These endearing coffee trucks are pumping out high-quality coffee in unexpected places.
BY TANYA NANETTI
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo by Nick Hillier for Unsplash
Food trucks have been around much longer than you think. In a sense, their invention can be traced back to the late 17th century, when vendors used to sell cheap food from small carts in busy urban areas. They’ve also seen a more recent remergence, which can be largely traced back to the recessions of 2008.
Being cheaper both to open and to run than a traditional restaurant, their popularity has increased rapidly, starting with the first food truck scenes in large metropolitan cities like Los Angeles and New York. In just a decade, mobile food culture has taken over the world, serving affordable tacos and more expensive fine dining dishes, cupcakes, ice cream, and of course coffee.
In conjunction with the rise of specialty-coffee culture, many coffee shops have joined the movement to mobile, from fully equipped vans to simple cars that carry a single-group espresso machine.
Here is just a short list of the many mobile coffee concepts that exist today.
Swerl Coffee – Falkenberg, Sweden
It was during a trip to New Zealand that Beatriz and Daniel realized how wonderful the world of specialty coffee could be. Returning home, they wanted to find a way to take what they had discovered with them. They knew that everyone deserves a good cup of sustainably produced coffee, and they wanted to be the ones to provide it.
And then it all began, in this light-blue bus with a passion for coffee and people, with a micro-roastery located nearby on the outskirts of Falkenberg. The ’72 Mercedes bus, which in a previous life was a mail van, now fulfills its biggest mission to date by being a rolling café.
Besides offering specialty coffee, this mobile coffee spot has gluten-free homemade pastries and sometimes goodies from other local makers, all served with a smile in this beautiful location on the Skrea strand.
Dear Coco Street Coffee – London
Dear Coco Street founder Emma Duckworth is the recipe developer, food stylist, and photographer behind a famous dessert blog; her business, Emma Duckworth Bakes, has expanded to include a street coffee concept. After all, the romance of street coffee is undeniable. As Emma puts it, “It’s like being unexpectedly met by your favorite person. Your journey is intercepted by someone or something that makes you happy. It turns a routine moment into a real treat.”
And this is where the idea for Dear Coco was born. Nestled along the River Thames in downtown London, it’s a specialty street coffee experience that offers homemade sweet treats and specialty coffee from the back of a converted Piaggio Ape. Created by Emma and her husband, Anthony, as a love letter to their youngest daughter, Coco, they hope to bring the community together for precious moments.
La Course – Lyon, France
La Course is a unique concept in Lyon—a project that, with two vehicles at its disposal, brings specialty coffee and homemade pastries throughout the city.
A vintage Renault 4L converted into a coffee truck sits every sunny morning from Tuesday to Friday in its spot along the river on Quai Augagneur. The same vintage car and the second vehicle, a travel bike transformed into a mini mobile café, are also available for catering, and they can often be spotted at local events, from music festivals to fairs and exhibitions.
Vincent, the founder of La Course, is a professional barista whose mission is to spread specialty-coffee culture through friendly and festive events. And further, Vincent offers La Course as a pop-up concept to merchants who wish to create a coffee corner in their shops to celebrate an inauguration, an anniversary, or any other special moment.
The Bus – Bucharest, Romania
Strolling through the busy streets of Bucharest, you can sometimes spot a shiny yellow coffee truck slinging ‘spros. Opened in June 2017, this 1977 Volkswagen t2b was transformed from an old postal van to a bus delivering specialty coffee.
Opened by three friends, after thousands of coffees served on the streets of Bucharest and festivals throughout Romania, in November 2020, The Bus opened its first shop without wheels. Here, The Bus can sit and relax while the three friends continue to spread their love for the specialty-coffee world … while waiting for the next festival to make its triumphant return!
Idobata Coffee Stand – Kamakura, Japan
Many people visit Kamakura looking for the statue of the Great Buddha in the Kotoku-In temple, but probably not many stop or even notice this little truck on the side of the road..
The first thing you’ll notice just as you walk past is a small shelf of books for sale, and some simple handwritten wooden boards advertising “hand drip,” “Gesha,” and a short list of single-origin offerings written in both Japanese and English.
But you have to stop and look a little farther to get a good look at the back of the stand, parked in a private covered courtyard. Here, a middle-aged gentleman is ready to brew you the perfect V60, or to serve you a delicious cup of iced coffee.
Researching more about Idobata and its owner/barista is quite difficult, but there’s an old webpage that, in Japanese and some English, tells us its story—the story of a former salesman who, with no experience in coffee or in hospitality, after the closure of the bookstore where he worked, suddenly fell in love with coffee and decided to open his small coffee truck.
Without any social media or advertising, it’s probably hard to find out more … but Idobata is still there, waiting to brew you another cup of delicious hand-brewed coffee.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.