Faces in the crowd: Dosey Doe’s Steve Said talks roasting coffee
The floor of a garage tucked behind the famed Dosey Doe Big Barn music venue in Shenandoah is stacked four and five high with overflowing burlap bags of fresh, green coffee beans hailing from countries like Colombia and Guatemala.
Nearby is a steel roasting machine pushed against the wall with a console that looks like the control panel of a space ship from a 1970s science fiction film.
The garage is where Steve Said, the renaissance-man owner of the Dosey Doe chain in The Woodlands, turned his hobby into yet another facet of the mini-empire: coffee.
“I just wanted to find out why there’s such a difference in the quality of different coffees,” Said said of how his interest in roasting java began.
Around the time his bank equipment business began to slow down, Said looked into purchasing the 175-year-old tobacco barn along Interstate-45 that would eventually become Dosey Doe’s crown jewel. But, he said, the now-renowned music venue was originally born to house a coffee shop.
Said wasn’t much of a coffee drinker before the early 2000s. He’s picky, he noted, and it was hard to find a good cup of the stuff at even high-end boutique coffee shops.
“It was very rare I came across coffee I really liked,” Said explained.
So, he said, when he off-handedly ordered an after-dinner coffee at Brennan’s of Houston, he was stunned. Said began having his business dinners at Brennan’s in an effort to get closer to that one cup of coffee — he wanted to learn more about how to make the perfect cup.
He then bought a home roaster and some beans and began experimenting with his own blends in his kitchen, sometimes to disastrous results.
“The fire department came over a few times,” Said admitted of his early efforts at roasting, which creates smokey emissions.
After months of experimentation, Said traveled to California to participate in the Coffee Skills Program, a course on all things coffee — from sourcing the beans to pulling the perfect espresso shot — at the Specialty Coffee Association in California.
Students of the program must master six modules — introduction to coffee, barista skills, brewing, green coffee, roasting and the all-important sensory skills — and score the highest possible marks to become a professional level coffee expert.
The classes are rigorous, Said explained, but during one of the countless tastings, he realized something.
“I had one of those magical moments when I said, ‘Hey, I’m really good at this,’” Said said. “I had a nose for it and it cemented the idea I had to be in business.”
Said earned a professional level diploma and, later, a Golden Cup Certificantion — the highest such certification in the country for coffee professionals.
The difference between good and bad coffee, Said explained, is in the beans and how you treat them. A fresh coffee bean must be roasted and treated in a precise manner in order to get the maximum flavor out of the coffee.
Said returned to Houston and got to work on Dosey Doe Coffee with his son, Brad.
From the garage at the back end of a gravel lot, the coffee company has its own home in a coffee shop on Research Forest Drive, produces 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of coffee a week in six different blends, and supplies all of the coffee for the North American Exxon headquarters in Spring.
“Maybe someone else will take Dosey Doe in a different direction,” Said said. “But we’re really happy with the product we have now.”