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A sampling of Zero Tolereance's coffee and chocolate.

Featured Article

Tolerating Only The Best: Coffee and Chocolate at Zero Tolerance

Real Coffee and Chocolate at Zero Tolerance

Article by Andrew Griffin

Photography by Andrew Griffin

Originally published in OKC City Lifestyle

When City Lifestyle OKC approached Zero Tolerance Coffee & Chocolate owner Maura Baker about why she decided to open this cozy and inviting shop in the Old Britton area of Oklahoma City - right along a spur of Route 66, no less – where they also roast fine cacao and coffees, 

“Why?” she replied with a chuckle. “Because we’re foolish?”

But once you get talking to Maura about the real reasons she and her husband, Roy Baker, opened Zero Tolerance, you learn it is about the passion for serving the public something delicious, unique and important.

As Baker notes on the Zero Tolerance website, “With 200-year-old roots in Indian Territory and Oklahoma, we are veteran owned and operated and take great pride in our community, city and state.”
And they do.

Our Zero Tolerance policy extends from the quality of our products and services to our trade practices. We source directly from independent farmers, ensuring they are properly compensated. The farmers, our community and our customers are our lifeblood, and we treat them with great care and respect. We developed our coffee roasts to complement our brew methods and the coffee brewing methods used by our customers.”

This all started for the Bakers because when they met they both loved coffee, the slow-food movement and real food.

“For me, loved making food, coffee, and learn to brew beer. He learned to keep bees. We liked food, you know, food from scratch. Real food.”

With Zero Tolerance, it is all about the real. Baker would not tolerate anything less. And that is evident at Zero Tolerance. Oh, and the name? That comes from the 17th century when the King of England grew intolerant of the expansion of coffeehouses and the anti-monarch conversations they created. Recreations of the King’s anti-café posters are on the walls of Zero Tolerance.

“Anything we make, we make from scratch,” Baker said, as calming, New Age music played over the store speakers and customers were sitting at tables featuring chessboards to encourage interaction and conversation. She is not a big fan of people being self-absorbed on their phones.

“Coffee-wise, I learned to make coffee from a friend of mine from Ethiopia back in 1992. She taught me the coffee ceremony and how to pan roast and all that, which was really intriguing. I tucked that away and thought it was really cool.”

In time, Baker says she purchased some coffee beans at a local market and tried roasting them and the results were less than stellar. 


But when the coffee house movement kicked off in earnest in the mid-1990s, throughout the United States, Baker says she began learning more and more about the bean and all of its amazing properties. She would learn more and more as the years went by.


Years later, when her husband was serving in Kabul, Afghanistan with the Army National Guard, the coffee she sent him found a following amongst soldiers from around the world.


“The Italians loved his coffee … I mean, they came with espresso machines,” Baker says, chuckling. “They kept saying, ‘Why don’t you sell this?”


Eventually, he returned to the U.S. and the coffee-selling idea seemed doable. And with their children growing up, Maura Baker said she and came to the conclusion that they could sell coffee.


Sure, there are people who sell coffee out of a warehouse, online, or from their garage. Baker, however, wanted people to know about the process of coffee and where it comes from and how it can be utilized and crafted into what we have come to know and love. 

“We thought the legitimacy of it was to actually have a café, while harkening back to the traditional espresso values that the Italians had, from the 1930s. You know ‘express coffee,’ you drink it quickly and in a real cup. And if you’re going to add a syrup it’s because you want to add the flavor rather than you’re going to hide something that will diminish a good coffee.”

“We don’t want to have fancy flavors because they sound cute. I want real coffee and real well-thought-of compounds that compliments the coffee.”

That includes a medium roast chosen to make the espresso. 

“People are so used to the bitter and the dark that they’re dumping sugar in everything. And I see that in the American palette. They can’t taste real things anymore. 

“And coffee is good. It tastes good. And that’s part of the reason we decided to open the café and the coffeehouse like it is. We wanted people to experience coffee and to experience chocolate, because chocolate is really cool. 

“It’s one of those things, most adulterated products that

“We have a 2,000-square-feet factory facility and manufacturing facility where we make chocolate and roast our coffee,” Baker said, noting that an Israeli company built a roaster from Baker that roasts both coffee and chocolate, helping to streamline the roasting process. 

“It helps with the dynamic range. Coffee roasts at a very high temperature and chocolate at a very low temperature,” Baker said

Hand-dipped caramels with chocolate from Guatemala were brought out on a tray. And they were delicious. 
“It’s for people who like a little bitter edge to things,” she said, smiling. “And I have those people, they find us. It’s funny.”

Maura described another treat – the Fubar – that is “like a Hershey’s Fifth Avenue bar or a Butterfinger …. like a toffee mixed with peanut butter, so it’s very crisp,” she said, adding, “We try to stay away from imitation flavors.”

HISTORIC OWL COURT BUILDING
Zero Tolerance is not just the shop on Britton. A block or so east of the main café, along Britton Road, is the historic Owl Court motel, which was recently fixed up to the way it appeared when it was originally completed in 1930, along a spur of Route 66. It was in the former town of Britton, which was later annexed and absorbed into Oklahoma City.

The distinctive, front office building of Owl Court was obtained – briefly – by a coffee business, before Baker later acquired it and made it to where people driving by – 20,000 cars a day along this particular stretch – can stop and order a cup of Zero Tolerance’s brews. 

“It’s a fun way to reach people,” Baker said, noting that it’s her children that work the Owl Court building location. 

And with cooler temperatures descending on Oklahoma City as autumn advances, Baker is hoping coffee consumption at Zero Tolerance increases. 
And as the word gets out, it most certainly will.

  • Maura Baker owns and operates Zero Tolerance Coffee & Chocolate.
  • A sampling of Zero Tolereance's coffee and chocolate.
  • Zero Tolerance chocolate pairs well with their fresh coffee.
  • Bags of coffee sold at Zero Tolerance.
  • Robin Goforth serves some Guatemalan-grown coffee at Zero Tolerance.
  • A copy of the King of England's proclamation against coffeehouses in the 17th century.
  • Zero Tolerance also sells coffee from the historic Owl Court building on Britton Road.