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Mocha Man

Russell Hayward satiates the city’s need for a great cup of Joe while giving back to those who grow it.

Russell Hayward

It’s the chicest office in town. A quick glance around the Dallas Design District’s Ascension coffee house (ascensioncoffee.com) reveals laptopping writers, tapping away on repurposed bowling-alley-wood tables near the window. On the patio, a dashing television reporter and his cameraman are setting up, and smartly dressed interior designers and furniture showroom owners are gathering at the bar inside. “The whole idea was to open the best coffee house in town,” says Ascension’s owner Russell Hayward, somewhat boastfully—but that could just be his Aussie twang. The 55-year-old doesn’t even like to refer to the place as a coffee house because that sounds like “some ’60s-type of thing with couches and people laying around,” he says. The extensive wine list and dinner menu take it to another level. “We have table service if you want it. Every day is like a work party,” he adds. Indeed, with clientele that’s mostly everyday regulars who work and live in the area, when Hayward walks into his shop, he’s a blend of boss and host. He’s earned the title, having opened Ascension after his West Village hot spot, Tom Tom Noodle, closed late last year. There are two more coffee shops on the way, one in Uptown and one Downtown. But, while he’s stoked about the expansion, he’s more excited about his Sudanese coffee brewing—and how he got it. Hayward founded Restore the Bean this past year, a nonprofit organization that works with Sudanese coffee farmers to both mentor growers in South Sudan and plant 50 to 100 new acres of coffee plants each year. His work—and bimonthly trans-Atlantic flights—have paid off, as 2014 will see the first successful harvest from the region in 24 years.  Says the dad of four, “It just feels good to give back over there and sell the coffee here.” Good to the last drop.

Hayward’s Hots
Compassionate world-changers; Nordstrom’s wrinkle-free shirts; Padron 1964 cigars; a nice glass of Bordeaux with my wife on a balmy Dallas evening; a clear and starry night in Yei, South Sudan

Hayward’s Nots
635 construction; the Cowboys stadium not in Dallas; narcissists; bitter burnt coffee; apathetic hearts; anonymous posts (“Own what you say!”); trash TV; the perpetrators of violence in the Congo; giant pythons