Roast Review: Agora Coffee in Houston



Espresso in a Houston namesake of the ancient Greek marketplace.


By Matthew A. McIntosh
Public Historian
Brewminate


Introduction

Nestled comfortably off busy Westheimer in Houston is a cozy nook to sip your coffee and read a book or have a nice conversation with friends and even strangers – Agora coffeehouse of Houston. It’s an interesting name, and it has a history.

The agora was a central public space in ancient Greek city-states. It is the best representation of a city-state’s response to accommodate the social and political order of the polis. The literal meaning of the word “agora” is “gathering place” or “assembly”. The agora was the center of the athletic, artistic, business, social, spiritual and political life in the city. The Ancient Agora of Athens is the best-known example.

So what does the business have to say about itself? From their website:

Agora offers gourmet coffees, imported ales & beers, and a wide selection of wines in a very warm, old-world, artistically inspiring atmosphere. Agora also offers, many european delicacies, including Greek yogurts and cheeses.

Choose your favorite songs from the jukebox while you sit back, enjoy a stogey, and take in the collection of replicas of ancient art pieces on walls and crevices of Agora. Pick reading material from an impressive selection, including New York Times, New Yorker, Wallpaper, I.D., Nest and many more.

Take a break from the day’s worries and enjoy a cold beer at the bar. Enjoy a bottle of wine with friends at one of our cozy tables. Don your smoking jacket and head out to our newly remodeled patio where you can light up a cigar while sipping on a port. Come in for an afternoon espresso pick-me-up and banter with George or Peter. Grab a cuppa ‘Jo and take in the sights from above Westheimer on our new second-floor. Or take a walk on the wild side and witness the exotic belly dancing. Whatever your fancy, Agora can accommodate.

Well, that’s quite a lot to live up to. Do they? Let’s see.

Location

Everything in Houston, in some way or another, references Loop 610. You’re either “in the loop” or you’re not! Well, Agora is well within the loop on one of Houston’s most popular and busiest streets, Westheimer. It’s very easy to find. Just hop off the loop at Westheimer and take it straight down to Agora!

Agora is located within Houston’s “Montrose district”. This has long been the hub of the city’s LGBTQ+ community, though it has gentrified over the past couple of decades and “isn’t what it used to be”, as the old saying goes. But Agora maintains a very eclectic atmosphere with people from all walks of life.

You will easily recognize it once you get to it. The front can be a bit crowded with the trees (which is good), but the side has a very large “Agora” artwork on the building. The green umbrellas on this side of the building can bring Starbucks to mind, but don’t be confused.

Ambience

Outside

People love to sit outside, especially during the cooler fall and spring months here in Houston. Agora does not disappoint and provides plenty of space.

Plenty of outside seating is available in front of the business as well as on the side. Smoking is allowed if you wish, but do be considerate of keeping it away from those who do not smoke. The umbrellas keeps the sun off your head and out of your face for an enjoyable experience with friends, and the staff does check on customers outside.

Inside

During the hot summer months, a number of people like sitting inside. I am one of those, and the interior atmosphere is very welcoming and relaxing.

Agora has two floors, and the images above show a wide view of that. I personally absolutely love the dark brown wooden floors and balustrades.

The upstairs area has comfortable couches to sit on or tables if you prefer to sit there and work on your laptop. Oh, Agora provides free wi-fi access. That’s fairly standard these days for any establishment, so this is good.

Service

The baristas and staff at Agora are as welcoming as the atmosphere portrays and very kind. They are attentive to your needs and always willing to accommodate any reasonable request. If your brew isn’t just right, they don’t complain. They smile and make it again to get it right.

I can’t say enough about the service here. If it’s a little slow, staff will engage in conversation with you. That is part of their job as well, and they do it gladly. Be nice to these folks and toss in an extra tip!

The Coffee

This is where Agora really comes into its own. The taste comes off as your typical Arabica, which is fine. That’s what most use anyway. But the preparation is where it counts, and they take great care to get it right. The machines are clean, and I noticed they clean it after they make each drink to make sure nothing old is getting into anything new.

The cups and dishes are also very clean. While I was there, I even noticed one barista set aside a cup that seemed to have a spot of some sort on it to grab one that was clearly clean and ready to go. This seems small, but it’s not. Many others would have simply gone with what they had. But service matters here, they make that plain. The little things are important.

If you want your coffee strong, they’ll make it strong. If you want it light, they’ll make it light. They’ll add whatever you want and how you want it. The options are endless.

Agora also has treats and snacks and even light lunches. So if you’re in the mood for a bite with your brew, you have plenty of options! It’s well-prepared and fresh.

Conclusion

Agora gets a five-cup rating from Brewminate! Hands-down, if you’re looking for a warm environment with good taste and great service, this is the spot to go!

This will be one of my regular haunts here in Houston. They provide so much in the way of seating and coffee options, and other friendly sides, that I just can’t resist it. It also takes me back a number of years to the days of the small place set aside in a cozy nook where you can really enjoy your time with friends and even make new ones.

Friends and coffee – that’s what it’s all about. Agora meets all expectations and then some.

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