The coffee scene in the great American state of Vermont is rapidly changing. You’d think the city of Burlington would be the nexus for that change–and you’d be right–but today we’re bringing you the story of a new cafe in sleepy little Middlebury, a college town located around 30 minutes south of Burlington, which is itself a college town, albeit a comparatively much larger one. Cursive Coffee is a progressive roaster/retailer with experience in the Burlington scene, thanks to their ongoing farmers’ market pop-ups and a “residency” at Barge Canal Market, but just this week they opened their first brick and mortar space in Middlebury, a city known primarily to the American imagination for playing host to comedian Bob Newhart’s terrific 1980s sitcom, Newhart.
In honor of that great comedian–still slaying as an occasional guest star on The Big Bang Theory, dontchaknow–we’ll conclude this Build-Outs of Summer feature with a simulacra of one of Mr. Newhart’s famous one-sided telephone conversation gags. But first, enjoy learning more about Cursive Coffee.
As told to Sprudge by Jim Osborn.
Can you tell us a bit about your company?
Cursive Coffee is Jim Osborn, Sam Clifton, Matthew White and Pete Barthelmess–founded/owned by Jim and Sam. The four of us met while working together at Uncommon Grounds, a well-established and super busy café/roastery in downtown Burlington. Originally, we wanted to bring excellent coffee into contexts where a similar appreciation for food and local agriculture was already present. For this reason, we started off with pop-ups and farmers markets before establishing an ongoing “residency” at Barge Canal Market, an endlessly dynamic and delightful antique emporium in Burlington’s South End. In February, we transitioned from working with Irving Farm Coffee Roasters to roasting for ourselves, primarily purchasing through Coffee Shrub. We were able to strike a deal with Uncommon Grounds in which we receive weekly access to their 12k Probat in exchange for unbridled access to our Quest sample roaster. Once our new spot opens, we will continue to offer espresso + pour-over at Barge Canal Tuesdays–Saturdays.
What’s your approach to serving coffee?
The café at 58 Main is an espresso bar for Cursive as well as a collaborative workspace for design duo Boo + Roxy, the latest venture of designer/architect Anne Barakat and partner Jon Craine. The aesthetic is very minimalist, with the espresso bar as the focal point–there is no visible point of sale, and the majority of the seating is around the bar itself. The goal is an approachable and intimate atmosphere that cultivates conversation and community rather than utilitarianism or transience, severing the frequent estrangement between the consumer, the barista, and the coffee itself.
Our approach is to emphasize transparency, disambiguating as much of the process from origin to cup as we possibly can. Our menu foregoes traditional Italian monikers in lieu of what we hope is an altogether more digestible clarification of what the drinks really are. Though we have no ideological aversion to blending, at this point we continue to exclusively serve single origins, hoping to solidify and humanize the narrative of the coffee from start to finish as best we can. In this way, we aim to present coffee in a tone similar to what consumers in comparatively rural New England have come to expect from their agriculture.
We’re now open! Opening day was Friday the 13th of June! We are very superstitious.
Tell us all about the gear you’ll be using, and confirm your level of psyched-ness for it.
We’re definitely psyched about our set-up! Our machine is a Kees Van Der Westen Mirage tweaked with thermocouples and pre-infusion cylinders at both groupheads – purchased from our friends at Gimme! Coffee. Our main grinder is a Mahlkönig K30, with a Mazzer Super Jolly (dosing all the way!) for our decaf. We’ll also be fresh-pressing orange juice, and it will be physically impossible to rotate one’s vision behind the bar greater than 15 degrees without locating another American Weigh Scale. On opening day we’ll be pulling a Sumatran Sijamapola, purchased through Coffee Shrub, a coffee we’ve adored for its heroically Zelda-esque shimmer, spark, and zanily herbaceous sweetness. Aside from this, our menu for the first couple weeks will feature Shrub’s washed Yirg from the Teklu mill in Chele’lektu, as well as Manuel Arce’s “Macho” Costa Rican. As always, we will be using organic whole milk from Kimball Brook Farm, an award-winning creamery located in North Ferrisburgh, Vermont.
Are you working with craftsmen/women, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Anne Barakat, the designer with whom we will be sharing the space, was the impetus for this project, and she hopes to soon incorporate a revolving lineup of different artists and culinary projects, retaining the espresso bar as their ongoing nucleus. Within the menu, we’ll carry maple syrup from Underhill VT, provided by our friends at The Syrup Souvenir Shop–featured in our sole wacky drink–“the Minderbinder” (undiluted cold brew/lightly steamed milk/maple syrup).
What’s the address? You guys are totally open now?
The café is at 58 Main St, Middlebury VT, and we are now open! Opening day was Friday the 13th of June; we are very superstitious. Our pop-up in Burlington can still be found at Barge Canal Market, 377 Pine St. in Burlington.
We encourage you now to shamelessly promote your social media connections and website–have at it!
All photos courtesy of Cursive Coffee, and used by permission.
Newhart: Hello? Yes, this is uh, this is Bob Newhart. No, this is my home phone number. Yes. Who is this?
Newhart: Did I hear about the new cafe in Burlington? Oh, oh you mean Middlebury. There’s a new…a new what?
Newhart: Oh so these young fellas have a cafe. This may come as a little bit of a surprise to you, but here in Middlebury…
Newhart: Oh I see. Yes, you’re reaching me here at home. You’d want to call…the uh…the cafe, I suppose?
Newhart: Sure I drink coffee, but not professionally…
Newhart: Uh huh. Uh huh. No, I’m unfamiliar. You might want to talk to those fellas yourself. Who is this again?
Newhart: Yes, this is uh…that’s right, my home phone number. That’s right. No, thank you for your time as well. Alright. Next time something opens in Middlebury, don’t call us, we’ll call you.