Not all cups of joe are created equal. This is especially true for Doug Page, a passionate barista and owner of Wild Bear Coffee in Tavares.
The self-described "hot beverage enthusiast" painstakingly selects and roasts his single-origin beans from South America, Africa and Central America. As a result his downtown location is part indie coffee bar and part premium caffeine dispensary.
Page's palette was refined in culinary school, and it shows in his passion for coffee. Unlike national chains, Wild Bear roasts its own beans and offers only made-to-order coffee using a pour-over method. This ensures the integrity of the beans’ flavor and results in a rich, smooth coffee without any trace of burnt bitterness.
Page, dubbed a 'coffee savant' by his friends, began roasting coffee beans in his popcorn popper as a hobby. Eventually, he forked over the money for the real deal and began selling his coffee beans in farmers markets in 2015.
Quickly gaining a following, he set up a roasting location in Tavares before opening his new coffee bar at 123 E. Main St., downtown. Wild Bear also has commercial accounts like Goblin Market restaurant in neighboring Mount Dora, as well as loyal and faithful followers.
"I like it because it doesn't have that bite to it. It's delicious and the service is friendly," said Jessica, a regular Wild Bear customer.
It's perhaps the only area coffee bar that serves both cold-press brew and Swiss water-processed decaf. To someone who is perfectly fine with a cup of gas station coffee, this is hardly impressive, but it's a big deal to hard-core coffee connoisseurs.
Try the gingerbread latte, bourbon caramel macchiato or dirty chai latte. Purists will love the smooth and intense flavor of any of the pour-over brews.
The Wild Bear also sells paraphernalia for hard-to-please coffee snobs. Enthusiasts can choose from pour-over Chemex coffee makers, cold brew coffee kits, grinders, presses, and one-pound bags of freshly roasted beans. On weekends, Wild Bear offers freshly made Joy Donuts, the decadent cake donuts, and sells them out early. Wild Bear Coffee's hours can be irregular so call ahead to be sure they are open.