Chicago’s Coffee Boom

by Tirzah Walker, correspondent


Coffee, beans, roasts, cuppings. The chatter, the quiet, the vibes. Experiencing Chicago requires at least a few trips to obscure cafes like the “Wormhole” or “Volumes” in Wicker Park, “Bourgeois Pig” or “Elaine’s” in Lincoln Park, or “Joe’s” here on campus.

What began as a “cup of joe” to start the worker’s morning has become a cultural art and booming economy in Chicago and other major cities. The economic boom is not founded in an artistic interest or for the sales of coffee alone, but because of the nature of loyalty programs and human habits. In a city that is temperamental and with high chill rates like Chicago, coffee sellers find very loyal customers, seeking the warmth of a latte and friendly human interaction, something that baristas are known for.

Chicago is a metropolis designated to novelty, so the basic Pumpkin Spice Latte is not going to satisfy the Chicago public. Nitro, single origin pour-overs, signature and seasonal drinks in inspiring locations hook the consumer both in mind and body as only the American coffee industry can.

In Chicago, if one cafe doesn’t offer Rwanda, walk a few blocks and patrons will find it at the next cafe. The Honey Wash method is totally available too. You need never walk into a Starbucks during your entire student career. In fact, this rise of coffee culture has overwhelmed the green mermaid and she now has to swim to keep up.

Third Wave is a term meant to explain what you can expect from a coffee establishment. First being the diner kind, served in a black or orange handled carafe; second being your typical “Starbucks” or Dunkin’ and third being an establishment that serves single origin coffees, which is a coffee bean that comes from one place and is not blended with other beans from other regions. This means our very own Joe’s is a third wave to ride on.

Chris Osantowski, a junior pastoral ministries major can often be found in Joe’s weighing in on the flavor notes of the new PT’s beans (Joe’s coffee distributor of choice) as they get dialed in. “My favorite coffee is from Kenya or other eastern African countries. The lighter the roast the better because it enables you to get the most out of coffee from that region. Pour over if someone else is making it for me, Aeropress if I am making it.”

Compared to other places in Chicago, Joe’s is relatively cheap. The most expensive drink at Joe’s is $4.75; the coffee industry is one that fluctuates in price depending on the worth of the beans. “I bought an $8 cup of coffee that was from a farm in Yemen, which is a very difficult country to export anything from,” said Osantowski.  “And of course it was absolutely worth the money.”

Because making a cup of coffee costs only pennies to produce, the coffee industry is experiencing a huge boon in its economy. This is mainly due to the enthusiasm of its consumers. Osantowski states, “Coffee has become a staple in Chicago because of the growing market for excellent everyday products. Artisan coffee will continue to grow around this area because there are people that want it and can afford it.”

Grabbing a cup of coffee has become the standard way to catch up with old friends or form relationships with new ones. Historically, it was in coffee houses that revolutionary thoughts were born. Osantowski explains, “Coffee intrigues me because it is one of the most cross-cultural and cross-generational substances ever. There are so many people that drink it and the nature of it being something that is brewed means that it does its best to slow down our incredibly fast paced culture. Coffee is something almost everyone can share and it might just slow some people down enough to talk with each other.”

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