The coffee shop on wheels—the food truck gone fluid. To some, it may seem out of the ordinary, but the concept makes perfect sense. Coffee puts millions of people around in motion every morning, why shouldn’t it, too, be on the move? Particularly in the Motor City.
Alleah Webb, the 24-year-old “head honcho” of Southeast Michigan pop-up Drifter Coffee, agrees, and she put this idea into fruition in a Serro Scotty trailer that rolls around the region, with a recent focus on the city of Detroit.
This spring, Drifter popped up in multiple locations including City Bird, the Detroit Riverfront Park, the Ferndale Farmers Market, and the Royal Oak Farmers Market, gathering a steady stream of customers.
“Coffee is such an important part of people’s days,” Webb tells me. “I want this to be the best five minutes of their day. We’re trying to deliver happiness.”
Along with happiness, Drifter focuses on peddling local flavor. Coffee is a rotating single-origin selection from Ypsilanti’s Hyperion Coffee Company, and sweet treats come from Mitten Bites, created by Detroit high schoolers. The students do everything from coming up with recipes to marketing and selling the products. Webb says she likes to focus on subtle coffees, which please her customer base.
“We stay away from very acidic and fruity coffees, and shoot for more chocolaty or nutty coffees,” says Webb. “Our customers’ faces light up when we use sweet or caramely as adjectives, so we have learned to purchase coffees that fall into those categories.”
Drifter mainly operates during the spring and summer, so their most popular items are Japanese-style iced coffee and a Traverse City cherry iced “tea” infusion. The cherry iced tea is a mixture of cherries, hibiscus, cinnamon, sunflower, and rose petals. Teas are from Birmingham, Michigan’s, Eli Tea, which sources its tea from both American and international gardens—making a point to focus on the quality of the production process.
Though the trailer itself is small—the no-frills operation doesn’t offer espresso—it accommodates a close-knit crew. Jess Webb, Webb’s sister, helps the operation run, mainly as a barista. Webb’s boyfriend, parents, and other friends assist in the operation as well.
Drifter will be returning to City Bird on weekends throughout the summer, while a new second coffee trailer will be seasonally located in Ferndale’s Detroit Fleat food truck park. The crew will also be back for their second year at Electric Forest Music Festival in Rothbury, Michigan.
Webb is excited about the upcoming events. “I’m living my dream every day,” she tells me, leaning against the interior of the trailer and pouring an apple-ginger iced tea.
“This really is the best lifestyle.”
Edie Wilson is a freelance journalist. Read more Edie Wilson on Sprudge.