On a Disney vacation, there's a lot more than pixie dust required to fuel us through those marathon theme park days. This is where caffeine comes in. Forget the grueling wait at Starbucks that rivals the line for Space Mountain, Joffrey's Coffee and Tea Company is the Florida-based roasting company that now serves as the official specialty coffee of Walt Disney World, Disneyland and the Disney Vacation Club.
Opening in 1984 in Tampa, Joffrey's was one of the first specialty roasters in the state of Florida. Joffrey's globally sources from highly-trained growers, using only specialty-grade Arabica beans, an elite designation held by less than 10% of beans produced around the world. Its attention to detail and commitment to small-batch roasting eventually traveled up I-4 to catch the attention of Disney execs.
It all started with (a phone call from) a mouse
Chris de Mezzo, Joffrey's head roastmaster and chief operating officer, has been with the company since 1986. With a fantastical story of his own, it was pure coincidence that landed the former aluminum maker in the coffee business after losing his job due to the recession. Armed with his own tools, he navigated how to work their sole coffee roaster — a pre-World War II — relic in the then two-room operation. His wife worked alongside him in the office as he spent the mornings roasting and the afternoons making deliveries to local shops and restaurants — until a life-changing phone call came in.
A Disney chef had visited their coffee shop in Tampa and was so wowed by the product that he began quietly serving it at the signature restaurant he helmed at Walt Disney World. At the time, all Disney restaurants and dining locations were contracted to serve Nescafe coffee. After months of this arrangement, the house of the mouse finally called Joffrey's in 1995 to make it official.
It was "utter shock and awe," explains de Mezzo, who was reluctant to take the phone call until his wife urged him that it was legitimate.
"From day one, it's been an experience," de Mezzo tells Yahoo Life. "When I took that call back in the day my uniform was a t-shirt, cut off jean shorts and high-top sneakers. I had one clean cut shirt and one tie that I had gotten for Christmas from my wife and infant daughter."
De Mezzo arrived at the first Disney meeting in that very tie — one that happened to feature the Road Runner and other Warner Bros. characters. A major faux pas but nevertheless, he ended up impressing the Disney executives.
The relationship begins
The very first Joffrey's location in Walt Disney World would soon open at their water park, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. The installation was lesson in itself, as de Mezzo himself had to work overnight, out of view of day guests, as he maneuvered the U-Haul truck containing the coffee cart down the winding paths of the water park. Hopes were high and no one knew what to expect from the trial period, but the sales quickly proved promising.
"Thank god it went well," says de Mezzo, "because they expected us to do a certain amount of revenue and we blew away their expectations which allowed us to begin our second trial." The second Joffrey's location would open at Disney World's other water park, Disney's Blizzard Beach.
Making it official
In 2012 Joffrey's became the official specialty coffee of Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort and Disney Vacation Club. Now it operates dozens of locations throughout Disney properties in the U.S.
This means if you're consuming coffee anywhere in the Disney parks or on Disney property, with the exception of Starbucks locations, you are drinking Joffrey's coffee.
Despite the success, Joffrey's still maintains its headquarters in Tampa, where all of Disney's coffee is roasted, while an operations team works out of Epcot. Joffrey's recently opened a flagship location in Midtown Tampa, its first location outside of Disney property in years.
As part of this partnership with Disney, Joffrey's works directly with Disney chefs to create tailored blends exclusive to in-park locations, signature restaurants and resorts. With over 25 Disney specialty coffee collection blends, offerings range in both profile and taste satisfying every type of java lover.
A blend for each Disney location
Disney's Riviera Resort was the first of Disney's properties to introduce its own resort blend, highlighted at its upscale coffee shop, Le Petit Café. De Mezzo shares he's had recent conversations with the teams of Victoria and Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and Steakhouse 71 at Disney's Contemporary Resort to explore upcoming property-exclusive collaborations.
"One of the unique things about Joffrey's is we're not a small roaster, but we're also not a mega-roaster," de Mezzo points out. "We're able to do those unique blends for all the signature restaurants on property, where each signature restaurant has their own custom blend tailored to either their menu or their dessert offerings."
During the design stage, Mezzo sits down with the culinary team and chefs to discover what flavors would be complementary to the location's menu mix. Mezzo's favorite blend? The bright and fruity flavors of their Kenya variety. The acidity of Joffrey's Kenya roast can be enjoyed at Disney World's Sanaa restaurant and acts as a perfect finishing note to their eclectic menu.
One of Joffrey's most popular coffees, the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary blend, offers flavors of a traditional dark roast with a smooth, more light-bodied finish. "We pride ourselves on being able to dark roast coffee but maintain the natural sweetness of it with no hint of bitterness or astringency." de Mezzo shares.
One of the most interesting Joffrey's blends is served at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Embracing the theme of conservation, Joffrey's Coffee Alto Mayo Forest Protected coffee supports a Peru-based project that trains local coffee farmers in alternative farming techniques and sustainable coffee growing, ultimately helping to protect forests.
Seasonal offerings, like those found during Epcot's international food festivals, and location exclusives, including the Mission to S'more Latte served at its kiosk next to Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom Park, have continued to be popular with park guests.
What does the future hold for Disney and Joffrey's? "I'm very fortunate I've been able to work with some very talented chefs and creative people on their beverage innovations team," de Mezzo shares. He mentions Disneyland's recent inventive cold brew creations, including a selection at the Star Wars-themed Oga's Cantina and a horchata latte, as partnership recipes that have blown him away.
De Mezzo and his wife continue to work out of Joffrey's Tampa offices, only these days, if Disney calls, there's no hesitation on his behalf.
You can brew a little magic at-home with these recipes for popular Disney Parks Joffrey's coffee beverages.
At-home Round Em' Up Latte-Inspired Coffee
Actual location: Disney's Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Land
10 ounces of Joffrey's Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Blend
4 ounces of milk
1 1/2 ounces of cookie butter syrup
3/4 ounces of sea salt caramel toffee sauce
Fill serving glass full of ice.
Pour ingredients into serving glass in order listed.
Pour mixture into mixing tin, mix and pour back into serving glass.
Add garnish and serve.
At-home Shakin' Jamaican-Inspired Cold Brew
A fan-favorite, available at many Joffrey's locations
Jamaican Me Crazy Cold Brew Kit, single-serve pods
Place pod in glass or container
Steep pod in 6 ounces of water (cold or room temperature)
Refrigerate for at least 18 hours (may be diluted if desired)
Add milk, sugar, creamer or your favorite syrup to taste
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