Houston’s Three Keys Cafe Combines the Magic of Black Music and Travel


As many small business owners struggled at the start of the pandemic, Three Keys Coffee owners Tio and Kenzel Fallen were laying out a master plan inspired by one of America’s most beloved musical genres. beauty of the world.

The husband and wife duo were working in their respective fields when they decided to make their coffee roasting hobby much more than a weekend pastime. Tio had been make coffee for years at their home and had even taken an original trip to Guatemala to discover the true roots of coffee production. At the end of 2019, the couple founded Three Keys Coffee, a craft roastery based in HoustonTexas.

The coffee brand was inspired by the Fallen’s love of travel and their appreciation of jazz music. After Tio’s grandfather gave him a trumpet in third grade, the engineer and master roaster never lost his love for music. The ‘three keys’ represent the three valves of the trumpet.

“That’s basically the inspiration for the brand,” Tio said. “This association of music, especially jazz, and coffee.”

With music as the foundation of their coffee empire, the Fallen’s love of traveling to new places also played a major role in the development of Three Keys. Before starting the business, the couple traveled around the world to places like Bali, where they saw an elderly village woman roasting coffee beans in a pot over a fire. These experiences were the early inspirations for the Three Keys Coffee brand.

Photo courtesy of Kenzel Fallen.

“Our love for coffee really grew along with the stamps on our passports,” Kenzel said. “We continued to travel to these different areas that were coffee growing areas and found ourselves, as consumers and enthusiasts, more interested in this background story of where coffee comes from and where it is grown.”

Dedicated to melodic notes and cool roasts, Three Keys Coffee emerged at a time when the majority of people were spending more time at home. The COVID-19 pandemic had just hit the United States and many businesses were struggling to pivot to adapt to the changing global climate.

The pandemic has become an enabling environment for the brand to thrive, and the Fallens have seen steady growth and success since the brand launched in 2019. The coffee has also been shipped to all 50 states internationally. It is sold at Trader Joe’s and has been named the 2022 Best Coffee Roaster in Texas by Food & Wine Magazine.

“People were spending more time at home and were more interested in coffee,” Kenzel said. “A lot of their favorite stores and things were closed so they had to make their own coffee at home and that allowed us to be more of a player in that space by bringing our products online where we could ship it across the country. ”

Three Keys Cafe
Photo courtesy of Kenzel Fallen.

With their enthusiasm for exploring new places, Tio and Kenzel believe that travel is an integral part of the Three Keys Coffee story. Many of their flavors are inspired by the places they have visited and source their coffee from. Brazil Bossanova is a single-origin coffee from Brazil, named after one of the country’s most popular styles of music.

Other flavors like Congo Square, originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, pay homage to the square in New Orleans where slaves gathered to make music and birth sounds that would become the beginning of American jazz music. .

“It’s an interesting feeling to know that these countries and places are aesthetically, culturally and humanly beautiful, but they also produce these beautiful coffees that I can showcase through our brand and share with our consumers,” said Tio.

With coffee being grown in over 70 countries, Fallen’s plan is to continue exploring the world in search of more coffee farms producing beautifully flavored coffee beans. They plan to return to Antigua, a place known for its amazing coffee due to the microclimate, volcanic soil and lush tropical environment. The couple also plans to travel to Kenya and Italy to better understand coffee culture around the world.

“You have to travel to see them have a first-hand experience of coffee plantations,” Kenzel said. “You could take a world tour of coffee culture around the world. It’s definitely something we can’t wait to explore even more countries and have coffee be part of that story.

Although coffee roasting is a 10-minute process, this short amount of time is critical in influencing the taste and smell of the roast. An engineer by profession, Tio masters this process and pushes the limits of roasting to create the perfect flavors of Three Keys Coffee.

“My goal is to combine the art of roasting and being one with the coffee as it roasts, but also to combine that with the science of roasting and look at different variables and how those can be manipulated to increase consistency but also bring out the most flavor,” Tio said.

Three Keys Cafe
Photo courtesy of Three Keys Coffee.

Like Jazz, Three Keys Coffee pushes the boundaries that have placed coffee brands in a creative box for years. The days of instant coffee are long gone, and Three Keys is reframing the possibilities that can emerge from a good fresh roast. Like jazz music, coffee sets the standard for coffee in the industry.

“Jazz is so universally accepted and rooted in American history,” Tio said. “Jazz is the prototype of creativity in music, and it’s highly respected for the level of education it takes to be a musician and just has this free form of thinking and exploring within the genre. This is why we use jazz as the muse of the brand’s identity.

Three Keys Coffee is a multidimensional consumer experience. From the vibrancy of its packaging and design to the fresh smell of roasted coffee and the Jazz song that accompanies each package, shoppers are engaged and involved from purchase to consumption. Already established but still looking to expand, the Fallens hope to continue to grow the brand. They plan to acquire more warehouse space where consumers can visit and enjoy coffee drinks, and will continue to ship their fresh roasts all over the world. They also know that travel will continue to play an important role in creating gourmet coffee experiences for their international clientele.

“We want to grow in a thoughtful way and make sure we’re still giving people that authentic, high-quality experience,” Kenzel said.


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