Charlotte has to be one of the low-key most exciting coffee city in the United States right now. Somehow, the city at the epicenter of Counter Culture‘s orbit has managed to fly under the radar, but make no mistake about it, the CLT has firmly put its name on the map. And this is due in large part to the small, independent companies that are really pushing the city’s coffee scene forward. In the last year alone, shops like Comic Girl Coffee (profiled here on Sprudge) and Trade & Lore in the Salud Cervecería are providing unique spaces and experiences for customers, and doing so on their own terms.
And there’s a new name to add to this list: Undercurrent Coffee. With Onyx Coffee Lab as their primary roaster, Undercurrent is creating a community-forward cafe, but one that highlights the stories of the myriad craftspeople involved in all their goods. Fresh, seasonal, and delicious, everything coming from Undercurrent has a story, and it’s one they will gladly tell. So let’s let them do just that, shall we?
As told to Sprudge by Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Undercurrent Coffee is a new business with its first cafe located in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a company founded by the husband and wife duo Todd and Erin Huber, two Plaza Midwood residents and coffee enthusiasts who saw a need for a comfortable community gathering space in their neighborhood. Undercurrent is a coffee business highlighted by our love for our community, made unique by our ingredient-focused, seasonally-rotating food and beverage offerings, and brought to life by our enthusiastic, knowledgable, and approachable team.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
2012 Commonwealth is a 2,000-square-foot cafe situated in the heart of Plaza Midwood, a diverse and eclectic neighborhood one mile northeast of downtown Charlotte. The shop was designed with cool tones, an influx of natural light, and communal seating to yield a comfortable and calming spot for our guests to enjoy. The cafe is comprised of a large coffee bar with extensive tile work, eye-catching shelving, and 42 plush seats, ranging from chairs to couches, throughout the dining area.
Outdoor seating for 12 to 15 people is provided in front of the cafe, allowing Undercurrent’s guests to enjoy the shade provided by a large neighboring oak tree, and to blend into the bustling neighborhood of which it is a part.
Within the cafe is a coffee education lab, a 200-square-foot classroom in the back of the building where Undercurrent’s Director of Operations, Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp, will lead a variety of public coffee education classes, as well as professionally-focused SCA Barista and Brewing certification courses.
What’s your approach to coffee?
We really care about accessibility, with a back-to-basics approach in our beverage program that highlights the ingredients we use and the craftspeople we work with. We take pride in partnering with vendors who pursue excellence—our primary roaster is Onyx Coffee Lab (I doubt I have to tell you how extraordinary they are!), we have rotating monthly guest roasters featured from around the country, our milk comes from a stellar local dairy farm called Homeland Creamery, our syrups are made in-house using ingredients from regional Southeastern farms… I could go on, but you get the picture. In everything we do, we strive to make the handiwork of the many creatives, farmers, producers, and businesses we work with the star of the show, while still letting folks enjoy the drinks they know and love.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
In our main bar we’re using a custom Kees van der Westen Spirit Duette and two Nuova Simonelli Mythos Clima Pros for our espresso service. We utilize Kalita Waves for our pour-over menu, and grind coffee on a Mahlkönig EK-43 for those and for our batch brews in a Curtis G4 ThermoPro.
In our coffee education lab we’re working with a La Larzocco Linea EE, a Mythos Clima Pro, a Mahlkonig EK-43, and a Curtis G4 ThermoPro. We’ve got at least a half dozen different manual brew options for folks to play around with in our classes and a lot of fun coffee tools to help educate our baristas, our community, and ourselves better on the science and craft of coffee.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We opened in late March 2018!
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Erin Huber, the brains behind the aesthetics of Undercurrent, aimed to work with as many local craftspeople as possible when we built out this cafe. The team behind Cluck helped us design the space and were our architects. Katie Schindler and her team at Fine Grit made all of the stunning custom tabletops and shelving units, and helped us with all of our cabinetry finishes. The folks of 26 Industries welded the large steel columns throughout the cafe. Frank Hyatt and the team behind Pacific Builders took on the construction project and lead us to a successful completion. Local designer Hollie Burgess of Beautiful Idiot Clothing sewed custom aprons for our staff. Plaid Penguin was instrumental in creating our branding, website design, and helping us pick out the unique finishes that created a cohesive look for us.
No, thank YOU!
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Photos by Jayme Marie Johnson.