If coffee is a religion—the almighty bean its God, the crema-topped espresso its daily miracle, and the ever-proliferating specialty cafes of the world its churches, then Joyride Coffee Distributors is a merry band of missionaries, self-appointed with the task of spreading the good word to the heathens of office coffee culture.
Started in 2011 in New York City by the Belanich Brothers—David, Adam, and Noah—Joyride seeks to work with roasters to bridge the gap between great specialty coffee and the oft-times uninitiated world of offices, providing freshly, quality beans, and the equipment necessary to replicate a high-quality cafe experience. The Belanich brothers launched Joyride four years ago as a mobile food truck roaming the streets of New York City, serving Stumptown on a “workhorse Linea” to caffeine-starved New Yorkers seeking an alternative to the powders and K-cups of their office coffee programs. Though customers loved the opportunity to have good coffee, served right, the mobile nature of a food truck meant Joyride wasn’t available on a daily basis. David Belanich and his brothers had only one question, “Why can’t people get good coffee every day?”
Four years later, Joyride Coffee Distribution provides beans from roasters like Blue Bottle, Sightglass, Four Barrel, Equator and more as well as cafe-quality coffee set-ups to more than 400 office clients in New York City and 170 in San Francisco (including Twitter, Uber, Zynga, and Genentech). Joyride also distributes kegs of Stumptown’s popular iced coffee, and has developed its own Joyride ice coffee brew currently flowing in offices around the Bay Area. We sat down with David Belanich and Paul Toscano (Chief Operating Officer and recent addition to Joyride San Francisco) to talk the early days of Joyride, what drives them, and what’s next.
What were you thinking in the early days of Joyride?
David Belanich: Generally, people drink coffee at one of three places: at home, at a cafe, or at the office. Before Joyride, you really could only get great coffee at two of those three places. We set our sights on the workplace cafe—a dark corner where plastic pods, capsules, plastic sachets, powdered “coffees”, and stale java tins still reigned uncontested to the detriment of workers everywhere. Ultimately, we saw no reason that an office couldn’t do what we were doing on our truck with the same freshly roasted, processed, and sourced beans.
What were the early obstacles and how did you surmount them?
DB: Honestly it was an uphill battle at first. It was clear that Joyride was more a romantic concept than a real business. We only did coffee and only great coffee. We only offered high quality batch brewers with airpots. If an office didn’t care for great coffee and have the desire to really do it right, then Joyride simply wasn’t the right service for them.
What prompted the expansion to San Francisco?
Paul Toscano: All in all, it was a really natural demand that caused us to make the move out to SF. In New York we provided to a range of companies, but the majority of them were in the tech industry. They had San Francisco offices asking “when will you get out here?!” It wasn't just the office side of things—we had top roasters in the Bay Area reaching out to us directly asking whether we had any plans for expansion. They needed someone like us in their home market to help with preserving quality in the booming office market. In 2013 I ended up booking a flight to SF with ten pounds of Joyride Otto's Blend and we never looked back.
What are the differences between East and West Coast coffee culture?
PT: In my humble opinion, great coffee culture really flourishes on the West Coast and is a few years ahead of even places like New York. The fact that Third Wave coffee has been out here for longer and in a more visible way means that your average coffee drinker is more familiar with pour-overs, single origins, and often won't settle for your super dark national chains or pod brewers. I always say that in NYC, the ratio of Starbucks to local cafes seems to be ten to one…in San Francisco, it seems to me the ratio is completely reversed.
How do you pick which roasters you use?
PT: For us, it all comes back to quality. We want to stay true to the Third Wave movement and really only work with roasters that are at the top of their game with sourcing, roasting, and reputation. It truly is a slow process that we vet with extreme care—we really think of ourselves as gatekeepers of quality—and we'd never want to over-extend.
Who has the best San Francisco coffee set-up?
PT: Honestly, I think nobody can compete with the setup they have at Zynga. They're about to open a second cafe in their building (on top of the great one they already have) and what they are up to is going to be a really impressive space. I'm also a huge fan of kegs and they have an incredible system for soda, kombucha, tea, and cold brew that would make most bars jealous!
What’s next for you guys?
PT: It's going to be a big 2015 for Joyride. With San Francisco in full swing and New York opening up in some big offices—most of which a year ago would barely have been imaginable for us. We're also opening up a new component of our business—cold brew kegs in cafes. You'll soon start seeing Joyride tap handles all around the Bay Area. And I can say with confidence that by early 2016 we'll be serving another major metropolitan area.
Noah Sanders is a contributor to SF Weekly, The Bold Italic, and Sprudge.com. Read more Noah Sanders on Sprudge.