Have you ever had the experience of walking into a typical artisanal coffee shop. The baristas peer down at you over the rims of their designer glasses. They judge if you are worthy enough to receive a cup of their free range organic blend, or even to breathe in the general direction of the precious roast. The opposite is true at the Frothy Monkey, one of Nashville’s first fully sustainable coffee shops and 12th South staple.
Now with four locations in Nashville and Franklin, Frothy Monkey’s ‘breakfast through dinner’ style sets it apart from other coffee shops. Opened in 2004 by Miranda Whitcomb (also known for Burger Up and Josephine), Frothy Monkey began with a vision for quality, locally sourced ingredients. Ryan Pruitt purchased the Frothy Monkey from Whitcomb in 2011, and since that time has focused on making it more sustainable
Frothy Monkey’s commitment to quality goes beyond the coffee. The employees’ made-from-scratch, friendly attitudes seem to be a precursor to the love that goes into the food and beverages they serve: known for processing whole animals in house, baking their own pastries, and roasting their own coffee beans, the staff does all of this with love, in a kitchen probably not much larger than most of us have at home.
Locally Sourced Food, Sustainable Business
Besides the quality food and friendly service, Frothy Monkey is committed to sustainability. They are even REAL certified by the United States Healthful Food Council (Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership), a national recognition for a commitment to holistic nutrition and environmental stewardship. Owner Ryan Pruitt notes their lack of deep fat fryers and nutritious options on the kids menu helped earn the REAL award. The Frothy Monkey believes there are healthier ways to prepare food than frying, and kids deserve more than chicken tenders or pizza as menu options.
In addition to being REAL certified, Frothy Monkey source from local food providers whenever possible.. As owner Ryan Pruitt points out, coffee does not grow in Tennessee. Instead, they work with Kaldi’s Coffee based out of St. Louis. They chose this particular company because it provided them the opportunity to learn how to roast their own beans in house. When selecting sources for their ingredients, Frothy Monkey places quality and sustainability over the bottom line.
Farm Fresh Milk
Frothy Monkey uses Hatcher Family Dairy for all dairy products. Hatcher Farms is a family-run dairy company based out of College Grove, Tennessee that has been in business since 1831. Charlie Hatcher, the father of the operation, is the lead veterinarian for the state. Hatcher cows never leave the farm, and they are healthy, so their milk tastes better. Hatcher Family Dairy pasteurizes and bottles all of its products, so most bottles of milk reach Frothy Monkey within 48 hours. The milk is not homogenized, so a layer of cream settles at the top of the container. Most of us have not seen milk this fresh in our lives.
Frothy Monkey has a small garden at the 12th South location in what was once a neglected and overgrown strip of grass between buildings. Now the eyesore has been transformed into a beautiful green space that is maintained by Frothy Monkey employees and community members.
Challenges of Sustainability
Frothy Monkey faces many challenges in its sustainability efforts. For one, it’s sometimes difficult to find the volume and specific items you need. For example, the shop goes through 500 dozen eggs (or 6,000) per week. Fortunately, they have Willow Farms to supply them with local farm-fresh eggs. For what they cannot find locally, the use Creation Gardens. Creation Gardens is a service based out of Louisville, Kentucky that find FDA-approved farms. They focus on Pick Tennessee Products and Kentucky Proud Products and then screen for quality and traceability. This help ensure Frothy Monkey gets the specific items they need, when they need them.
All these carefully selected ingredients create a menu rarely seen at a coffee shop. This even includes everything from Pruitt’s favorite dish the tuna salad to a house made sausage burger. They take great pride in grinding the sausage in house, and baking pastries fresh every morning. The coffees are carefully made by trained baristas who seem genuinely concerned for the quality of your brew. If you are not in the mood for coffee, they also have artisan teas from HighGarden, or if you need more punch, they serve local/craft beer and wine.
Beside locally sourcing ingredients, Frothy Monkey also has a composting and recycling program at their 12th South location. In the back parking lot, an army of garbage cans is dedicated to each recyclable and used coffee grounds that can be used for composting. The city collects the recyclables once a week, with the exception of glass. Frothy Monkey depends on Gunnar’s Glass to recycle glass. Since coffee ground contain a lot of nitrogen, the composting goes to local farmers who need it for berry crops. That is one reason they are working with Boyd Mill Farms to create a seasonal dish featuring blackberries. Frothy Monkey also works with Blackstone Brewery in their composting efforts. They have even collaborated on a coffee based beer.
Each location has its own unique challenges and struggles, and Frothy Monkey is surpassing the city’s ‘going green’ efforts by leaps and bounds. For instance, the downtown location does not have room to spare, nor does Nashville’s limited recycling pick up allow for as developed a program as the 12 South location. However, these challenges do not seem to dampen Frothy Monkey spirit. Whether it is the locally sourced ingredients, the from-scratch kitchen, or the sustainable efforts, Frothy Monkey is a welcoming oasis for coffee lovers and hungry people looking for a healthy and sustainable alternative.
Visit Frothy Monkey’s Website