Commonwealth Coffee is a new coffee roaster based in Denver, Colorado, founded by Jason Farrar and Ryan Fisher. The pair got things started last fall and I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan in Seattle at the SCAA Event in April. He sent me home with a stamped brown bag of their Ethiopian coffee that was one of my favorites on the post-SCAA cupping table and assured me that they had new bags coming out that would be fantastic. After seeing a couple process shots on his phone, I knew they were going to stand out—and that, they do.
The branding and the bags for Commonwealth are the work of notable designer and typographer Kevin Cantrell, whose intricate work looks like its from the bygone era of Freemasons and royal charters. The design is meant to reflect the core of Commonwealth Coffee, which represents unity between the quality of product and service. On the back of each bag is a quote from Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan which argues for the value of the social contract:
This is more than mere agreement or harmony; it is a real unity of them all. They are uniﬁed in that they constitute one single person, created through a covenant of every man with every other man… -Hobbes, Leviathan
The detailed line work wraps the entire bag in gold patterns, filling nearly every inch of empty space between the custom, typographic logo. Laced between the patterns and the flourishes you will find details of the coffee. Each country of origin also has be assigned it’s own custom typographic treatment that is just as well crafted as the logo itself. The details are tremendous. If Baz Lurhmann made a modern period film about coffee, this would be his bag of choice.
London’s Workshop Coffee Co. first opened its doors in 2011 as the European cousin to Australia’s St.Ali—sharing the same name. But in April 2012 the company rebranded (full disclosure: I worked with them on their rebrand) and they’ve since become a household name in London’s specialty coffee scene. The first two Workshop locations were always high on my list of recommended places to visit in London and their wholesale accounts have grown considerably since my last time here.
Last week, Workshop’s third retail location opened at Holborn in the bottom of the new Amazon headquarter building and it’s quite an amazing coffee bar. When you arrive, large front doors open to a bright and spacious area with ample room to place an order or form a queue once Amazon is fully staffed with their employees.
When you enter to the left, there’s a large mirrored logo that casts a glow on several high standing tables and a wall mounted bench reminiscent of the trams in Sweden. This half of the space is designed to accommodate shorter stays and quick shots of espresso, while the back half of the shop offers a more lounging environment where several groups of people were having casual business meetings.
The bar is literally split in two, providing the ability to close off the back of the space with a sliding gate for private events, while keeping the front half open to the public. The back bar also provides the resources to speed up service during rush periods.
The front and back bars are both outfitted with La Marzocco Linea PBs, Mazzer grinders and Uber Boilers. If you’re interested in filter coffee, you can choose from a selection of single origins brewed on an AeroPress or a quick cup of batch brew from a dialed-in Fetco. To accommodate employees operating the well-equipped bar, the space behind it is almost equal to the space in front of it, giving baristas a luxurious amount of room to work with, which everyone seemed very happy about.
The new Workshop feels entirely different than the previous two locations, which are unique from each other in their own right, creating three very distinct experiences depending on where you go. This shop feels like it was designed for speed and efficiency, likely anticipating the rush from Amazon employees and the heavy foot traffic on the street outside. But it also has a very fresh and modern feel in stark contrast to the rustic, wood heavy aesthetic of the Clerkenwell café.
With the growing number of choices to drink delicious coffee in London, the new Workshop offers a refreshing take on the experience that provides a more energizing environment. It feels Scandinavian, without feeling too homey and cozy without putting you to sleep. There are elements that remind me of my favorite coffee bars around the world, like Koppi in Sweden and Saint Frank in San Francisco, all while making its own unique mark on the London coffee scene.
Enjoy this short, but sweet video interview with Anne Lunell from Koppi Coffee in Helsingborg, Sweden. Anne talks with Kalle Freese, the current Finnish Barista Champion and owner of Freese Coffee Co. about her and partner Charles Nystrand’s approach to sourcing, selecting and roasting the coffee they serve.
Yesterday, Thrillist (a daily newsletter of curated recommendations) published a list of the “best coffee roasters in America.” I was one of the “jurors” asked to recommend my top ten coffee roasters in the US and provide a brief description as to what makes them special. Beyond that, I didn’t know who the other jurors were, or how the results would be calculated until the list was published.
Here’s how the final list was complied: all of the roasters who were named by jurors received points based on how they were ranked by the respective juror who mentioned them. For example, if I listed Heart Coffee Roasters as #1, they would receive 10 points towards their total score. If I ranked them #10, they would receive 1 point. If I didn’t name them at all, they received no points—a simple (and fair) format to balance the blind recommendations of nine jurors.
This list is not scientific. It’s not written in stone. It’s only valid until the next internet list of 10 greatest things is published. And it’s all in good fun to reflect the recommendations from a small group of people who drink a lot of coffee—both as professionals in the industry and as consumers. You don’t have to agree. But just maybe there are some roasters on here you haven’t heard of, or tasted, and maybe you’ll find something new that you like. If you’re personal favorite roaster didn’t make the list, don’t hate the internet over it. Drink what you enjoy.
For the sake of transparency, I wanted to share my personal list of top 10 US coffee roasters below (which is not an easy task). However, seven of my selections made the final list—so I wasn’t alone in thinking those companies deserved a mention. Agree, disagree, either way, please enjoy.
1. Heart Coffee Roasters, Portland Heart stands out as having clearly embraced the Nordic influence of their owner Wille and the taste of the coffee reflects it. There’s always something juicy, lively and interesting to enjoy in coffee from Heart.
2. Ritual Coffee, San Francisco Ritual has always felt like an underdog of the San Francisco coffee scene to me. They often fall to the wayside of Blue Bottle’s marketing prowess and the unexplained hype of Phil’s, but they offer some of the best coffee you’ll find in the Bay area and the country as a whole.
3. Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago Intelligentsiais where I first discovered the joy of black coffee in the mid-2000′s. They may be “big” compared with newer, smaller roasters in the US, but they still discover some of the most unique coffees around and haven’t lost their touch.
4. Verve Coffee, Santa Cruz Verve stands out for representing where they come from better than most other coffee companies. Their brand and their attitude reflects the lifestyle of Santa Cruz in almost every way. Verve’s green-tip gesha from 2012 remains one of the best coffees I’ve ever tasted.
5. MadCap Coffee, Grand Rapids MadCap may not come from a large metropolitan area, but they push forward with unique varietal series and Sunday tasting experiences. They’ve also got a stellar brand, one of my favorites, by the renown designers Chuck Anderson and Seth Herman
6. Gimme! Coffee, Ithaca For a time, Gimme! was one of the only “local” roasters in New York City serving quality coffee before an influx of outsiders like Stumptown and Intelligentsia forced others to jump into the game. Gimme! still remains one of my favorite roasters and cafés in New York.
7. Handsome Coffee, Los Angeles Handsome formed from a team of big names in the world of specialty coffee with lots of experience and knowledge to transfer into something new. They added fresh variety and energy to the LA coffee scene after forming in 2011 and haven’t slowed down since.
8. Four Barrel Coffee, San Francisco Four Barrel has really progressed over the years, helping to further expand San Franciscan’s access to good coffee and sourcing really delicious beans in the process. Their coffee shop puts their roasting on display and stands out among the many options in San Francsico.
9. Ceremony Coffee, Annapolis Ceremony underwent a successful name and brand overhaul in 2011 that better reflects their values and the ceremony involved in crafting a delicious cup of coffee. Since then, they’ve been showing up in even more places around Washington D.C. and throughout the country with some really tasty coffees.
10. Counter Culture Coffee, Durham I consider Counter Culture a part of the “big three” in terms of US specialty coffee roasters (including Intelligentsia and Stumptown). However, with CCC’s unique training-based wholesale model that lacks high profile coffee shops, they rarely get the awareness they deserve among average consumers.
On October 1, Counter Culture Coffee’s new world class, state-of-the art training facility will officially open in New York City. The fully renovated space offers 3,600 sq feet of epic coffee training wonderland that will include one of the first Modbar systems in the country as well as equipment from all the top equipment manufacturers—La Marzocco, Ditting, Mazzer, Nuova Simonelli, Marco and Mahlkonig. If the Modbar wasn’t enough there will also be several Über boilers and an EK-43.
Counter Culture Coffee is headquartered in Durham, NC but sells coffee through wholesale accounts in most major cities and beyond. The company doesn’t have cafés of their own and instead focuses their energy on thoroughly training their wholesale customers. The training program has proved quite successful for their own employees as well, helping both Katie Carguilo, the 2012 US Barista Champion and Erin McCarthy, the 2013 World Brewers Cup Champion win their respective competitions.
The training center will be used for an array of classes from the company’s Counter Intelligence program and boasts an incredibly multi-faceted design to host a broad range of events. There will be free public cuppings every Friday at 10am (which also take place at their other training centers around the country), home brewing workshops and even food pairing events with guest chefs.
For the industry side, there’s an espresso training room that fits up to 20 people, a full service tech lab in the basement, and a competition training room. If you happen to be a Counter Culture wholesale customer you’ll even have your own key. As Counter Culture’s own Jesse Kahn puts it, “our training lab IS our wholesale customers training lab. They have access whenever they need it. It’s all about helping people have sustainable in-house training.”
The design utilizes ample amounts of reclaimed and salvaged wood filling the space, and its 16ft high ceilings, with some warmth. The architect, Jane Kim, has worked with other well known coffee spots in NYC, including the second location of Everyman Espresso and Third Rail, but the work for Counter Culture seems to better reflect some of her beautiful lofty residential work.
[above the CCC dream team in their new training center: Park Brannen, Katie Carguilo, Jesse Kahn, Erin Meister, and Erin McCarthy] Photos: Alan Tansey
For those of you in NYC this weekend, the training center will have an open house on Friday and Saturday to celebrate with cuppings, brewing workshops and giveways. I can’t make it, so stop by the new space, taste some great coffee, Instagram the hell out of it and give Jesse Kahn a giant hug for me.
The New York Counter Culture Training Center
376 Broome Street
New York, NY 10013
Andrew Barnett is a veteran of specialty coffee who has been around longer than many of the younger roasters you might be familiar with. In 2000, Andrew founded Ecco Caffe which roasted coffee for the San Francisco Bay area for years before it was sold to Intelligentsia in 2009. New Yorkers may also be familiar with Ecco from its use at Joe Coffee, until Joe began roasting for themselves earlier this summer.
This week, Andrew opened the door of his newest foray in the world of coffee—Linea Caffe. The new espresso bar is an intimate, open air café on the corner of 18th and San Carlos in the Mission District. The focus on espresso based drinks and its standing room only intimacy, creates a European feel that’s contrasts with the spacious San Francisco spots that can feel more like co-working spaces than coffee bars. For those who don’t have work to do, Linea provides a warm neighborly environment that’s better for standing around talking with friends than meeting deadlines.
Apart from Andrew and his coffee, the space is also shared with Anthony Myint, of Mission Chinese fame, who’s making fluffy Brussel-style waffles and salads meant to satisfy. Andrew is determined to ensure the focus on coffee and fare be well balanced, instead of leaving the food as an afterthought. So Linea Caffe partnered with Anthony to launch food concepts that will be just as much of a draw as the coffee.
The espresso at Linea is meant to be sweet, balanced and approachable, leaving the more experimental flavor bombs to some of San Francisco’s other specialty coffee bars. After sampling the espresso with and without milk, it was right on target. It was a straightforward, enjoyable coffee that should please both coffee purists as well as the rest of the neighborhood. Next I’ll be sure to try the waffles.
The Danish stalwarts at Coffee Collective recently made an exciting announcement on their blog. After years of only serving limited pastry offerings to maintain focus on their coffees, they will now begin offering delicate treats created specifically to pair with certain coffees on the menu at their location (and roastery) on Godthåbsvej.
The idea was to keep it as simple as possible. Three small dishes, each paired with a specific coffee as a combined experience. The dishes change along with our coffee menu, so new flavour combinations can be tested. - Coffee Collective blog
This idea comes from the company’s experience working with and learning from several high end restaurants who have begun incorporating the flavors of coffee into their tasting menus the same way they would wine and other foods. It’s an inspiring addition to an already fantastic coffee shop. I’m definitely looking forward to my next visit.
Coffee Supreme, the New Zealand-based coffee roaster, won first prize in the non-alcoholic beverage category last week at the annual Dieline Package Design Awards. The company, which has five locations in New Zealand and one in Melbourne, received a brand makeover last year from the NZ-based design agency Hardhat that included the development of an engaging system of take-away cups for their stores.
The new collection of cups include sixteen unique illustrations that are meant to capture the spirit and individuality of the company, referencing vintage etchings with a modern design approach. The system also includes three different cup colors to easily distinguish between different sizes—definitely a helpful feature for busy baristas.
In creating this collection of cups, each with their own characterful hand-drawn or painted illustration, we hoped to replace the somewhat thoughtless routine of buying a take-out coffee with a more unique and personal experience, encouraging you to take a moment to stop & reflect; to look at the detail and humor in the illustrations, to look forward to seeing which cup your coffee might arrive in, having a particular favorite.
Put simply, this was about re-connecting people with the great cup of coffee in their hands. -Hardhat Design
I’m not a supporter of paper cups, but these are quite lovely and definitely distinguishable. If only they weren’t meant to be thrown away after such a short life.
Tonight the partners of Koppi, a crown jewel of Swedish coffee, will open the doors to their new pop-up coffee bar in Stockholm. Until now, coming across Koppi in the capital city was relinquished to the occasional guest appearance on bar or recently at a multi-roaster shop like Mean Coffee. But after this evening, there will be a little bit of the Helsingborg experience available to everyone in Stockholm.
The new space shares a wall with the Denim Demon flagship store where you can try on a fresh pair of raw blues while you enjoy an Aeropress of Thunguri.
The Daily Meal, one of the internet’s fastest growing food websites, just released one of the more thorough lists of great coffee shops that can be found across the US. While there are a few notables I would add, there are far fewer surprises then other lists I’ve seen. After first giving readers an update on the progression of coffee culture over the years—with the oft-used wave metaphor—they break down their method of selection:
We scoured for the best independent coffee shops and chains that have changed the way we drink coffee. Our criteria? The best quality in coffee and food, atmosphere, customer service, and the “unique” factor. (Case in point: a DeLorean car in the back of one shop.)
Then a panel of coffee aficionados and industry surveyors, including the current US Barista Champion Katie Caguilo, weighed in with their own nominations and suggestions of both national craft coffee “chains” (i.e. Stumptown & Intelligentsia) as well as domestic shops. A selection of nearly 150 shops across the United States were then narrowed down to 33 winners with the highest ranking.
The Daily Meal’s list the of Top 10 US Coffee Shops