A bike-based coffee cart in San Diego makes perfect sense. A coffee bar mounted on a bicycle in east London seems almost too obvious for words. But a bicycle coffee set-up on Alaska's wildly beautiful Sitka Sound? Now that, dear reader, is a story.
Meet Bunna Bike, founded by Chris Bryner, a 4th grade teacher spending his summer vacation serving up delicious brewed coffee outside the Sitka Sound Science Center, located near the town of Sitka in the SE Alaska panhandle. Bryner is serving up beans roasted by Steamdot Coffee in Anchorage and Kuma Coffee in Seattle, brewed using Beehouse drippers and Hario V60s paired with Baratza's versatile Forte home grinder. There's even cold brew available, for when the temperature climbs into the 60's.
Bunna Bike might not be the biggest or flashiest Build-Out we'll feature in this year's Build-Outs of Summer series, nor is it located in a major urban metropolis, but you know what? It has the best view.
As told to Sprudge by Chris Bryner.
Can you tell us a bit about your mobile unit?
The bike is built by Icicle Tricycles, and is typically used for ice cream vending. After this summer I'll design and build a custom box that incorporates elements specific to brewing like a propane burner, drip tray, etc. I'm currently tethered to electrical outlets for grinders and kettles, so “mobile” is a bit of a stretch. I'm certainly “moveable” as every day I have to set up and take down the cart. As a “build-out” goes, it's quite low tech and simple. However, it's the first of its kind in southeast Alaska, and likely the state. Coffee is not hard to find in Alaska; exceptional coffee is.
What's your approach to coffee?
I am wholly self-taught, without previous industry experience, so my approach has been one of experimentation and curiosity. “What happens when [insert variables]” is my mantra. This has led to me brewing and drinking a vast amount of different coffees, and drinking one coffee prepared half a dozen ways. Without living in a great coffee community like Seattle, Portland, SF, etc., I'm often left wondering if I'm doing it right. I usually just let my taste buds be my guide. Recently, I spent some time training with Brewer's Cup champ Todd Goldsworthy and was happy to discover that while not perfect, my skills and intuition around coffee were pretty solid. I feel like I am in a good place to represent coffee to the public, even while continuing my own education.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
The g- to method of choice is the Beehouse dripper, followed by the Hario v60. I do not offer these interchangeably, but match the method to the coffee. Two Baratza Forte grinders are set up to offer two different coffees per week, and water is heated and poured using Bonavita gooseneck electric kettles.
You mentioned that you're doing this for the summer during school holiday! That is awesome. Can you tell us more about your background?
The project really began four years a go in my 4th grade classroom. I used coffee as a way to teach kids about the world around them, and they learned to brew coffee which they sold to raise funds for Coffee Kids. Batdorf & Bronson, La Colombe, Doma, Verve, and Sweet Bloom all contributed coffee to the project, which has raised close to $1000.00 to date. Bunna Bike is a business first, but one with a similar mission: using coffee to build community. 10% of profits go to World Bicycle Relief, which leverages the power of a bicycle for education, economic development and health care in the developing world.
During the school year, I'll pop up from time to time for special events and catering, but primarily focus on the classroom coffee project that's been ongoing for the past four years.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you'd like to mention?
As a town on the ocean, there are some amazing shipwrights in town, and I'll lean on them when it comes time to build a custom box for the bike. Otherwise, I've done the work myself. I would like to mention that both roasters–Steamdot Coffee in Anchorage, and Kuma Coffee in Seattle–have been instrumental in my success.
Where's it parked?
Bunna Bike can be found outside of the Sitka Sound Science Center throughout the summer, next to the Ludvig's Bistro Chowder Cart, which is a local institution.