Talking really good coffee with Don Henrichsen of Blue Wave Coffee
1. Tell us about Blue Wave Coffee
We’re a coffee truck with a focus on really good coffee from a great roaster and dedicated farmers - we're as direct as we can get from farmer to consumer.
2. What do you mean by “really good coffee?”
To me it means coffee that has a lot of time, passion and knowledge invested in it - from the people who pay a lot of attention to the growing process, all the way through to the roasting, and then to us for the preparation.
3. Who’s the audience for Blue Wave Coffee?
It’s anyone who appreciates good food and good coffee. I’ve had a strong positive reaction from people who take coffee seriously. I recently had a Columbian gentleman come by when I was at the Nocatee Farmer’s Market. He was going on and on telling me that nobody in this country knows what real coffee is all about. As he was telling me this I was making his drink. When he took a sip his eyes lit up and his whole face completely changed. He was ecstatic. That kind of reaction from people is what gets me going.
4. How do you find your coffee beans?
We work with a great roaster who finds the beans for us. Coffee is very seasonal - it’s a fruit, and that means that certain beans will be in season at some times of the year and not other times. That will impact the particular bean we have at a certain time.
5. Can you tell us about the seasonal aspect of coffee?
Like any fruit there are times of the year when its quality is at its peak. Just like you can get apples year round, there are still times of the year when certain varieties of apple are at their best. The same is true of coffee. The best coffee is going to be what’s in season and what’s fresh. You can always store coffee beans to keep them around but if you want the most intense flavors you need to use the freshest beans.
6. How many styles of bean will you carry on the truck?
We’ll always feature two different beans every day as drips. In addition to that I’ll throw in a special espresso roast every so often to feature a bean I don’t normally use. Espresso is typically a blend of different beans but every once in a while I’ll feature a single origin espresso bean if I think it’s particularly good.
7. What types of coffee do you feature, in terms of preparation?
We prepare our coffees in a number of ways. Every machine we use on the truck is top of the line, designed to extract the most flavor from every bean. We use a Fetco coffee brewing system for our drip. For our pour overs we have a French press and for our Chemex I use the Gold Cup Brewer from Curtis Coffee out of southern California. They came out with the machine less then a year ago to recreate a Chemex pour over. Typically, when you order a Chemex you’ll have different results depending on the barista and other variables such as temperature of water, and so on. With the Curtis machine you’re going to have the same great Chemex over and over and over. The Gold Cup Brewer competed in southern California at a barista expo against the best baristas in the country and in blind taste tests the Gold Cup Brewer beat out the baristas every single time. It makes a very consistent cup of coffee, without all the human error.
8. What exactly is a Chemex coffee?
Chemex is a way of brewing coffee. It uses an hour glass shaped container and thick filters to remove more of the coffee oils than with a standard filter.
There are endless ways of trying to produce a perfect cup of coffee and to an extent it will come down to personal preference as to which brewing method you prefer. Espresso is one way of brewing coffee - it’s quick and requires a fine grind of coffee. With a Chemex you use a coarser grind of coffee and the beans sit much longer in the water in order to extract the flavor from the beans.
9. What’s the most popular coffee style at Blue Wave Coffee?
We’ve only been open for a month so we’re still getting a feel for that, but at this point we sell more drip coffee then anything else. I think that is a testament to the quality of the coffee we use. I always encourage people to try the drip coffee and to try it black to see what it really tastes like.
10. Do you also have food?
Yes. Right now we’re featuring different types of muffins and a few special items. We have Peaches and Cream and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins. We’ll bring out new things as we get feedback from customers. We just did freshly baked beignets at the Nocatee Farmer’s Market. They were a huge hit so they’ll be something we offer once a week or so. For food, just like my coffee, I won’t put out anything that doesn’t blow me away.
11. Do you also have things like smoothies?
We do have smoothies. They’re all fruit. We aren’t focused on syrupy, artificially sweetened drinks.
We also offer blended drinks such as blended iced mochas and iced chai.
12. You describe your chai as "True Masala Chai." What does that mean?
Our chai reflects its Indian origins. It’s made with a lot of spices and a base of all organic black tea, with a kick of ginger at the end. Our version is true to the original chai with just the slightest bit of sweetness added to complement the ginger. Authentic chai probably wouldn’t be sweet enough for most people and by adding a bit of sweetness it mellows the ginger. For me, it’s the perfect drink on a cold day. I almost crave it more than coffee when it’s really cold out. Ironically, chai is also really good when it’s iced or blended.
13. Why did you decide to partner with Verve Coffee Roasters at Blue Wave?
To start with, they are just good people. Everyone I’ve dealt with at Verve and everything I’ve heard about Verve has been nothing but positive. They’re good quality people and that’s a great place to start. I believe that one of the reasons Verve is able to source such good quality beans is that people recognize authenticity when they see it and it allows people who are authentic to establish relationships across borders and with a variety of people and coffee growers.
Equally important, at Verve they’re fanatical about coffee. They love it and they’re perfectionists. I researched a lot of roasters and there are a lot of great roasters around the country. For me, Verve hit it out of the park every time in terms of being consistently great with every roast. They just don’t release anything they don’t feel is a home run. They are based in Santa Cruz, CA and I may be a little biased, having grown up in the San Francisco Bay area, but the whole Santa Cruz vibe fits well with me - it was the icing on the cake.
14. Does Verve do the sourcing and the roasting?
Yes, I get all my coffee from Verve. The only thing I don’t get from them is my chai.
15. Are there any major trends going on in the coffee world?
There is. It's something that’s been going on for awhile now, but it's referred to as the “third wave” of coffee. The first wave being our parent’s and grandparent’s generation who grew up on Folgers. It was a means to an end to get some caffeine. The second wave was driven by Starbucks. The third wave is focused on farm fresh and relationship centered, seasonal coffee. That’s the big focus now. To me it’s a great thing and it’s something that’s immediately apparent when you go into a coffee shop that's delivering on the third wave.
The other trend at coffee shops is to offer hand crafted cocktails at night. Down the road it’s something I’d like to do with a brick and mortar. If I could make it work on the truck it’s something I’d look at.
16. What’s your coffee background? Have you worked in a coffee shop?
Actually, I did work in a coffee shop, way back, probably 25 years ago when I first moved to Colorado. They did a lot of things right, even back then. Before I started Blue Wave Coffee I went to a coffee school in Texas. It was a great experience and helped tremendously with the technical side of brewing coffee, as well as getting in touch with the latest trends in the coffee world.
17. What attracted you to a coffee truck?
Coffee is something I’ve always appreciated. I believe it was Howard Schultz from Starbucks who said that coffee is an affordable luxury. It really is. The best coffee in the world will only cost $60 or $70 per pound. With wine it’s a whole other price point. Coffee is something that anyone can afford and appreciate the best. It’s also a special moment you can have every day when you take that first sip of coffee and everything’s perfect. It’s a new start of a new day. Conversely, for me there’s nothing worse than starting your day with bad coffee.
18. Why did you open Blue Wave Coffee as a food truck and not a brick and mortar coffee shop?
I live in Nocatee and my focus was to open a coffee shop there. Eventually that’s still the goal. I started with the truck out of necessity because there really is no brick and mortar opportunity in Nocatee at the current time. Since being in the food truck business I’ve found it to be really enjoyable. I also think I’ve caught the food truck movement at the right time here in Jacksonville. There are a lot of really good quality food trucks coming out now. There’s been a very positive reception to the trucks. The food truck community is also nothing but supportive and positive.
19. Do you offer catering?
Yes, on weekends and evenings. We also do special events like food truck rallies and farmer’s markets.
20. Were there any big surprises launching Blue Wave Coffee?
Living in Nocatee I realized there wasn’t a lot of choice in terms of brick and mortar coffee shops, so I always thought a coffee food truck would be popular. But, even so, I have to say that I was still surprised at how positive and intense the reaction has actually been. Nocatee has also just started a monthly food truck rally and it’s a perfect fit for where Nocatee is at this time - it brings a lot of high quality, innovative food to a place where the retail environment is still being built out. It's hugely popular.
21. What do you think is driving the strong reaction to Blue Wave Coffee?
At first people are drawn to the convenience of being able to get a coffee without having to drive a long way to get it. Once they try our coffee they’re often surprised at how good it really is. That's what keeps them coming back. Great coffee is highly addictive!
22. Do you have a set location?
I’ll be in the parking lot of the Crosswater Church in Nocatee, every Monday to Friday from 7am to 10:30am. To me, a coffee truck is different from other food trucks. Coffee is very habitual and routine. I feel strongly that I need to be in the same location every day, from Monday to Friday, so I’ll be out there every day, no matter what the weather.