By Julia O’Malley, Anchorage | August 19, 2015
You think your Starbucks cold-brew coffee is trendy? People in Anchorage were buying bottled cold brew five years ago. As for your pour-over black cup made with single-origin beans from a small farm in Africa? Yawn. Fairbanks has been doing that since the 1990s.
Little-known fact: Alaska is among the most coffee-obsessed states in the nation. Some years, the coffee-shop-to-human ratio in Anchorage has been higher than Seattle, making it the most caffeinated place in the America (at last count, in 2011, it dropped to number two, with about one coffee shop for every 2,000 souls.)
You cannot escape the coffee carts here, common as roadside moose, each with its unique brand: The Sugar Shack, Java the Hut, Fred’s Bail Bonding and CoffeeCabana. And then, there are the local coffee shops.
Anchorage-based Kaladi Brothers Coffee, the largest among half a dozen serious coffee roasters in the state, roasts 1.2m pounds of beans per year, enough for every man, woman and child in the state to brew at least five pots of strong coffee each. One of the biggest share goes to the oil fields on Alaska’s North Slope, where workers are on 24 hours a day, says Dale Tran, the company’s chief operating officer. Kaladi has 15 stores in Alaska and one in Seattle.
Alaskans joke that anything trendy in the Lower 48 shows up in Alaska three to five years after its popularity has crested. Olive Garden. Cupcakes. Fro-yo. But the rule does not apply when it comes to coffee. Anchorage’s first espresso shop, Cafe Del Mundo, opened just a few years after Starbucks opened its flagship store.Alaska consumers’ relationship with coffee has a certain razor-sharp west coast attitude to it, brewers say, more discerning than you might expect.
Take Leif Sawyer, a network engineer for a communications company in Anchorage.
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