Somerville Coffee Crew Crowdfunds a Mobile Coffeeshop Launch

The startup duo has a vintage Citroen H van, and they want to make you espresso.

Somerville Coffee Crew Citroen H van

The Somerville Coffee Crew Citroen H van. / Image via Somerville Coffee Crew / Kickstarter

A local couple is seeking the public’s help to bring artisan espresso drinks to the streets—literally. The duo behind Somerville Coffee Crew just launched a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign to help add the finishing touches to the vintage van they will outfit as Boston’s latest mobile caffeinator.

During a trip to Japan, Townsend Colon and Sarah Saleh watched a barista pull them fresh espresso directly from a mobile cart on a street in Osaka. “[W]e spotted what looked like a man preparing coffee at his own mini-café. Once we got closer we could see that he had all of the essential items necessary to make coffee,” the team writes on their website.

They shared their motivation with Scout Somerville. “For us, that was kind of a defining moment, in that it showed the complexity of coffee wrapped up in this simplistic kind of ritual,” Colon said.

Somerville Coffee Crew wouldn’t be Boston’s first roving café—which reminds us, want to buy the Coffee Trike?—nor even Somerville’s, with Black Magic Coffee Co. and Triangle Coffee popping up regularly in New England’s most densely populated municipality and beyond.

But it will take a unique form when it’s road-ready: Colon and Saleh are outfitting a 1971 Citroen H van, one of less than 500,000 ever made. The light utility vehicles, with distinctive corrugated bodywork and a front-mounted engine, were produced in France and Belgium.

“We wanted to create an experience that echoed back to our time in Japan combined with the romanticism and atmosphere of the European cafe,” the team writes on their site. “This mixture of form and function applied in the form of a truck aims to bring an entirely new way for people to enjoy coffee in our own community.”

While the idea has been percolating since 2012, Colon and Saleh launched their coffee business last year in California, popping up, sans truck, at community events in Sacramento and regularly vending at a Folsom farmers market. Scout reported they’re sourcing beans from Parlor Coffee roasters in Brooklyn, which had an unconventional start itself: Dillon Edwards started pulling espresso shots in the back of a barbershop. 

Since returning to the East Coast, the Somerville Coffee Crew purchased the van from a specialty dealer in Toms River, N.J., who is currently fixing it up; and has purchased the necessary brewing vessels, carafes, grinders, scales, and readers, plus a commercial refrigerator and an espresso machine. “It was important for us to slowly attain the equipment we need so that we could ask for as little as possible from our Kickstarter supporters,” the team writes.

Their $10,000 goal would keep them on track for their anticipated summer 2016 debut. It would help them pay off the van, and supply prizes for Kickstarter supporters, like stickers, buttons, tote bags, leather coasters, and artsy Instagram prints. Any additional funding will help fund the interior buildout, which requires insulation, flooring, countertops, and a generator.

Somerville Coffee Crew will offer an espresso menu, plus pour overs, cold brew, and iced coffee in the Japanese tradition. It will roam its hometown streets, as well as Boston and Cambridge, and build community along the way. The duo writes: “A speciality cup of coffee is one that is made specifically for you. It’s simple: make a great cup of coffee, do it consistently, courteously and create a space for people to come together.”

One Day 1 of the campaign, a dozen benefactors have pledged just less than $1,000 so far. Somerville Coffee Crew has until Monday, April 4 to meet its goal.