Some of us spent years – decades even – taking for granted the droning hum, clinking saucers, and idle chatter at our neighborhood coffee shops.
Now we'd do nasty things just to get an hour of background noise piped in from the de facto stand-in for our once work-from-not-quite-home environments.
In terms of tangible products these establishments trade in, a peek into strangers' cars on an average street once revealed enough un-chucked coffee cups you’d think to-go joe would have persisted through the pandemic. It would seem none of us could make our own coffee, so these purveyors were primed for the takeout only, grab-and-go present…
Most closed to flatten the curve or cut losses.
Or for other reasons entirely: Anelace Coffee announced its permanent closure on Tuesday after five years in northeast Minneapolis. The Central Avenue spot had a reputation as a purveyor of lattes just begging to be photographed and developed a diverse clientele who cherished its mellow environment until a four-alarm fire sparked in neighboring El Taco Riendo tore through Anelace on March 22.
For other shops less uniquely unfortunate than Anelace, a universal concern for humanity seemed to have trumped the bottom line when it came to decision-making… at least for a while.
Spyhouse Coffee Roasters – a major player in the local coffee game, with six outposts across Minneapolis and St. Paul – announced they've reopened their cafes (excluding the Hotel Emery location) to customers for take-out service daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Though we could have remained open for to-go orders this entire time, we just felt it wasn’t a prudent move until we could gather enough assurances that we could do that safely enough,” they explained, before detailing what "safely enough" means translates to, procedurally.
In short? No cash, no more than five customers inside at once, staff will don locally made masks, and a supply of sanitizer and nitrile gloves will be on-hand for customers and Spyhouse's own.
Short of weighing the human cost (for staff and patrons alike) of serving to-go coffee in the time of corona, there's a quieter, niche market supply issue that could play out in terms of "costs" sooner or later: Minnesota isn’t renowned for its locally-grown coffee beans.
Anything that requires transport across international lines or involving human labor is in flux right now – and even the most ethically sourced coffee beans require both.
The International Coffee Organization said this regarding the global status of the bean trade: “Currently demand is estimated to exceed production ... disruptions to the supply chain both in shipping and harvesting could lead to temporary shortages in the supply, putting upward pressure on prices in the short term.” Since March, international importers have been stockpiling beans in case of a shortage, which has done weird things to market prices (to wit: driving up prices on coffee, while everything else tanks).
So, it would seem, even focusing on slinging beans alone is a hell of a gamble these days. And yet, that brings us to St. Louis Park's Folly Coffee Roasters, who's taken a charitable, Forrest Gumpian turn in these times of duress.
Folly's founder and owner Rob Bathe will run one kilometer for every bag or sampler pack (to be clear: not every order, each bag) of coffee purchased online beginning midnight on Thursday, April 23 through midnight on Sunday, April 26. Bathe will also donate $1 from each bag's purchase price to Open Arms, a local nonprofit devoted to feeding nutritious meals to those with life-threatening illnesses.
"This is either the stupidest or most exciting thing I have ever done with Folly Coffee, because at 230 pounds, I am definitely not a runner,” says Bathe, who plans to tally his kilometers and get to running next week.
While considering the role of espresso in our old lives, and how we're reincorporating this vestige of the past into our present purgatory, only a few things are clear: Your baristas don't want to get sick, so don't pretend everything's normal when they reopen.
And don't be that dick who starts buying out all the coffee at Target – the only thing worse than a prepper is an over-caffeinated prepper making lattes in their bunker.