La Colombe Coffee to Open First Boston Café This Spring
Todd Carmichael thinks America is in the midst of the fourth wave of coffee, and the future is cold.
“The degree to which people are focusing on [cold coffee], consuming it, and all the feedback that’s coming in, add that all up, and you realize this is more than just a little blip. It’s the direction the country is going,” says Carmichael, who cofounded La Colombe Coffee Roasters more than two decades ago.
New Englanders already know this. Canton-based Dunkin’ Donuts conducted a not-so-scientific study in 2012 that showed year-round iced coffee consumption was on the rise in 2012, and you’ve certainly watched a neighbor simultaneously brush the snow off his car and sip from his Dunkin’-orange straw at some point—maybe you’re that guy.
“You’re a little bit ahead of everybody,” Carmichael says.
The Philadelphia-based café chain, also known for its bottled Pure Black coffee, is opening its first Boston storefront downtown this spring.
“[Cold coffee consumption is] coming along, but I still think it’s got a long way to go,” Carmichael says. “For coffee roasters and craftspeople who really embrace it, they’re saying, ‘let’s give it some real flavor.’ This year I think you’ll be surprised. There are a couple more stairs upward.”
La Colombe is taking a big step: It announced today its innovative Draft Latte will be available in cans beginning March 1, in the Philadelphia area to start. The Draft Latte is not iced, Carmichael explains, but it’s a cold, textured coffee drink, made with concentrated Pure Black and aerated milk. The result is a creamy, subtly sweet and smooth coffee drink, without added sugar. In cans, it will be the first real competition to Starbucks’ bottled Frappuccino.
Both the Pure Black and the Draft Latte will be on tap at the new Boston café, and eventually, the cans will come to this city, too. Pure Black bottles will be sold at the forthcoming shop, and they will continue to be sold at other retailers, including Café Madeleine in the South End.
Café Madeleine has served La Colombe roasts since it opened in 2014, and the partnership will continue. JP Iberti, Carmichael’s business partner, selected pastry chef Frederic Robert’s fare for La Colombe’s food selections in Boston. Expect a range of pastries, sandwiches, and salads packaged to-go, Carmichael says.
The 1,200-square foot coffeeshop will seat about 40. Located in the same building as the WeWork co-working space near South Station, Carmichael says it will be “home base” for an eventual expansion around Boston.
“We like architecture and we like light, and we like to be a part of a neighborhood that’s a a mix, rather than just pure business, pure students, pure residential,” he says. “We really felt that vibe from that location.”
He declined to say how many La Colombe locations could open in Boston. It currently has 15 cafés in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., and in 2014, the company raised $28.5 million to open 100 new stores nationwide. Sixteen additional La Colombes are in the works, including in Los Angeles and Miami.
But Boston is the first priority.
“I like to climb mountains. If you think too much about the future and not about the step you’re taking right now, you’ll fall down. So, for me, the most important café in the world right now is Boston, because that’s the one I’m making,” he says. “If I accomplish all we’re looking to do, which is really participate in the major cities of America … that’s going to require a certain number of cafés.”
And it requires doing it right, he says. “I’ve been here a long time, growing a company, and this is something I instill in the people around me: The happiness you get from the very simple act of making a simple beverage for a couple bucks is what it’s all about,” he says. “[So I’m] Coming to Boston to open a simple cafe and make as many people smile as I can.”
And if he wants to send over some cases of the Draft Latte in cans, they’d be welcome in New England.
La Colombe, opening at 745 Atlantic Ave., Boston, April 2016; lacolombe.com.