Supersonic Coffee is a new roasting and retail brand based in Berkeley, California. Operating under the direction of Managing Director John Laird, formerly of Verve Coffee Roasters and Pacific Bay Coffee, Supersonic has assembled an opening team of collaborators well-known by ardent followers of quality coffee culture. They include: Bjorg Brend Laird, former organizer of the Nordic Barista Cup; Jay Lijewski, formerly of Handsome Coffee Roasters, Four Barrel Coffee, and Dillanos Coffee; Lizz Hudson Smith, formerly of Stumptown Coffee Roasters; Jeff Garcia, formerly of Verve Coffee Roasters and Duende; and Brian W. Jones, noted coffee brand design specialist and the founder and editor of “Dear Coffee I Love You“, a popular design and coffee culture publication.
Supersonic's roastworks is located at 2322 Fifth Street, in Berkeley, California. This will also be home to the fledgling brand's first coffee service, happening out of a fully restored 1965 Airstream trailer, expected to open this summer. Later in 2014, Supersonic will open their first flagship cafe, located at an as-yet undisclosed location in Oakland.
As part of their brand launch, John Laird and his team have pursued a series of strategic partnerships for green coffee sourcing and machine distribution. On the green side, Supersonic will be the very first coffee roasting company in North America to source and serve coffees in partnership with Nordic Approach, a leading green importing firm based in Oslo, Norway and helmed by veteran green buyer Morten Wennersgaard and 2004 World Barista Champion Tim Wendelboe. Not all Supersonic coffees will come from Nordic Approach–they'll also be sourcing from Cafe Imports, and others–but the sheer fact of the availability of Nordic Approach coffees from a North American roaster is cause for some celebration amongst Sprudge staff.
Supersonic has also pursued a partnership with Kees van der Westen, a Dutch maker of design-forward espresso machines that have been revered by espresso geek and coffee shop aesthetics nerds around the world for many years. With minimal web presence and a shifting history of distribution, it's been hard for Kees to meet demand for the United States market over the last half-decade. Supersonic hopes to change this by not only featuring Kees van der Westen machines in their forthcoming trailer and cafe, but by also serving as a dedicated distribution point for this line of espresso equipment, including carrying a back-stock of machines and a full parts inventory.
Last, Supersonic is also partnered with the team at Alpha Dominche, a single-cup coffee brewing apparatus known in the North American coffee community for their placement at cafes by La Colombe, Ristretto, LAMILL, and Sump Coffee, to name just a few.
There's no doubt that the coffee retail landscape is going through big changes right now, flooded with new financial backers, new interest, and new brands setting their sights on the high-end coffee market. The flipside of that influx of interest is the rise of the career coffee retail professional, and Supersonic is an interesting reflection of how these two trends can collide here in 2014: a well regarded industry veteran has been given serious financial backing and a mandate to gather a supergroup of other coffee pros together, emerging from the huddle with big plans that could seriously shake up their market. Supersonic is shaping up to be one of the most ambitious new coffee companies of 2014.
More information about Supersonic Coffee is available on Twitter at @EnjoySupersonic.
Full disclosure: Multiple companies mentioned in this feature are advertising partners of this website, including Tim Wendelboe, Alpha Dominche, and Verve Coffee Roasters.