Aamil Sarfani aims for the ideal Austin coffee shop

The owner of two Apanos Coffee & Beer locations also reveals his favorite Austin spots.


Aamil Sarfani soaks up the burnished light at Radio Coffee & Beer, a popular hangout on Manchaca Road.

“They nailed the feel,” says the owner of Apanas Coffee & Beer, which opened two locations in Austin during 2016. “It’s not too quiet. They offer both beer and coffee, similar to what we do. At 5 p.m., they turn the Wi-Fi off. The work day is over; time to hang out. We are too scared to do that.”

He points to the lightly scuffed floors.

“No, I just love this place,” Sarfani says. “This is one of the reasons we did wood floors, too.”

RELATED: Nifty coffee shop Apanas opens at key spot on South Congress

San-Antonio-born-and-bred Sarfani, 24, grew up in an entrepreneurial Indian-American family before attending business school at Emory University in Atlanta.

In 2014, he signed up for a class that looked interesting: Social Enterprise in Nicaragua.

“We learned how businesses can do more than just profit from their revenue stream,” Sarfani says. “And the school already had partners down there.”

RELATED: Looking for Austin coffee shops near Burnet Road

For the class, he stayed at El Peten coffee farm on Lake Apanas, the namesake of his two Austin outlets.

“Every morning, I went down to the lake and took pictures,” he says. “I came back with really fond memories. And the owner of that farm made connections for me with other sources in Nicaragua.”

RELATED: Trying out Austin coffee shops near Upper South Lamar

Sarfani learned that by sidestepping third parties through the direct-trade model, he, as a retailer, could both increase the farmer’s share of the revenue and improve the transparency and traceability of the beans’ origins and movements, something that not all “fair trade” coffee shops can do.

“I came back from the trip the year before senior year and expected to eventually start a business, but I didn’t expect to do so right out of college,” he says. “I had all the resources in hand. Talked to professors, created a business plan. I was ready to do something that means more than making a quick buck.”

RELATED: Test these Austin coffee shops near Lower South Lamar

Sarfani now imports two single-origin beans.

“One is natural processed, Los Piños, picked off the tree and left in the cherry to increase its sweetness,” he says. “It’s a hard process to master, what with errors, low yield. If you do it right, the coffee comes out fantastic. The other is washed El Peten. We also have a drip coffee that’s a blend of beans from farms in the Los Robos community, and the money goes back to the town’s clinic.”

That echoes the efforts of Austin’s Farahani family, which funds Nicaraguan health care through its nonprofit Fara Coffees.

RELATED: Savor Austin coffee shops near South First Street

Sarfani grew up “behind the register” from age 12 at his father’s gas stations and fast-food restaurants. So it made sense to pitch his dad as an investor.

He opened his first coffee shop in January on Rock Rose in the Domain Northside. It is a midsized spot, 1,800 square feet. There isn’t much competition in the giant retail district for this wide-open, comfortable spot, which, not surprisingly, is already attracting regulars.

In the fall, he opened the second Apanas in a 2,500-square-foot former sports medicine space on South Congress, where there is indeed heavy-hitting competition from Jo’s Coffee, Toms Roasting Co. and Mañana Coffee & Juice.

“We have felt that,” Sarfani says. “I consult with my Dad. He stays out of my way, tells me what I could be doing but lets me makes mistakes.”

RELATED: Sip from Austin coffee shops near South Congress Avenue

Apanas also offers 20 types of draft beer, selected with the same Sarfani philosophy: “High quality in everything.”

“We are lucky enough to sell handmade products,” Sarfani says. “Our beer buyer is a home brewer, too, so very knowledgeable.”

Food is not a focus at Apanas, but one can pick up Quack’s bakery items, Tyson’s Tacos and Fricanos Deli sandwiches.

Sarfani did hang some modestly sized TV screens in Apanas, unusual for a coffee shop, but he insists they will never become a focal point, except perhaps during parties on game nights.

RELATED: The original 10,000 coffee shops story from 2007

Besides Radio, Sarfani reveals some of his other preferred Austin coffee shops:

Dominican Joe: “I like what they are doing on the back end, supporting a Dominican Republic community.”

Seventh Flag: “Great community, good vibe, trying to create a sense of welcome, home.”

Houndstooth: “A reputation for serving the best coffee in town, but sometimes you get the wrong barista.”

To the bat cave!

Austin Bat Cave, the nonprofit that matches established writers with creative young learners, has hired Sasha Marie Vliet to replace Katie Angermeier Haab as its director.

A graduate of Oberlin College, Vliet was a founding member of a group of writers, musicians and thinkers called Church of Maps. She has lived in Mexico and Central America and taught public school in Boston and Austin before earning an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Texas in American Studies. Her research paid particular attention to youth culture, teen expression and identity formation.

Vliet — who seems extraordinarily well-matched to the job — lives in South Austin with her son, who plays drums and runs a dog care business.

Founded in 2007, Austin Bat Cave, which operated on $150,000 in revenue in 2015, serves more than 1,700 young creative minds in Central Texas.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Lifestyle

Avoid the pain, get the gains: 5 most common exercise-related injuries
Avoid the pain, get the gains: 5 most common exercise-related injuries

For those that take their workouts seriously, be sure to add one more fitness goal to the list: avoiding exercise injuries.  Not only does getting hurt in the gym or on the trail cut back on how much time you spend getting fit,  it's also painful and treatment can be costly. Personal trainer Justin Price, M.A. told Men's Fitness...
Learn more about where we are in curing Alzheimer’s
Learn more about where we are in curing Alzheimer’s

Ever wonder if we’re making any progress in treatment for Alzheimer’s disease? We wrote about that a few weeks ago, but next week, you can hear a symposium of information on what progress we’ve made and what’s on the horizon.   Connie Andrews and Corrina Barrick dance together during The Gathering, an Alzheimer&rsquo...
How fast are Texas marathon runners? RunRepeat ranks every state
How fast are Texas marathon runners? RunRepeat ranks every state

Runners participate in the Austin Marathon and Half-marathon presented by NXP in 2017. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN Who’s faster? RunRepeat ranks states according to marathon How does Texas compare to other states when it comes to running marathons? Middle to back of the pack, according to a detailed survey by the company RunRepeat...
JEWELRY: Amanda Deer Jewelry opens first store
JEWELRY: Amanda Deer Jewelry opens first store

Amanda Eddy is opening up her first store for her jewelry brand Amanda Deer Jewelry. The grand opening is 2 p.m. Sunday at the store, 501 N. Interstate 35, No. 115. Inside you can find her bar necklaces, stud earrings and necklaces you can layer. Most of her items are made in Austin and priced at less than $100. Find more at amandadeer.com.
SHOPPING: Austin handmade online store Thirds going into two stores
SHOPPING: Austin handmade online store Thirds going into two stores

Thirds, Amy Young’s an online marketplace of handmade items for the home, is celebrating its first year with a double dose of pop-up shops. Starting in November, stores Las Cruxes, 1900 E. 12th St., and Esperos Soho, 209 W. Second St., will carry a small collection of Thirds’ finds. In honor of the pop-ups, Las Cruxes is hosting a party...
More Stories