Levi Craig knows a thing or two about coffee, which is a good thing because he plans to open Ship Channel Trading Company in August at 923 Wakefield Dr.
“Great coffee doesn’t need any sugar,” Craig likes to say. “And bad coffee doesn’t deserve it.”
An Oklahoma native and former commodities trader who has worked in a bank for the last decade, Craig is making a major move with his new venture.
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I’ve always had this aspiration,” Craig said. “I’ve been researching coffee for years.”
Craig said coffee has more than 1,000 compounds responsible for everything from aroma to taste, which is even more variation than is available with wine. At Ship Channel, he aims to educate customers and consumers about what coffee can be.
The company is a member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and the Greater Houston Coffee Association. The name comes from Houston’s position as a large coffee port.
“Our goal is to bring great, green coffee from all over the world directly through the ship channel to roast at our location,” Craig said.
In 2018, he obtained his Q Arabica Grader license from the Coffee Quality Institute. The Q system is an internationally recognized protocol for evaluating coffee quality. There are less than 600 active Arabica Q graders in the U.S. and less than 6,700 globally.
That same year, he and a former trading colleague purchased the 1-acre property on Wakefield, which used to house Barziza Concrete Contractors.
“We looked all over Houston,” said Craig, who lives in the West University area. “But the first time I saw this place I knew this was it. I had not spent much time here before, but I have gotten to know some of the neighbors and other businesses in the area and I could not be more excited to be here. It’s got a lot of the same appeal as the Heights, and I feel that Ship Channel and the other local businesses on the block can add to the personality and character of the area.”
The warehouse on Wakefield has needed an overhaul.
“We are working with Method Architecture and Horizon Construction,” Craig said. “There wasn’t much here previously so almost everything you see is new, and was developed from the ground up.”
Craig’s wife, Kim, majored in visual art at Duke University, where the couple met.
“She has been very supportive of the new venture,” Craig said. “She designed the logo for Ship Channel Trading Co. She also hand-drew all the pictures for our new website, helped design the building and painted the artwork that will decorate the interior.”
In addition to supervising the design of the building, Craig has also been traveling to the places from where his coffee comes. He recently returned from Guatemala.
“Almost all coffee is imported,” Craig said. “We’ll be buying lots from all over the world – Africa, Central and South America and Asia. It’s important to me to have a direct trade supply chain.”
Although the focus will be on coffee and coffee cocktails, there will also be a limited imported beer and wine selection as well as a food truck. Ship Channel plans to be open seven days a week.
“There will be a roaster on display and we’ll also have a separate area for coffee-tasting flights,” Craig said. “We’ll be a retail coffee shop, too, but we want this to be a place where people come to relax and hang out and experience amazing coffee. We want to grow organically.”