We couldn’t be more excited to introduce our newest location on Sprinkle Rd. in Kalamazoo. As our first drive-thru only location, it was important to us that we still create that Water Street feel. Despite not having an eat-in cafe, we wanted this building to encompass the love of architecture, desire to create a unique space, and elements of Kalamazoo’s history and community that are seen in each of our cafes.
Over the years, this lot has housed multiple businesses but has also often been empty. You may remember Pizza Square in the early nineties or Miller’s Smokehouse moving in after the building again sat empty for a number of years. While we were not able to keep the original building due to structural problems, we remember the lot’s history of drive-thru businesses with a brand new dual-lane drive-thru and beautiful, locally designed landscaping supplied from Blue Horizon Nursery in Bangor, MI.
“Even though our customers will never get out of the car we wanted them to feel like they were still visiting Water Street,” Creative Director, Kirsten, says. “We were looking for clean architecture with a sense of fun and we really feel like we’ve accomplished that.”
That clean design came from M1/DTW, an architectural design company out of Detroit, and Design Director Christian Unverzagt and Thomas Affeldt created a truly inspirational concept. Between expansive display windows, natural wood elements on the exterior, and some Instagram-worthy brick work from Bonnema Masonry Construction, both the building and the drive-thru will bring something innovative to the area. We also consider ourselves lucky to have worked with our Project Manager, Scott Olsen, from Pioneer Construction. He has gone above and beyond every step of the way on the very first Water Street location built from the ground up.
Also instrumental in making this space a reality were a number of other incredible local vendors including Bret Sanford at Sanford Plumbing, Jeff Roodbergen who makes our extensive electrical needs happen, Levi Haley who does all our beautiful tile work, Burkett Signs for all our external signage, Kalamazoo Mechanical for HVAC/heating, and Ian Nielsen for carpentry. We also could not have accomplished any of this without our earlier mentioned Creative Director, Kirsten Field, who makes everything beautiful, unique and functional for us.
Location, Location, Location
According to owner, Mark Smutek, this area has been on his radar for many years but it simply never felt like the right time. However, with the addition of roundabouts near the freeway increasing traffic flow and accessibility and the availability of the perfect sized lot, the pieces quickly fell into place early last year.
“There is a lot of potential for growth and possibilities in this area right now,” Mark says. “I wanted to be part of it. We were able to find a small lot, which is hard to come by, and I believe it is a great place to try something new and unexpected in Kalamazoo.”
In addition, the area also hosts a lot of industrial businesses, hotels, and commuter traffic which often leaves both people working in the area as well as travelers with a lack of mealtime options.
“You know, it’s great,” Kirsten shares. “Kalamazoo is this halfway point between Detroit and Chicago and especially near this particular freeway exit there aren’t a lot of healthy food options. We have this wonderful opportunity to share the handmade, quality food and beverages we make with a much larger group of people who may never have heard of Water Street. It’s exciting.”
Drive-thrus are pretty commonplace today but at Water Street we are always looking to challenge the standard and provide an experience that you can’t get anywhere else. While this isn’t our first drive-thru, it will differ from our Portage location in that, yes, it’s strictly drive-thru only.
“I never really thought twice about this location being a drive-thru,” Mark explained. “The lot was too small to accommodate parking or a building big enough for seating and I think that it’s a concept we could continue to use in the future as Water Street grows.”
But drive-thru only does not mean your Water Street experience will be limited or ordinary. Large windows will allow you to see inside as baristas prep your latte and custom deli display cases will still show off our full menu of housemade food while you wait. You’ll even be able to grab a bag of coffee on the go before you hop on the highway. All of your favorites will be available from an Iced Dolce de Leche to a freshly warmed Spinach and Feta Turnover and whether you’re commuting, on your lunch break, or have a sudden ice cream craving, it will all be conveniently available through the drive-thru!
The combination of fresh roasted coffee, made-to-order food and drinks, and unique drive-thru design and structure is something that doesn’t exist yet in Kalamazoo and we are excited to take on the challenge of providing a new and dynamic service to the greater Kalamazoo area and beyond. We invite you to join us for a cup of coffee as we embark on this new adventure together and we look forward to seeing you there!
Visit the Sprinkle Drive-Thru page for up to date contact information, hours, and more.
Water Street Coffee Roaster April 2017
The Dry Mill in Indepencia
Let’s recap…What is a coffee origin trip?
Traveling to a coffee producing country is what the coffee industry refers to as an ‘origin trip’. Due to the fact that the climate and elevation in the continental United States is not conducive to coffee growth, this travel is often necessary in understanding where our coffee comes from and is an important experience from the largest importers down to the smallest micro-roasters.
As a coffee roaster traveling to origin, we can expand our perspective in terms of not just production but of an entire region’s growing process from fertilizer to labor to the fully milled, exportable bean. It allows for a closer relationship with both producers and importers as well as a much more transparent connection with the coffee itself. At Water Street, we understand that our roaster is part of a larger global coffee community and the education we receive at origin is invaluable to being a responsible, contributing member of that community from knowing the issues that threaten the crops to seeing first hand the care and quality control that goes into each bag of coffee. So please, join us as we share how we tasted, hiked, and learned our way through some incredible coffee co-ops in Chiapas, Mexico.
On our final day we visited a dry-mill located in Independencia. Here we participated in a comprehensive cupping session as well as a full tour of the mill. The first cupping consisted of 20 coffees from all three co-ops we had or would visit by the end of our trip. Coffees were cupped, evaluated, and scores were compiled by our guide and translator from Cafe Imports, Piero Cristiani.
Left: Working our way through the cupping, Right: Compiling Scores
The dry-mill tour was exciting because we were able to see firsthand the dry-milling that prepares the coffee for export. The only step that follows is loading the coffee bags into a container and transporting them to the the US or other countries to be roasted and finally consumed.
The mill was dusty and loud, but over the dull roar of machinery we began learning how the dry-mill process works. First, bags of parchment are dumped through a grate and any foreign material is removed by hand. The coffee then moves up an elevator where it is first cleaned of any residual debris before it falls down to the huller to remove the parchment from the bean. After hulling, the beans move through a sorter which sorts beans by density using air then moves them through a drum which separates the beans by size. As a final step, the beans are sorted one last time into different qualities (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) using oliver tables; big tables that shake and sort the beans by density once more.
Left: Emptying the Hulled and Sorted Coffee Into Bags, Right: Forming a Row of Filled Coffee Bags
The second cupping consisted of 19 more coffees and another scoring session. Much of the coffees tasted here and at the first table were amazing. In particular, there were 5 from the first round and 6 from the second round that really got my attention. This was a unique opportunity for all of us to score these coffees and see how we each scored the coffees comparatively. This was definitely the most coffee I have ever cupped in one day (each coffee had 4 cups, and there were 39 coffees total). It was pretty incredible!
Left: Piero Pouring Water on Our Samples, Right: Obligatory Origin Cupping Selfie. Hi!
Thoroughly caffeinated, we now made our way to Comon Yaj Noptic where we were treated to lunch before the tour of the co-op. Comon Yaj Noptic was formed in May of 1985 and composed originally of 201 members. The literal translation is “We Are All Thinking About It.” It was founded as a way to gain access to social and environmental projects and in 2001 sold its first 2 containers to Starbucks. The money from that helped them grow and develop into what they have become today. Comon is extremely environmentally conscious and, in addition to coffee, they also monitor birds and their migration patterns in order to work in harmony with their surroundings. This year Comon plans on producing 4 containers with 100 bags being microlots.
Left: Comon Yaj Noptic, Right: Another View of Comon Yaj Noptic
Comon also maintains an impressive array of certifications such as Organic, Fair Trade, Bird Friendly, and JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard). It’s values encompass maintaining trust with clients, being socially responsible, and being honest with producers.
Structure was similar to that of the other co-ops we visited, but it was clear that Comon was the smallest in membership of them all. They also have many social projects including nurseries for coffee and shade trees; a fertilizer plant; food safety; raising chickens, pigs, and fish; renewing plantations; and maintaining a vegetable garden.
Comon also seemed to be composed of younger members in general, so the presence of technology had made its way into the co-op. They are the first co-op in the area to have tablets and the ability to record data digitally. In the future, they hope to make this information available to buyers which will continue to help with efforts in traceability.
The co-op was also very invested in ecotourism with a restaurant on site and brand new cabins for students or travelers to come study.
New Cabins for Ecotourism
Newer co-op principles include opening up health clinics with help from Grounds for Health, opening a primary school with the help of the money received from selling their first two containers of coffee to Starbucks, and sustainability and environmental programs where they tend to honey, chickens, mushrooms, and more. Part of their Fair Trade minimums go towards health projects and savings funds, which ended up helping with the outbreak of rust.
We were able to tour their warehouse and nursery as well, as seen below.
Left: Soldiers at Comon Yaj Noptic, Center: Coffees in Transition, Right: Sprouting Soldiers, Referred to as “Butterflies”
After Comon, we made the trip back to Tuxtla for a stay at a hotel and departures began the following morning.
This was a hugely successful trip and I have gained so much from it. Going to origin really puts perspective on the coffee industry and truly brings things full-circle for me. On the ride to Tuxtla, we all shared our favorite memories which included tasting a coffee cherry for the first time, the coffee nurseries, nobody getting sick, and one of the producers calling President Trump a mummy. I am so blessed to have spent this time with such great, like-minded individuals. It is something I will never forget. Thanks goes to all for making this trip so pleasurable!
Until next time…
Note: Keep an eye out for a very special coffee from the Campesinos Ecologicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas, or CESMACH cooperative, to hit our shelves before the end of summer – the Fair Trade Organic Mexico Chiapas CESMACH. This washed coffee is distinctly sweet, exceptionally smooth, and the soft notes of cocoa and almond make it an all-day easy-drinker. This isn’t a coffee you want to miss so stay tuned for a launch announcement so you can be sure to get your own little taste of Chiapas, Mexico.
At Water Street, we understand that our roaster is part of a larger global coffee community and the education we receive at origin is invaluable to being a responsible, contributing member of that community from knowing the issues that threaten the crops to seeing first hand the care and quality control that goes into each bag of coffee. So please, join us as we share how we tasted, hiked, and learned our way through some incredible coffee co-ops in Chiapas, Mexico. We took some time to talk with our Roastmaster Seth Chapman, after he returned.
As told by Roastmaster, Seth Chapman.
What was the most interesting thing you learned on the trip?
This is a tough question as I learned so much from my first origin trip. I suppose the most interesting thing I learned was the enormous role that co-ops played in the industry. I knew that co-ops were important in that they act as a hub for local producers to sell their coffee to but I learned that they are much more than just that. Aside from providing producers with resources such as fertilizer, coffee plants, and advice, the co-ops we visited were very structured, proactive, and held very important values at their core, such as being honest with producers, remaining environmentally responsible, and ensuring trust with their clients. It was also impressive to learn that their success not only affects producers but also the surrounding communities as the co-ops also invest in clinics, eco-tourism, schools, and other economically and socially important areas.
Who was the most impactful person you met on the trip?
I would have to give credit to Calixto Guillen, head of quality control and physical analysis at Triunfo Verde. Calixto was very detail oriented and meticulous when it came to the coffee he received at his co-op, and his attention to detail didn’t end there. He follows his coffee all the way to the dry mill. His values also struck me as very real and important; a strong focus on cupping, as well as strong relations with his buyers, meaning he and his team are putting a lot of effort into meeting the needs of their buyers and providing quality specialty coffee. Calixto is very thorough and cups a sample of every single bag of coffee that enters his warehouse. This sort of dedication I feel is rare yet strikingly important in the industry.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
Visiting Ojo de Agua, the farm located at 1500m above sea level (4921ft), was my favorite part of the trip for many reasons. The first notable sensation after reaching the farm was the heavenly smell of whole coffee cherries drying on the patios of the farm. The smell of dark chocolate with deep red fruit notes was absolutely amazing. The plantation where the coffee plants were located was up a mountainside another 50m, and this is where I bit into my first ripe coffee cherry. After locating a ripe cherry (although we arrived just after harvest, there was still a spattering of coffee cherries to be found) I popped it into my mouth. It was of the Maragogype varietal. I could tell because of the unusually large size of the beans. The taste was reminiscent of a mixture of cranberries and grapes, with ample sweetness. This alone was something I’ve desired to do for years, and finally I had my opportunity! Although the experience is rather short, it’s like nothing you’ve tasted before. Aside from tasting my first coffee cherry, the whole farm experience was really enriching in regards to my perspective of life on a coffee farm.
Do you think it’s important for coffee professionals to go to origin? If so, why?
Absolutely. I think it lends a lot to credibility and shows a level of seriousness in your profession. Origin trips will never be forgotten; the lessons and experiences are invaluable to not only you as the individual but for the company as a whole. There is only so much reading and listening you can do before going to origin to connect the dots yourself. Going to origin brings everything full circle and helps put into perspective what actually happens on the other side of the supply chain of coffee.
What do you want Water Street customers to know about your trip to Mexico?
I would love to communicate to our customers how much the co-ops and producers truly care about their product and our needs. The amount of pride and joy they take in producing a quality specialty coffee definitely shows in all of their faces and permeates its way into the final cup of coffee you drink. Their passion and willingness to constantly experiment and improve their methods is both refreshing and innovating, and it’s truly exciting to see what the future holds in terms of growing quality and new, exciting coffees coming from Chiapas.
Want to learn more about Water Street’s origin trip?
There is something so wonderful about bringing two foods together to create something new and delicious. Sometimes we don’t even realize what we are missing until a flavor combination happens that is just right and then we can’t help but wonder how we lived without it (macaroni and cheese anyone?). So whether it is a little unexpected or a classic food pairing you already know and love, you have got to try out these awesome offerings on our new summer menu!
Asparagus and Swiss
Since it’s asparagus season in Michigan, it was important to us to find ingredients that really let the our fresh local asparagus from Jack and Jill’s Maple farm really shine. Paired with a mild, sweet cheese like Swiss, we found that the cheese enhanced rather than overpowered the fresh flavor of the asparagus and the pair naturally lent itself to a fresh baked strata. The Asparagus and Cheese Strata is also made with eggs, bread, kale, and onion and is a delicious and, just a little, decadent dish for any meal of the day. Plus, on top of being the perfect complement, Swiss cheese gets particularly melty and what isn’t made better with a little warm, gooey cheese? Try it with your morning coffee or with a side of Summer Kale Salad made with local kale from Silverbeet farms. You won’t be disappointed!
Berries and Greens
Refreshing, light, and healthy – creating a salad that paired fresh berries with mixed greens seemed like just the thing to kick off the summer months. Fresh berries are the perfect combination of sweet and tart and when you throw in some sunflower seeds for a little crunch with our housemade raspberry vinaigrette, the Berry Salad is a great, light option for lunch at the office, a meal on one of our patios, or even an easy grab for dinner on your way home from work. Need something just a bit more filling? You can now add house-grilled chicken breast to any salad or entree of your choice. We especially love it on this salad!
Tomato and Basil
This one is a classic. You can find tomato and basil paired together in everything from soup to salad to sandwiches and it always tastes so fresh and flavorful. There’s just something about a sweet ripe tomato and the spice of basil that works and, just like most things, it’s even better on pizza! Our new Flatbread Margherita Pizza not only pairs these two ingredients perfectly but also combines some of our favorite local ingredients with a unique crust. Instead of a traditional flatbread, this pizza starts with a soft and chewy naan bread that gets nice and crispy in the oven. The Naan bread is then covered in a light coat of olive oil and topped with chopped garlic, fresh mozzarella, local spinach from Crisp Country Acres, and finally that perfect combination of tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. Each flatbread pizza is made to order in shop so it comes out fresh and hot to be enjoyed in the cafe or take it with you on the go in a carry out pizza box. Add a soda made with our ginger house syrup to wash it all down. Refreshing!
Peanut Butter and Banana
Whether you are hunting for the perfect vegan snack or a sweet but healthy start to your morning, the combination of peanut butter and banana in our Peanut Butter Banana wrap is the perfect mix of protein, healthy carbs, and all natural sweetness. Made in a vegan wheat tortilla, the filling in this wrap combines our housemade granola, unsweetened coconut flakes, natural peanut butter, and fresh sliced apples and bananas. They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away – so just imagine what you can do with all the rest of this goodness! We recommend serving it cold straight out of our deli cases but we heard a rumor that it’s also pretty delicious warm and gooey right out of the oven. Ask a barista to heat it up for you! But no matter how you choose to eat it, there’s just something classic and comforting about peanut butter and banana that makes you feel like a kid again and we love that this wrap can provide a delicious moment like that during a crazy day. Try it with a black cup of coffee or an almond milk latte for a complete vegan treat!
Ice Cream and Crisp
Did somebody say ice cream? There are few things that give us that lovely summer feeling more than some cold, creamy ice cream on a hot day. That’s why we’ve paired our housemade vanilla ice cream with a fresh fruit crisp made with seasonal summer fruit to create a picture-perfect summertime dessert. This is a great option to enjoy on the patio with your favorite cup of coffee. Made to order, we will place the fruit crisp in the oven so that it comes out warm and delicious with just a bit of crunch from the toasted crumble on top. To finish, we place a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream right on top so that every bite is the perfect mix of ice cream and fruit. Want to get really decadent? Ask for whipped cream on top!
In the Water Street Kitchen, we are always looking for that exciting, tasty way to spice things up and striving to create dishes and combine ingredients that are both unexpected and inspired. This time of year it is all about the fresh, local produce especially and finding ways to highlight and compliment so many amazing Michigan grown summer ingredients. Let us know what your favorite pairing is in the comments!
Note about local ingredients:
We love supporting local businesses and farms which means we include local ingredients in all of our foods as often as possible. However, due to the changing seasons in Michigan, the availability of certain ingredients varies so not all current ingredients sourced locally will remain so all year long. For the most up-to-date information on what ingredients are local and where they came from, ask a barista at one of the cafes for all the details and thank you for supporting local businesses in your community!