Coffee & Hot Tease is Houston’s Newest Bikini Barista Shop

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If Houstonians are talking about a food truck outside West Alabama Ice House, it’s surely Tacos Tierra Caliente, a favorite Montrose neighborhood for Mexican street food. But last week, passers-by might have noticed another mobile business in this corner: Coffee & Hot Tease, a pin-up cafe.

On a Tuesday morning, owners Shannon Nealon and Emily Baker stand in front of their truck wearing retro black swimsuits with a red floral pattern. Before long, they’re greeting a few customers, already regulars, passing through the bustling corner of West Alabama and McDuffie.

A man at the stop sign rolls down his window: “What are you girls selling?”

“Coffee!” they shout in unison. He will come back, he said. Marketing works, explains Nealon with a knowing smile. She’s noticed that when they stand outside the truck with their outfits on, they attract a lot more customers, whether it’s neighbors walking their dogs or driving by, their curiosity piqued by newcomers in bikinis. in the neighborhood.

Emily Baker (left) and Shannon Nealon are U.S. Army and Navy veterans making second careers in Coffee & Hot Tease.

Emma Baller

Coffee & Hot Tease is a fresh start for the two women, who both recently left their careers in the US military. Nealon was in the Marine Corps Artillery, serving overseas in Syria, Kuwait, Jordan, Italy and Spain. Baker worked as an army doctor in Afghanistan treating refugees and filling gaps in the country’s hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, while still in the military, Nealon founded the Happy Bean Project, a nonprofit cafe in Lake Jackson focused on the homeless community. Customers support the initiative by buying coffee and are encouraged to donate food and clothing, which she brings to encampments in downtown Houston every two weeks.

The cause is personal for Nealon. Her brother struggles with poor mental health and addiction, and currently lives on the streets in Los Angeles. “I just have a big heart for helping homeless people and people with mental health issues,” she said. “And I also suffer from mental health issues.”

After going through a tough breakup with her partner, Nealon decided she needed to start a side business to make money for herself without making any profit from Happy Bean. In early 2020, she was featured in a Military.com article after becoming one of two women to serve as Marine Artillery Section Chief and gained a large following on Instagram. One of her new supporters was Baker’s husband, who encouraged her to contact Nealon when she announced she was moving to Texas after leaving the military.

The former Navy needed help starting his new business and Baker, a Houston native, was no stranger to coffee. Her aunt and uncle own a cafe in California and she opened one in Dallas with her family in 2017. Prior to that, Baker also worked at Starbucks and Prohibition, Houston’s now-closed burlesque theater.

“I love how coffee can make people happy,” said Nealon, whose very first job was also as a barista. “It brings people together.”

Coffee & Hot Tease offers coffee, tea and pastries with a side of tea.

Coffee & Hot Tease offers coffee, tea and pastries with a side of tea.

Emma Baller

Prior to her service, Baker lived in Washington state, where so-called “bikini baristas” originated and are still prevalent. She used the concept of coffee and teasing as inspiration, but thought Texas might not be quite ready for it, so she opted for a retro pin-up brand instead. , a more conservative look with high-waisted bottoms and old-fashioned lingerie. .

“As a woman, it’s okay to embrace our sexuality,” Nealon said. “We like to be ourselves and have a good time and feel sexy while we’re doing it.”

Baker remembers his time working at Prohibition and the fun the artists had during their shows. “We’re both silly and bubbly,” she said. “We’re just trying to create an atmosphere where people can come and show any side of themselves and have fun.”

The veterans’ own show at Coffee & Hot Tease is expensive. They have about 20-30 outfits each and try to match as much as possible. Right now they buy most of their workwear from Amazon, but Nealon wants to find a store in Houston to stock them because she likes to support local businesses. Pin-up swimsuits are not so easy to find, as fashion is quite outdated.

Coffee & Hot Tease uses beans from Dillanos Coffee Roasters in Summer, Washington, where Nealon learned to brew coffee. She opted to take a piece of her roots with her instead of sourcing from a local roaster. The truck serves traditional coffee and tea options as well as blended coffee drinks with flavors like pecan and horchata. They also sell pastries from the Westheimer Blacksmith cafe. Baker, who often has coffee dates there with her husband, connected with the team and pastry chef Christina Au.

The Markantonis family, owners of West Alabama Ice House, are allowing the two entrepreneurs to operate their property for free for the first month of their lease so that the business can set up shop and build up a clientele. The truck is parked in the small corner lot just below the iconic bar marquee sign, Monday through Saturday. The duo also wants to take on catering clients for corporate events, weddings and more.

In just over a week, they have already attracted regular customers and new customers from the neighborhood. Many see the “owned by female veteran” marker on the truck and want to hear about their experiences, especially older veterans who have also served. Overall, the community has been very welcoming and supportive, they say.

“Houston is so much fun, I love that we can do this and people are like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool,'” Baker said.

Coffee & Hot Tease is planning its grand opening celebration on Saturday September 24th. They hope to hire between five and ten pin-up models for the occasion, and they learn how to do victory curls on Emily’s long hair. They will also be riding in an old school motorbike with a buggy so people can take pictures.

While Houston’s warm weather will last a little longer, what will happen to their skimpy outfits when winter rolls around? “We were in the military,” laughed Baker. They will make it work.



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