Zagat Interview: La Colombe in 2014

Zagat just published an interview with our COO Tobin Bickley about the year ahead of La Colombe, which contains a lot of exciting news as well as some insight into how and why we are doing what we’re doing. Below is the article:

On the first of the year, La Colombe co-founder (and Dangerous Grounds star) Todd Carmichael tweeted about the killer year ahead. Not only will the the 20-year-old coffee company open its distillery in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood, there are also plans to launch at least six new cafes around the country. We checked in with COO Tobin Bickley to find out more.

The first of the new cafes to open is already well known: it will be in DC’s Shaw neighborhood, the first La Colombe in that city, and the launch is but a few weeks away. New York will get two new cafes – the fourth and fifth for NYC. One is already under construction at 303 Hudson Street in Hudson Square. The other location – also in Manhattan – has already been chosen, but since it’s not a done deal, Bickley didn’t feel comfortable publishing the address.

Chicago is getting another La Colombe, in addition to the new Wicker Park cafe, although the perfect site has not yet been found. The search is also on for a space in Boston and one in Baltimore. By the end of the year, the company’s footprint should stretch across the entire North Atlantic Coast.

La Colombe’s hometown need not feel left out, because there are plans to look for another cafe location in Philadelphia too. “We have one budgeted, it’s just a matter of time,” Bickley says. And then there’s the distillery.

With a target opening date of spring 2014 (April, maybe), the spot at 1335 Frankford Avenue will be much more than a distillery. The multipurpose space will also house a traditional cafe and on-site bakery, and there will also be a liquor license (in addition to the distilling license), so expect a bar and some light fare to go along.

Bickley tells us the idea for the distillery was inspired by travels to coffee farms. “Just about all these farmers are making some kind of moonshine, whether it’s from rice or cereal or wheat,” he says. After he and Carmichael had visited Haiti several times, where they work with the Clinton Foundation on helping rebuild the country’s coffee industry, they were struck by the abundance of sugar cane and number of mini distilleries around the island.

“We’re not afraid to dive right in,” Bickley says, and so they decided to take the leap and try distilling on their own. After spending a lot of time learning – from other experts and from trial and error – they acquired a 450-liter still and hired a master distiller. The result is what Carmichael has referred to as “deliciously complex rum.” We’ll all get a chance to try it soon.

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