature Coast up.

Online Ordering is Available at Cattle Dog

In 2019, Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters added online ordering to their services. This was a lifesaver when COVID-19 shut down, and then reorganized the restaurant business in 2020. Heather redesigned their website and the company’s shift to take out business was smoother than many others.

Online ordering was started in 2019. Customers can visit the Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters website, select the location for pickup and order from the complete menu. Here is an employee in the Crystal River store preparing a hot latte. Image by Diane Bedard.

“For several months, we offered “pop up dinners” which included a salad, entree, and dessert. Customers could order online and then pick up the next day at the location of their choice. The dinners helped pay for an employee to keep working, as well as helping fulfill my culinary creative needs,” James shared with NatureCoaster.

The pop up dinners have been discontinued for the time being as a balance is being achieved in managing things through the pandemic.

Community Support

A local business needs to support the Community in which it operates to be truly great. Cattle Dog has supported many local charities over the years they have been in business, and Citrus County Blessings is one of the ones near and dearest to our hearts.

In fact, Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters began offering take out dinners for their patrons which included a salad, entrée and dessert. For about the first three month of the COVID-19 pandemic, regular Cattle Dog customers enjoyed ordering their meal online and then picking them up hot and fresh in the store.

The 2018 Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters Team. James and Heather are in the back. Notice the Citrus County Blessings T-shirts? Image courtesy of World Food Championships.

Charity event flyers are often displayed in the store windows. Catering is donated, gifts and prizes donated and some of their “thank you” plaques are displayed at the downtown Inverness location.

“We believe it is important to support the communities we work in,” James and Heather explain.

Cattle Dog’s Coffee Business keeps on Brewing

“We started roasting in 2009 and we roasted 500 pounds of beans that year. In 2019, we grew our fresh-roasted coffee operation to over 16,000 pounds annually. With the new roaster, we can roast 150 pounds in an hour, and expect to hit over 30,000 pounds of delicious Cattle Dog Coffee from our 7,000 square foot roastery!”

Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters offers the most single origin coffees in the U.S. They offer mix-n-match k-cups. They will make any coffee they roast into k-cups. They offer custom roasting and wholesale pricing for redistributors. They offer restaurant pricing, as well as customer loyalty programs.

Working as a Team to Create a Great Experience

“It is our goal to develop employees for the long-term. We start by paying above minimum wage and providing paid time off for full-time employees, as well as dental and vision insurance. We are working toward being able to provide health insurance also,” James said.

A cheerful décor is part of each Cattle Dog location. “Wake up and be Awesome” adorns one wall of the Inverness location and is part of the company’s philosophy.

The crazy coffee crew at Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters Inverness location. Image courtesy of Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters.

Minions from the movie can be found in each location also. The more you look, the more Minions you are likely to find. When asked why Minions, James explained that he feels like Gru from the movie because he cares about each of the Cattle Dog employees like family, but also demanding top performance.

Minions are in the beans! Image by Diane Bedard

Today, guests can walk into the stores, order from the counter, and enjoy their meals utilizing the expanded outdoor seating as well as inside at the socially distanced tables. Strict sanitary procedures have always been part of the Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters system and they have been added to for guest and employee protection.

Get out to one of the Cattle Dog Coffee Roasters locations and enjoy your favorite cup of coffee or tea along with breakfast, lunch or a pastry and tell them NatureCoaster sent you!

Comments

Chas says

Nice story, and I'll be sure to visit the Crystal River site and the Inverness site just off the Florida Trail the next time thru.

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Gary Rankel says

Great Story. Cattledog Rocks.

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Philip says

I'll be sure to visit CDCR when I'm in the area!

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