Indulge in a cup of coffee or tea from Blackbird Café and you’re likely to find that one blend that you just can’t live without.
That’s what happened to Darcy Scully of Valparaiso.
“When we go to Florida for three months in the winter, we bring the grog beans down there with us. I found a bag in Florida once but it just wasn’t the same,” Scully said, referencing the Highlander Grog blend at the Valparaiso based Blackbird Café.
Blackbird Café Owner Dan Cook said the buttery hazelnut coffee with caramel undertones is a local staple at Blackbird Café. “To be honest, we probably wouldn’t exist without it,” he said, punching home its popularity.
Blackbird Café sources its beans from The Coffee & Tea Exchange in Chicago.
“It’s one of the original small roasteries in Chicago. The founder is still there roasting, and we have a really good working relationship with them,” Cook said. “They are able to pull from the European-style roasteries and are very good at matching bean profiles.”
A close second community favorite at Blackbird is the Kona coffee.
It’s actually a blend, Cook said, and the roaster is able to source different coffee beans and roast them to have the exact same taste as a Kona bean.
The café’s signature coffee, Blackbird Blend, is a special match formed by Cook’s pallet, which seems to easily predict what local coffee drinkers like.
“Blackbird Blend is half Sumatran, which is dark but mellow, and half French/Italian, which lends a bit of a smokier flavor. The Sumantra leaves the boldness but levels out the smokiness,” he said.
While the Blackbird team is constantly inspired by local coffee trends, they resist the popular pull to ditch favorites just to be trendy.
“We still serve flavored coffee. The café is really built around being a social place,” Cook said, “and that means offering products that people want. A few years ago, for example, we changed our espresso. It was a very European and very bold, sharp, smoky espresso. We noticed the pallet around here didn’t support that strong smoky taste so we use a blend that is a little creamier and a little lighter. It’s all about what people are going to like.”
Cook said their seasonal flavored concoctions are developed in collaboration with the whole team, giving everyone a creative outlet in one way or another.
“We lean toward a very classic café menu when it comes to drinks - cappuccino, lattes, all those things made in the right proportion. I might just come in and say – hey let’s do something with almond today or strawberries because it’s summer. We look at trends and what other successful shops are doing, but for the most part we try to come up with our own original themes. When someone is training with us I tell them – don’t be so caught up in complexities because it’s basically coffee, milk, and whatever flavor is related to that drink.”
Cook’s first-ever employee at the shop, Emily, still works there, and actually taught him how to make espresso. Cook said he’s an avid coffee drinker who can easily predict what the local community likes, but his background first is in pastry and running coffee shops.
Cook hinted at a plan to get even more creative with their tea menu in the near future.
“We have more than 30 different types of tea that people can buy by the cup or by the ounce. We’ve been experimenting a lot with different specialty teas for the summer,” he said.
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