From bean to brew, where your campus coffee comes from

Anthony Green

There’s much more to the cup of coffee students pick up on campus than the cream and sugar added to it.

Texas Coffee Traders, the owner and operator of various coffee shop locations within RLM Hall, Gates Dell Complex and the Belo Center for New Media, is an international coffee roasting company operating out of East Austin. Dedication to producing the highest possible grade of specialty coffees while maintaining a focus on sustainability is at the company’s roots, according to founder Robert Beall. 

The shops in RLM and what the company calls the “Art Cart” near Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium have contracts with University Unions dating back to 2010.

“The shops around campus are entirely owned and operated by Texas Coffee Traders,” said Terri Shrode, associate business contracts manager for the University. “The University receives a 10 percent share in the revenues.” 

Beall said the coffee company provides all food within the shops either internally or through vendors. The company assists in the design of every location to be sure the coffee shop fits the physical space and is tailored to the student groups who frequent the building.  

“Coffee, sandwiches, breakfast tacos, whatever it is that makes your life as a student, faculty or staff member in the building better, we want to offer,” Beall said. 

A large portion of the coffee that the company brings to campus comes from the cloud forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica, where the coffee is organically farmed, harvested, dried and then shipped to Austin for roasting. 

“The Beneficio in Monteverde, created in 1989 as a co-op, was one of the first coffee roasters to keep the coffee from the community, and it was the beginning of ecotourism,” Beall said. “When we first came to Monteverde, we might have received only 1,500 visitors to the Beneficio a year and right before the economic downturn occurred, there were over 200,000 visitors every year.”

As their local and international customer base grew, Beall said he remained committed to producing coffee organically instead of through monoculture, which often involves the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Last year, TCT produced over 100,000 pounds of coffee beans in Costa Rica alone. 

The company was one of the first coffee roasters to operate in Moscow when Russia opened the doors for free enterprise in 1992. 

“We went over to Russia as Montana Coffee Traders and set up in downtown Moscow,” Beall said. “Most of the product came through the controlled economy … Some of our best friends in the beginnings were the mafia, that allowed us to do business with some of the larger vendors.”

Two years later, Beall and his team expanded the company to Austin, becoming again one of the first coffee companies to roast locally. They initially supplied some of the independent coffee sellers on campus and soon took over operations and expanded into six different locations around campus.

Nick Hundley, communications director for the College of Communication, sees the company’s coffee shop in the Belo Center, Cappy’s Cafe, as beneficial to the facility. 

“The cafe provides a convenience and service for students and faculty — they can grab a quick breakfast, buy a sandwich and sit outside on the patio or have coffee with friends and colleagues,” Hundley said. “Having a cafe space facilitates informal learning and collaboration outside of the classroom.”