3/12/2013 05:07:00 PM

Adventures in...Finding Free Coffee at SXSW

The Brilliant Brew truck in action
Sometimes the story behind the story is the most interesting. That’s where our “Adventures in” series comes in. As our Austin blogger, Megan Giller, reports on new restaurants, researches food trends and learns about food culture, she’ll give you the down and dirty on what happened behind the scenes, as well as put a more human face on all of those lists. 

On Sunday afternoon I headed over to GE’s Brilliant Brew truck to check out the Barista Bots that “print” a photo of your face in the foam of a latte. The truck was surging with caffeine energy as well as a pretty hefty line, and the technicians from Rock Paper Robot were working at full steam.

I was planning to write a story about the bots, and after waiting 20 minutes I asked the PR people if I could skip the line (I try really hard not to be that journalist, but sometimes I fail). They led me to the front and asked a mustachioed, middle-aged Texan and his wife if I could cut. “We’ve been waiting here for 40 minutes,” he said, staring angrily at us as he blocked the entryway with his arm and propped up his knee.

“Oh my gosh,” said the PR people who were helping me. “The coffee is free, and it’s our truck. Do you think he’s going to punch me?”

“That’s ok,” I said. “I’ll wait until they’re finished.” 

As he took the first sip of his GE-lightbulb-emblazoned latte, I scanned his face. “How is it?” I asked. The coffee was chosen by Tonx, a subscription-coffee service, specifically for SXSW and was said to show sweet notes of marzipan.

“It’s better than 7-11,” the mustache scoffed. (“Yeah, he may not be our target customer,” Nick Griffith, the co-founder of Tonx, joked later.)

After the bots embroidered “Zagat” on my latte, I took my first sip of the smooth brew and felt the warm, comforting relief of a good cup of coffee. It was a nice moment.

(The Brilliant Brew truck is headed out of Texas, as its SXSW duties are over. But don't worry, there are plenty more "Adventures in" stories coming.)

So what SXSW experience are you having? Anger and frustration from waiting in line? Trying to be at the coolest event at every moment? Taking note of the serendipity that so much of the festival relies on? Let us know in the comments below how your South by is going.


  1. SXSW hasn't been cool in 20 years since it was just independent music. Now it's this horrid wannabe-hipster Disneyland that's grown like cancer.

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