They fueled travel through coffee during COVID. Now their shop is landing in Gainesville

Jan. 24—For nomads of Gainesville, the travel abroad experience will soon lie as close as one's fingertips.

Fingertips curled around a cup of small-batch coffee, that is.

Slated to open at Gainesville Renaissance this spring, Boarding Pass Coffee melds wanderlust and fresh roasts in the same cabin.

The location is husband and wife Murilo and Christine Santos' second to land in Georgia, their first roastery and tasting room arriving to Milton in 2020, just in time for the coronavirus pandemic.

"Nobody was traveling, and we're huge avid travelers — in fact, (on) our first date, I think all we did was talk about travel and places we'd been and places we want to go — so we said, 'Let's help people travel through coffee,'" Christine said.

Having traveled to upward of 100 countries between the two of them, the couple sources their beans from Murilo's family's 480-acre second-generation coffee farm in Serra Negra, Brazil, and other destinations around the world, including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru and Colombia.

Roasted in house, all of Boarding Pass' coffee is specialty grade, meaning it scores 80 and above on a 100-point scale set by the Specialty Coffee Association.

Like the Milton location, Gainesville's will house a coffee lab featuring a small roaster for workshops and tasting experiences in which participants encounter five different roast levels and origins, gaining a greater appreciation for the contents of their cup.

The tasting events, which are also offered virtually, tend to draw coffee aficionados and novices alike, the couple said.

"We just want to educate people on what that means, that coffee is more than injecting caffeine into your veins," Christine said. "There are complexities behind it. We want to elevate specialty coffee and what that's all about."

"People tend to know more about other stuff than coffee — like wine and beer and whiskey," Murilo said. "One thing that we're trying (to do is) to make people understand and appreciate coffee on a different level. It's like you can't consider wine as just wine. You have white and red, and then you have sauvignon blanc, chardonnay — and red is the same (way). With coffee, you have exactly the same idea, but people have not been exposed to that yet."

According to Murilo, there are four variables that can be tweaked throughout the roasting process to alter the coffee's flavor profile: temperature, roasting time, air flow inside the machine and drum speed. As the roaster, he tends to try several permutations with each new bean, which he and Christine then beta test to determine which roast will land on the Boarding Pass menu.

"There is a lot of science behind it," Murilo said. "The fun part of doing it is you're always exposed to something different. We're always tasting something new and being amazed by it."

For Christine, the fun lies in finding interesting travel destinations that reflect the origins and attributes of each new coffee bean the roastery introduces, namely destinations the typical tourist may not be privy to — like Vila Belmiro, the home stadium of the late Brazilian football legend Pelé, and the name of Boarding Pass' newest Brazilian peaberry roast.

According to Murilo, the couple doesn't sell coffee, but rather experiences related to coffee.

"Everything we do is thinking that way," he said. "You get more than just the coffee — you get a little bit of education, a little bit of experience."

The couple's relationship, forged in 2013 by a mutual passion for adventure and good coffee, is strikingly similar to their business model.

The couple met in 2013 while Christine was living and working in Brazil.

"We fell in love and, you know, the rest is history," Christine said.

Bonded by a mutual passion for adventure and good coffee, when the couple decided to get married the following year, saying "I do" on the family coffee farm was a no-brainer.

As a wedding favor for their 300-plus guests, the couple put together personalized packages of coffee fresh from the farm, tying not just the knot, but coffee with an experience.

"People kept talking about it and talking about it," Christine said, and when the Santos moved to Georgia in 2018 with their three daughters, now 14, 7 and 6, plans of bringing "this coffee that everyone's been talking about forever" to the States began to take off.

Balancing entrepreneurship and parenthood is an everyday challenge, Murilo said, but technology helps, as does a lot of tag-teaming, "shorter nights and an unlimited amount of caffeine. We're always like, 'You do this and I'll do that.' We divide and conquer."

In Gainesville, the Boarding Pass menu will feature staples similar to those of other coffee shops, including drip coffee, lattes, cappuccinos and pour overs — the traditional brewing method in Brazil — along with a roast of the month.

As for food, in the same sphere of travel, the Santoses' aims to introduce "some elements of our food and dishes that (are) off the beaten path, similar to our coffees and our stories of our roasts," Christine said.

While the couple experiment with other menu items, future patrons can look forward to pão de queijo, a savory, gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread that's "kind of crunchy on the outside but warm and almost like a cream puff inside," according to Christine.

"We are pouring our hearts (into) the store ... to make it something very, very special," Murilo said.