Article by Cat Modlin-Jackson. Photos by Yani Ramos.
Head a few blocks west of the Safety Harbor Marina and under the palm trees on the corner of Main Street and 7th Avenue South you’ll find Cafe Vino Tinto. The first thing you’ll notice is an antique iron coffee roaster sitting by the covered patio where locals go to chat over a pressed pour or jump start their day with a java to-go. At Cafe Vino Tinto, the first locally owned coffee shop in Safety Harbor, co-owner and lifelong Safety Harbor resident Logan Runnells takes the coffee experience to the next level. The coffee she sells comes straight from her family’s coffee farm in Costa Rica and is roasted on-site.
Logan and her father Kent started selling their signature homegrown blend at Safety Harbor’s Third Friday street fair. In May 2016, after two years of success on the street, they opened the cafe. We sat down to chat with Logan about coffee, local business and community.
Cafe Vino Tinto has been open for nine months now. What’s the difference between having a coffee cart and having a cafe?
People, when they come in here, you know it’s such a small community, either they know each other and they haven’t spoken in awhile, and then they sit down and have coffee together. Or, they don’t know each other, but by the time they leave everyone knows each other. Because it’s such an intimate setting in such a small town and people are just friendly. I think that’s the epitome of a coffee shop: a place where people go to gather, to talk. From one wavelength to the next, it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s a community space. And I like to be a part of that and I like people to feel like they’re a part of what I’m building.
Why is the medium roast your favorite blend?
There’s just something about the medium. It’s not even the flavor when I taste it. It’s the smell, the aroma of the medium. I think it’s [Kent’s] best roast. If he were going to enter his coffee into a contest, I would say all day it would be the medium roast. When he roasts the medium it smells like fresh baked brownies or cake.
What about your other blends. Do you offer decaf, too?
We don’t have decaf. Decaffeination is a very harsh, unhealthy process. It’s soaking chemicals just to extract the caffeine from the bean. They take perfectly good coffee and they soak it in chemicals, and after the process is done there is still residual caffeine. You cannot get all the caffeine out of it.
If you if you want something with less caffeine you probably want to go for a darker roast because the longer you roast, the less caffeine it has. You get the nutty chocolate-y flavors with the darker roast. The blonde roast has the most complex flavor where you get the flavor notes that you can’t identify in darker roast because you roasted it out.
What blend do you use for your iced coffee?
I use a combination. I use coffee ice cubes. At the end of the day, I pour all my coffee that’s leftover into pitchers and put them in the refrigerator. Iced coffee is a whole different drink than hot coffee. When you put hot coffee into the refrigerator overnight, the oils sit on top. That separates from the liquid so you’re not getting the full robust flavor of what you would consider a good cup of coffee. So when you pour it over ice, not only are you making it watered down, but the oils aren’t incorporated into the liquid so it tastes flat, almost. It’s like diner style. So how am I going to get around that? Well I’ll make coffee ice cubes and pour hot coffee over the ice cube so I’m still dispersing the oil correctly. Then it tastes like a hot cup of coffee, but it’s iced and it doesn’t get watered down because of the coffee cubes. And that is something that I started just on a whim to stop wasting coffee.
What kind of food do you offer and where does it come from?
We just started making Belgian waffles on the weekend. The first week we kept it really simple: we just had chocolate chip and blueberry. The second week I introduced an apple cinnamon, and then this week I introduced a banana waffle with a maple pecan glaze and a mixed-berry waffle with a lemon glaze.
Joey Biscotti next door is where I get my crumb cake and several varieties of biscotti. [The baker] makes really great stuff. It’s a little bit of a premium. But you know, I have premium coffee and I don’t want to sell frozen junk. It just devalues the whole thing because when you sit down and have a nice pressed pot, I don’t want to throw a fifty-cent bagel at you. I want every little thing to be top quality.
How has becoming a business owner changed your outlook on community?
We’re made up of energy, and I think you get what you give. I think people are going back to the more small business mentality with supporting local. That is one thing that has made me realize the importance of supporting other businesses in my in my town and hoping that they thrive. I attend merchant meetings, put myself on the committee and listen to what people are saying. Attending the town hall meetings – that’s another thing that I wasn’t really concerned with and now it’s directly affecting me as a business owner. I think it’s important to be involved as much as you can show your face do the do the legwork. Walk around town get to know your neighbors so that they will support you in return.
What direction would you like to see Safety Harbor’s local business community take in the future?
I would like to see this side of Main Street have a nice anchor because [the east] side has Starbucks and the spa and it’s very dense down there. I’d like to see more stuff happening this way so it fills Main Street. I want to see more eclectic little shops so that we can all feed off of each other and draw more from Dunedin, from Oldsmar, from St. Pete. Safety Harbor has a lot of potential. I hope that I can be one of the merchants that helps that growth.