We are just on the other side of the dog days of summer and the Build-Outs of Summer keep on rolling. Our next stop is Think Coffee, a Brooklyn-based chain that sees coffee as more than just a beverage but as a vehicle for change. Through initiatives of their own making—like Social Coffee Project, a Direct Trade-like program aiming to benefit farm works as opposed to farm owners—Think wants to use their cafes to help make a difference where the coffee they source is grown.
Think's newest location—their 10th in New York—will be home to not only a cafe, but a bakery and a roastery, their first foray into the art of turning coffee brown. It's a sign of good things to come for Think, which in turn may mean a sign of good things for those positively affected by the Social Coffee Project.
As told to Sprudge by Noah Welch.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Think is a locally-owned chain of NYC coffee shops. We currently have 10 locations in Manhattan. The three founding principles of our company are to purchase our coffee as responsibly and mindfully as possible (we are pioneers of Social Project Coffee—more on this below), to treat the environment with the utmost care (for one thing, all of our disposable products are compostable), and to support local non-profits who do community based work in the neighborhoods where our stores are located (10% of profits go to them).
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
10 Devoe will be a roastery-bakery-cafe with ample seating. For six years now we’ve imported our own coffee but left the act of roasting to the amazing Red House Roasters in Union City, NJ. This space is our foray into roasting and distributing our own coffee, baking our own pastries, and ramping up our wholesale program.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Social Project Coffee: 98% of the coffee we use is directly linked to social or environmental projects that benefit either farm workers (generally not the landowners) or their communities. Many coffee premiums don’t specifically address the needs of the people who are at the lowest end of the purchasing chain—for example, the daughter of a picker who doesn’t have access to feminine hygiene products and drops out of school because of it, the farmer who has a small plot of land but a leaky roof over her head, the picker who lives through the off-season without potable water.
Our approach is to address these issues where they exist as a component of the price of green coffee. To us, if a farm is swank, advanced, and financially robust, there’s not much value in purchasing from it, regardless of how awesome the coffee is. Our coffee isn’t a commodity so much as a means of connecting with and supporting the people most often overlooked by the market. Our goal as Social Project buyer is to ensure that the premium we pay for coffee goes where it is most needed, which makes us different from a Direct Trade buyer.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We’ll be roasting on a Loring Kestrel. Otherwise, we’ve got the classic Think lineup—a three-group Synesso Cyncra, a Mazzer Robur-E for espresso, a Mahlkönig Guatemala and FETCOs for drip, some V60s. Plus we’ve inherited this beautiful wood-burning pizza oven.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Our principal architect is Craig Shillito at Cycle Projects. Cycle is cool because they design each store a little bit differently, depending on the neighborhood and the inherent characteristics of the space. We’ll have some local artists paint murals on the interior walls. It’ll be pretty.
No, thank you!