Now in its 22nd year in business, Barrio Logan-based Ryan Bros. Coffee has added packaged beverages to its product line. Bottles of its cold brew and flavored coffee drinks began appearing last spring at its storefronts, including kiosks within PetCo park. This spring they are expanding the bottle selection with a line of iced teas and a slow wholesale rollout.
"For us this has been a progression for more than 20 years of learning how to make great drinks, like a bartender," says co-owner Harry Ryan, who explains that the brothers have been developing their drink recipes — and ingredients — since they started a USD coffee cart back in 1994. "We've been doing it in stages from the beginning: serving coffee, to eventually roasting coffee, to blending tea, to making our own cocoas, to making our own frappé powders. All of it because, if you're buying stuff and reselling it, it's expensive and it's not unique."
Along with the roasting company's coffee beans, these proprietary tea blends, cocoa, and frappé powders have been the ingredients of specialty drinks served at Ryan Bros. coffee bars for years. Some of the more successful are now the basis for the bottled recipes. "We're taking years of work," Harry says, "and essentially putting it in the bottles."
"This really sums up our 20 years of ingredient experiments," concurs brother Tom Ryan, who adds that the move has some inspiration in the beer industry. He says Ryan Bros. first began developing its cold brew for a collaboration with AleSmith that resulted in the award-winning Speedway Stout. In the meantime, a longtime relationship with Stone Brewing has resulted in a number of beers, and a specific request. "About two years ago," Tom recalls, "you started seeing cold brew at the brewpubs, on tap with the beers." He says that's around the time Stone reached out to ask, "Can you keg cold brew for us?"
1894 Main Street, Barrio Logan
The notion of packaging cold brew sold the brothers on the idea of capturing their in-shop recipes for distribution, competing with energy drinks and soft drinks. Speaking from the Ryan Bros. Barrio Logan roaster and café, Tom says, "A coffee shop like this, our consumers are generally within a two-mile radius. That's our universe." Bottling, on the other hand has no limits. "That's what we saw — a great opportunity to take what we thought we did really well, these recipes, and get them to everybody everywhere."
Along with a straight cold-brew take on Ryan Bros. signature espresso blend, current bottles include its Mexican hot chocolate-inspired coffee, chai latté and caramel espresso — each with a nondairy cream. Forthcoming are a mango black tea, strawberry-infused rooibos, plus both red and green tea lattés. Tom suggests the latter reflect a demand that has grown for flavored takes on these traditionally hot beverages. "Tea latté really changed everything," says Tom. "The moment people saw that they could add different things to tea… it just totally changed the expectation."