By Lindsey McLemore | Reporter
There is an old freight elevator in downtown Waco’s even older Praetorian Building that’s found a new use – coffee.
Brû Artisan Coffee Works is Waco’s latest downtown coffee shop and roaster.
Using 100 percent fair-trade organic Arabica coffee, Brû owner and Baylor alumnus Peter Ellis makes fresh, classic coffee entirely in-house.
Using a 400-year-old roaster and a custom made espresso machine, Brû serves traditional espresso drinks to customers in the unique atmosphere of the modern Interior Glow and historic Praetorian Building.
Built in 1915, the building was originally home to Praetorian Insurance Company, but is now used for upscale loft apartments, a home furnishings store, Anthem Studios, and Brû.
Ellis has only been roasting his own coffee for four years, but has been surrounded by traditional coffee culture for most of his life.
“Growing up in the New Orleans area, we had a lot of local coffee shops and I grew up going to those places,” Ellis said. “And then after my time at Baylor, my wife, Summer, and I lived in France and northern Morocco and there are espresso bars in the base of nearly every building, and we came back to Waco five years ago with the vision of incorporating a top-notch espresso bar into [some of the lofts in the downtown area].”
Before opening Brû, Ellis wanted to develop a roasting style and find the flavor of the shop.
“I wanted something that was roasted locally,” Ellis said, “something that would help us really bring the fullness of flavor that coffee can have to Waco, and at the time, there wasn’t much of that happening here.”
About a year ago, Ellis started selling his coffee at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, but when customers started asking where Brû’s regular location was, he decided it was time to focus on finding Brû’s home in Waco.
“Originally it was kind of a joke to have coffee service to some of the residents by using the older elevator, since it is still an up-to-code service elevator,” Ellis said. But after Brû gained popularity at the farmers market, Ellis turned that idea into reality. Brû officially opened to the public in its permanent (but mobile) location July 1.
“We used to have a three-piece band that would play in the elevator on First Fridays, so we knew how much usable space the elevator had,” Ellis said of what is now a fully functioning espresso bar.
A bright, copper, vintage-looking, but custom-made espresso machine sits in the corner of the elevator next to the grinders. A variety of freshly blended coffees and teas line the opposite wall behind the opened brass gate to the elevator.
No more than 10 feet wide, the small elevator that plays home to Brû Artisanal Coffee combines flavors and techniques from a large number of sources within the coffee community.
The name “Brû” itself is short for the French word “Brûlerie,” meaning “roast,” and was chosen as a nod to the large French influences in coffee culture and Ellis’ life. The name also references a Latin term for bear, in honor of Ellis’ time at Baylor.
Brû serves traditional coffee and pastries downtown in the Praetorian Building seven days a week at 601 Franklin Ave.