LUTZ — Before he opened an organic coffee shop, Peter Davidson didn't even own a coffee pot.
But after spending months and months of sleepless nights researching the craft, the caffeinated beverage became his passion.
Four years ago, Davidson, along with four partners, began importing coffee and selling it online. Davidson left his job working in business-to-business cell phone sales to focus on the venture. When a shop formerly occupied by Barnie's Coffee and Tea became available, they opened A Cup of Organic Coffee Shop in 2010.
Two years ago, two partners left to focus on selling coffee online and in grocery stores, and have since opened a location by the same name in San Antonio. The other two partners stepped away too, and Davidson continued on under a new name: Organic Life Coffeehouse and Bakery. He began roasting the coffee on-site, as well as offering loose leaf teas, and expanding the food and bakery selection.
Nearly everything at the coffee shop is organic, or as close to organic as possible. The importance, Davidson says, is avoiding pesticides. While fruits and vegetables can be washed, coffee is brewed directly into the cup, pesticides and all.
All menu items are fair trade or "better than fair trade," meaning that the shop purchases coffee through a cooperative that compensates the farmers fairly, or they work directly with the farmers themselves.
Organic Life purchases many of their coffee beans from Guy Buckmaster, president and CEO of Heart-for-Haiti, a group that works to promote sustainability in Haiti and other countries. Buckmaster has been working with Davidson since the beginning, and recognizes that they share a similar vision.
"We both wanted to return the profits back to those areas," Buckmaster said.
At first, patrons might not notice that the shop has a Christian background. There are subtle religious undertones, such as a rack of merchandise emblazoned with references to Bible verses. But the staff won't serve up unsolicited conversations about religion.
"We believe that if people want to know more about it, then they will open up to us," Davidson, 33, said. "If they want to just come in and have a cup of coffee, then we want them to just have a nice place to come into and be treated the way that any restaurant should treat their customers."
Patrons can indulge in unique menu items like a mufflette, a cross between a muffin and an omelette, while relaxing at a table or sitting at the semi-circular coffee bar, where they can watch the staff prepare beverages. The shop has a rentable conference room and a kids' area. A drum set and other music equipment sit in one corner of the shop for night-time entertainment.
The shop hosts an open mic night on Tuesdays, where participants sign up for 15-minute time slots. The only requirements are that performers are original and family-friendly.
Comedians, tap dancers, bagpipe players and big bands have all graced the Organic Life stage.
"(We've had) people who have never played in front of anybody their entire life, and they get standing ovations," Davidson said.
On Friday nights, the stage usually features bands playing Christian music, though jazz and classical bands have also performed. The last Friday of the month consists of 24 hours of live Christian music, with a new set starting every two hours.
Though the musicians are generally local bands, sometimes the coffee shop hosts well-known acts.
This past June, more than 500 people came out to see the Christian band For King and Country at Organic Life, Davidson said. The band has more than 92,000 Facebook fans.
Organic Life is thriving among the coffee giants with franchises around every corner. Davidson's parents, Larry and JoAnne, run a second location in Palm Harbor, which celebrated its grand opening in December. Davidson is also considering a third location in Land O'Lakes.
"The nice thing about Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts is it's consistent wherever you go," Davidson said. "The downside to consistency is there's no uniqueness to it."
Organic Life's ability to vary their blends on a monthly basis and roast their beans on-site is what sets them apart from corporate coffee shops, Davidson says.
"You're going to know a little bit more about your coffee, where it comes from, how it's roasted. It's going to be on the fresher side, and we're able to vary the way that things are," Davidson said.
Samantha Fuchs can be reached at (727) 869-6235 or [email protected]