What’s in a name? A spro by any other name would taste just as sweet. But to a coffee shop, that collection of letters designating a sequence of sounds referring to a thing, action, or idea is pretty important. The name is generally the first piece of information a customer gets about a shop, the introduction into what a certain cafe is all about. And while the quality of the name doesn’t necessarily correlate to the quality of the coffee (maybe Uncle Willy’s Java Hut makes really amazing espresso, I just don’t want to be the first one to find out), the name of a shop sets the stage for the overall first experience. (Sorry, Uncle Willy.)
Often, the meaning behind a name is straightforward; it doesn’t take a lot of cranial energy to figure out how George Howell Coffee or Ninth Street Espresso got their nom de plume. Other monikers have meanings that are a bit more cryptic. That’s why we asked shops owners from around the world for the origin stories behind their less-than-obvious names. The answers are funny, serious, literary, and personal. Many draw inspiration outside of the coffee world to help frame their ethos. But each story is unique and gives us an inside look into the thought process behind some of the best coffee brands in the world, and how those owners view their place in it.
1. 3fe (Dublin, Ireland)
“I had a training room in my third floor apartment where I trained for the 2009 World Barista Championship and used to make coffee for invited guests. When I found a retail space, I decided to take the same care and attention employed at the third floor training room and apply it to the retail space. My graphic designers suggested that I take inspiration in the naming of the shop from it too and so Third Floor Espresso (3fe) was born.” – Colin Harmon, owner and four-time WBC Finalist
2. Blacksmith (Houston, Texas)
“My philosophy on naming businesses is that it has to mean a lot of things, to a lot of different people,” owner David Buehrer explains. From their “made by hand” philosophy to their relation to a local bar Anvil, to their color-centric naming convention shared with Greenway Coffee, Buehrer’s roasting company, “Blacksmith” ties together various influences into a succinct, two syllable title. “I mean, if someone made you a badass sword, why would you ever go somewhere else, right?”
3. Box Kite (New York, New York)
“My grandfather named his personal boat after the nickname for the radio transmitter used in the Navy during World War II. The radio was nicknamed “Gibson Girl” for its hourglass shape. The signal was transmitted through the box-shaped kite attached to the radio. After my grandfather retired, he and my grandma chartered personal cruises in the Caribbean, and in loving memory, I named the shop Box Kite.” – Cora Lambert, owner
4. Buddy Brew Coffee (Tampa, Florida)
Originally a joke name, “Buddy Brew” was first formulated when owner Dave Ward was hanging out with a friend, having a few beers. Ward was a home enthusiast at the time, roasting coffee for friends and family. When his friend told him he needed to turn his roasting into a business and asked him what he would name it, Ward looked around and created a title based on his surroundings—Buddy, his dog, and Brew, the ice cold beverage in his hand. The name stuck and now Ward and co. are bringing their “Brew Good, Do Good” vibes to the western coast of the Florida peninsula.
5. Coava Coffee Roasters (Portland, Oregon)
“In short, it means ‘green’ coffee in old Turkish from the 1600's, which is around the first time English started getting a noun for unroasted coffee, but it never stuck though. Since I started the company, my main philosophy has always been that we are only as good as the farmers and coffee we start with. So I named the company after coffee in its purest form—'un-roasted', which has been my passion from the very beginning.” – Matt Higgins, owner
Zac Cadwalader is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Dallas, Texas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.
In an earlier version, Colin Harmon was cited as having placed in the WBC finals twice. Sprudge.com actually meant to say twice-twice, meaning four times, which is the accurate number. We regret this error, twofold.