The history of coffee in the United States has been quite the journey. That history ranges from a plain cup of Folgers or Dunkin’ Donuts, to a new wave of specialty coffees sparked by Starbucks, to the newest phenomenon we now know as the Third Wave.
This Third Wave of coffee culture entails a number of characteristics. To name a few, the quality of coffee has exponentially increased. Honesty and transparency has started to become the norm, as many roasters and shops are interacting directly with producers in countries of origin, building relationships with them, and paying a more deserving price for the product. (We still have quite a ways to go before producers are consistently compensated for their work. But we’re on our way.) And the process of coffee has become an exploratory field with a value for anything crafted by human touch versus a machine.
There are other characteristics but the one that has been the most profound to me has been “Personality.” It’s a well-deserved attribute as this movement is one of transition from flippant, mass production, to individual craft and care. Every shop, barista, roaster, and coffee, has begun to flourish with its own unique personality.
Each time I venture into a new coffee shop, I look for its personality. What is the coffee like? What are the people like? What is the vibe like? I love this exploration of culture, community, and craft.
So, recently, I set out on a “Cross Country Coffee Crawl” from the West Coast to the Midwest, to experience the array of personalities within coffee culture. I drove through nine states and stopped at seven coffee shops along with a few other stops thrown into the mix.
Join me on a visual journey across the country.
Cartel Coffee Lab
1 N. 1st St., Phoenix, Arizona 85004
815 N Hudson Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Foolish Things Coffee
1001 S Main St, Tulsa, OK 74119
515 Main St, North Little Rock, AR 72114
519 Gallatin Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Photos contributed by Christina Weldy
335 West 9th St, Indianapolis, IN 46202
The Abbey Coffee Co.
1500 S Western Ave, Marion, IN 46953
Now at the end of my coffee adventure, I sit back—tired as I am—and recall my experiences, the people I met, and their stories. Overwhelmingly, I realize that there was one underlying theme throughout it all: coffee is a curator of community.
The story of coffee never seems to end with itself. It always returns to the crafter, the producer, the maker, the buyer, and the drinker. I think about each of the individuals that I interacted with that I never would have met if it had not been for coffee. I recall the stories of how new faces became friends, how people found family, and how life finally became fulfilling for others, all because of the pretext of coffee.
I once saw a Turkish quote written on a sandwich board outside of an Intelligentsia shop. It’s only now that I realize the veracity of it:
“Neither coffee nor the coffeehouse is the heart’s behest. The heart seeks friendship; coffee is the pretext.”