By Kaisa Cummings
Founder Perry Merkel, who started roasting coffee in a shed in Spenard, was part of the first wave of specialty coffee culture that brought Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee. When Merkel retired and sold the shop to Kaladi Brothers in 2010, the new owners wanted to update both its coffee and its interior, without losing its welcoming feel and commitment to good coffee thoughtfully sourced from around the world. Many regular customers at del Mundo’s midtown location have been coming for decades.
“We wanted to build an environment around the coffee,” said Jared Mockli, the shop’s general manager, “while maintaining a comfortable, upscale atmosphere.”
Here’s what it looks like now:
Mockli talked me through the redesign—over coffee, of course—on a recent Wednesday morning. Most of the bar seating and bistro tables were occupied and the server behind the counter was busy tending a round of pour-over coffees.
You can still get an expertly-prepared espresso at Black Cup, but the shop now offers several types of drip-style coffee, best served black. Many of the drinks at Black Cup are made using the classic pour-over method, which dates back to the early 20th century and is still widely considered the most efficient way to make a quality cup.
From my seat, I could also see and hear the latest, dazzling addition to the coffee bar, the Steampunk machine, which is considered to be the future of craft coffee brewing technology.
Efficiency and beauty were key to a successful remodel, Mockli told me. Being able to see and engage with the person making coffee and the coffee making process is also central to the Black Cup floorplan. The coffee bar is extensive and open with white marble countertops. A record player sits behind the bar, providing the soundtrack, and occasionally a barista will deftly lift the needle and change the record.
In the back seating area, geometric black and white floor tiles anchor the modern palette, while mahogany wood tables and secluded booths add visual warmth and elegance. Brushed metal barstools and chandeliers offer simple accents.
The design concept is attributed to Black Cup owner Brad Bigelow, who has an extensive background and masters degree in architecture and design. He envisioned what fellow designer Michele Parkhurst later described as, “a new-old space that is unlike what you see in Alaska.” And she’s right: Black Cup is much more European bistro than Anchorage cafe. “The cafe design was primarily influenced by early 20th century glamour,” Parkhurst said, “with big window curtain panels, chandeliers, Persian-influenced tile floors, and communal tables.”
Those involved in the redesign worked hard to gracefully incorporate references to the original shop. The long central table has been refinished but remains the same. The wall-size map is an homage to an older version that hung on the same wall. The espresso machine, too, is a holdover, but will soon be replaced with another innovative coffee gadget: the Modbar, which will be the first of its kind in Alaska.
“We’re providing a craft-coffee experience,” Mockli explains, “We’re focusing on the origin of coffee: how the coffee is grown, harvested, and processed, and how all those factors go into creating a different type of quality and an added experience for our customers.”
As I finish my coffee, I look around at the cafe-goers around me. People of all ages sip their beverages, type on laptops, chat with friends. There’s an ease that Black Cup achieves through its dedication to simplicity, to the idea that great coffee can bring people together, and that ease can be seen in its customers.
If Cafe del Mundo first inspired people in Anchorage to look for superior quality in their coffee, then Black Cup is propelling this notion even further by creating an entire atmosphere around their delicious brews.
While cream and sugar are still acceptable additions, I suggest you take your next cup black.
(This post is sponsored by Black Cup. Go here for more information on sponsored posts or other sponsorship opportunities.)
Visit Black Cup.