Our family's staycation experience in a historic bed and breakfast in Texas Hill Country
In my humble opinion, I believe Helotes, TX is one of the best gems in Texas Hill Country. And within it, Texas Grounds Coffee Company is the crown jewel that greets visitors to the town with a friendly smile (behind masks for now) and a cup of coffee.
Located right on the Circle of Old Town Helotes, this quaint cafe in a century-old historic building offers guests a morning perk with indoor and outdoor garden seating, Texas-sized, flavorful pastries and even a bed and breakfast if you're looking for a staycation or are visiting the San Antonio area.
My family and I first went to Helotes in January 2020 (pre-pandemic times!) on a mission to buy a chiminea, which is a small clay fireplace for outdoor spaces. We heard the Hill Country is the best place to find ones that were handmade, and enjoyed the morning browsing the hillside at Mexico Lindo Artesanias. We saw a coffee shop across the highway - and being the coffee lovers we are - we can never pass up this opportunity!
My husband and I met in Hawaii in 2012 and coffee quickly became a shared passion while living in the Islands, especially after I moved to Kona, which is known for its famous acidic coffee grown on the slopes of Hualalai Volcano. Fun fact - he proposed to me over a cup of morning coffee on the beach. Who needs wine?!
Since then, our tastes have broadened, and we've learned a lot about the trade and different varieties of coffee from all around the globe. We drink our coffee black typically so we can taste all the flavors, but I also love to try new espresso drinks too. When we entered Texas Grounds, we were in luck because the coffee shop offers drinks that will please any guest, whether they prefer sweet espresso drinks, a rich Colombian roast or a light floral roast from Ethiopia. The co-owner, Phil Santillanes, roasts all of Texas Grounds' coffee in-house and also roasts for other cafes in San Antonio.
If you aren't a coffee drinker (what's wrong with you?! Just kidding), the pastries are enough of a reason to visit Texas Grounds. With starving kids who did not eat their breakfast, I really appreciated the kid-friendly options like Frosty Rice Crispy marshmallow bars and cookies, decadent treats like the incredibly large cream puffs and Chocolate-Chip Oreo Brownies and gluten-free items. Although they concentrate on the sweets baked by co-owner Jennifer Howard, Texas Grounds also offers heartier bites such as the Chicken Avocado Keto Wrap, a bacon quiche and a veggie quiche.
Phil and Jennifer founded Texas Grounds in 2018 to serve amazing coffee and top-notch pastries - but they acknowledge that creating connections and inspiring others to do what they love is what drives their success. The two owners were neighbors living in Helotes - Jennifer a teacher and Phil in health administration - that shared a common dream to open up a coffee shop and bakery with their combined talents. The two eventually left their day jobs and opened up Texas Grounds full time.
Since then, it's been all hands on deck for the owners, who have built and educated a team and foundation they take great pride in. It shows through the customer service their managers and baristas provide, with loyal repeat customers coming in to work remotely during the pandemic; many of them with entrepreneurial spirits of their own. I go there often now to work, and I always hear at least one set of new customers come in and murmur about how "awesome" the place is, how delicious the pastries are and how beautiful the grounds are in the spacious shared backyard with a winery and a procured gift shop.
Texas Grounds has also created a two-hour cupping program that it facilitates for private parties of 8-10 people to learn about the process of how coffee is made. From church parishes to fire fighter units to bachelorette parties, the owners can create a tailored experience for each group.
Guests can expect to taste samples of pastries and view a powerpoint that explains the basics of coffee growing, what to look for when buying it and explains the sourcing process for Texas Grounds' coffee growers' co-op that provides them with beans from all over the world. Then, participants can smell and taste coffee from different countries and discover which notes appeal most to them - you'll even master the art of "slurping" coffee thanks to Phil's careful instruction. After a session on drying out the coffee during the roasting process, they send everyone home with a customized bag to enjoy from beans they selected during the cupping.
But why go home when you can stay at a bed and breakfast atop the coffee house? My husband, two young children and I had the chance to stay in the two-bedroom retreat in August, which the owners completely revitalized. I felt as though we were in an episode of Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines as we entered the stunningly finished loft that exudes Texas hospitality with every touch.
There is a separate entrance from the coffee shop where stairs take you up to the loft. Upon entry, there is a large gathering space with a TV, coffee table, a small dining area and a basic kitchen. As you continue through the BNB, the main hallway boasts a bathroom, a separate powder room to get ready for a night out in Helotes town and then onto a covered sun room with sweeping views of the rolling hills. We watched the sunrise from this spot in the morning. Both bedrooms were gorgeous with enough room for my kids to share a bed so we could have the master bedroom.
As an added perk (pun intended), guests who stay at the BNB receive a $10 credit toward their bill downstairs at the coffee shop. The next morning, we finished off our staycation with our favorite, the Republic blend, a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Latte and plenty of pastries.
While the pandemic is still surging in different areas of the country, there is a safe way to travel. Texas Grounds takes all the necessary precautions and made us feel confident and safe with their diligent cleaning efforts and mask-wearing of their team members. Life looks a bit different than the first time we visited in January, but there's something about Hill Country that allows you to escape, if only for the day.