Here at On The Menu—a feature series on Sprudge dedicated to the art of the signature beverage—we know a delicious latte when we see one. That’s why we had to reach out to Kristina Perez Thomas at Soul Good Coffee in Skokie, Illinois, where they’re serving up an absolutely delectable drink made with orange blossom water, cinnamon, and fresh espresso. The drink’s so good they named it eponymously: this is the Soul Good Latte at Soul Good Coffee.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Thanks so much for speaking with us! Can you let us know a little more about how Soul Good got started, and what the project looks like today?
I began working on launching Soul Good Coffee in 2018, and I imagined it as a small brick and mortar in our town of Skokie, Illinois. I was working in the hospitality industry for over 15 years—managing a catering team and planning special events/weddings—but was ready for a change! I’d always wanted to eventually open my own business, specifically a coffee shop, that could promote volunteerism and giving back. Basically a neighborhood cafe where you could get connected with a new non-profit every few months and learn about ways to support them all while getting a cup of coffee/tea!
I started looking for spaces throughout 2019 and found a location RIGHT before COVID-19 hit us. The deal/plan fell apart and I went back to the drawing board to reimagine what Soul Good Coffee could be in a post-COVID-19 world. I was following a ton of mobile cafes (mostly in CA and TX) and figured it was worth a shot! I got connected with a builder in Nashville (Aero Build) and quickly started planning the trailer design/build. I had already bought a used La Marzocco Classic Linea two-group from a local roaster, back when I thought we’d have a brick and mortar space. So I designed the bar around that machine and just filled in the pieces—we also use a Mahlkönig E65 grinder, a Mahlkönig GH2 grinder and a FETCO CBS 214 XTS brewer. We picked up the trailer from Nashville in March 2022 and opened our business in April 2022!
We partner with Five & Hoek Roasters (Wheaton, IL), Soul Chai (Portland, OR), Minor Figures, and Big Heart Tea (St. Louis, MO). There was a huge learning curve in preparing to open as a mobile cafe, as I didn’t know anything about electrical, generators, hitching a trailer, etc. But I’m so grateful for the experience and for our community coming alongside us this year with such amazing support.
We operate the trailer Tuesday-Sunday and have a pretty consistent service schedule at our local farmers market, park district and the Illinois Science & Technology Park. Since opening we’ve partnered with the Niles Township Food Pantry and an incredible organization called GirlForward. The biggest need for GirlForward this summer was feminine hygiene products, and with the support of our community, we collected over 3,000 maxi pads/tampons for them.
I’m so excited for the future of Soul Good Coffee and I’m currently looking for a location to host an INDOOR winter pop up to get us through the cold Chicago winters! We’re also planning a ton for the fall, including a new seasonal drinks, a new non-profit partner, a local guest roaster and a new merch line.
Thank you so much, that’s all fantastic. Tell us more about your special signature drink we’re featuring today!
The SOUL GOOD latte is our signature drink, consisting of espresso, orange simple syrup, orange blossom water, cinnamon and milk. It feels like a hug in a cup, and tastes amazing either hot or iced!
Who crafted your signature drink?
Me! As I was developing our launch/opening menu, I wanted the first round of seasonal drinks to reflect my personal favorite flavor profiles. The orange blossom water/cinnamon combo is something I regularly put in my espresso at home and I knew it had to be the anchor of our drink specials when we opened. It became an instant hit with our customers so we kept it on our menu permanently.
What would you say is the most unique ingredient in this drink?
Hands down it’s the orange blossom water—it’s such a unique flavor in contrast with the cinnamon and espresso.
Is your signature drink served in a particular vessel? How did you make this choice?
Since we’re a mobile cafe, we serve all of our drinks in “to-go” cups or in the reusable cups we offer from KeepCup.
How much is this drink, and for how long will it be on the menu?
$6, and it’ll be served indefinitely.
Anything else you’d like to share about the drink?
Every time I take a sip of this drink, it reminds me of the early days when we first opened our business. It’s our most popular drink to date—we’re so happy people have enjoyed it as much as we do!