Discourse Coffee Is Brewing Drinks Worth Talking About

“Liquid workshop” creator Ryan Castelaz is engaging in a compelling dialogue with coffee. 

It’s an apt name for this inventive, experimental cafe/workshop: Discourse. Drinks like Trish, a refreshing matcha tea-strawberry-cucumber tonic, just naturally elicit conversation in the cafes at both the Crossroads Collective food hall and Milwaukee Art Museum.

Owner Ryan Castelaz and partners Sean Liu and Olivia Molter want their creations to transcend froth art. Discourse drink makers can brew a simple latte or pour-over, or dazzle with a fanciful elixir containing ingredients like smoked honey, mushrooms, bitters, herbs, olives and muddled fruits. For these exploratory, often-changing drinks, Castelaz says, inspiration may come from a story, memory, song or particularly unforgettable evening. From there, he’ll “think of the underlying characteristics and create a liquid discourse.”


 

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Launched in a tiny “laundry room” in Door County in 2017, Discourse Coffee Workshop is the culmination of several things – Castelaz’s Italian travels, Wisconsin’s rich farmlands, and episodes of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table.” (“Seeing chefs create was completely mind-blowing to me,” he says.) Though the liquid enterprise had developed a following in Door County, Castelaz made the move to MKE hoping to set it up for sustainability. “I started to realize people were counting on me to get fed,” he says. “We believe that being a barista should be a [viable] career.”

The New Berlin native is now busy growing the concept, with another home for Discourse (at 1020 N. Broadway) and a book due out in 2023 that he hopes will “change the perception of being a drink maker in the coffee space.” Boundaries, even brewed ones, are meant to be broken. 


Photos:

Elmocha from Discourse; Photo by Chris Kessler

Moonwater from Discourse; Photo by Chris Kessler

Parisian from Discourse; Photo by Chris Kessler

 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine’s October issue.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.