Drinking coffee has become a club in our neighborhood. In the morning on the bus, I see the white cups with the black covers waiting at the bus stop at Palisade and Bowers and then they come on the bus. On Sundays, the line is out the door, while people get coffee before and after they go shopping at the Riverview Farmer’s Market. modcup coffee co. knew that expansion was always part of their plan - from a cart at the farmer’s market and a warehouse to now 2 locations (roastery included), a 1972 Citreon Type H Truck, and multiple partnerships, they are taking Jersey City by storm.
The owners Travas Clinton and Justin Hicks are so friendly and welcoming when you walk into their shops and make sure to know all their customers. This has trickled down to their employees making sure they hire people that are willing to work hard, but also like to have fun and love people. And as you can see, people have become diehard fans because of this bright and interested attitude - sitting in their first location at 479 Palisade Ave for hours on Sunday, taking a break on the way home at their Senate Place location (10 minutes from Journal Square), or coming in for their midday coffee break at the truck parked in Exchange Place.
What makes modcup so special is the community they have created. I know I would be able to talk to those people getting on the bus with their cups. And we are all different people from business people working from home or going to work, to hipsters who are bringing a new vibrancy to the neighborhood, or our local police, fire, and ambulance corps taking a break at their favorite local coffee shop.
Travas and Justin have a constant reminder of where they came from naming their ready to go coffee “Humble Jefferson.” Justin explains, “We started our first roastery location on Jefferson Street (in The Heights), so it is a reminder of where we came from, which is a tiny garage and a tiny cart. I was living in the warehouse for 3-4 months because you can’t afford to pay yourself when you start a company and you move along with the company. It is a good ode to staying humble.”
Modcup came to our neighborhood when we were basically begging for a coffee shop. Years ago, Palisade Avenue used to be a vibrant business community, then the focus shifted to building up Central Ave and a lot of those storefronts became first level apartments. Now years after, The Heights has become a center for arts, community activism, and community interest in general.
Travas was living in The Heights for 2 years before they started the company and understood that this market was ripe for picking (fruit pun… coffee comes from fruit). After meeting with Justin twice for a total of 48 hours, they decided to go into business together and 3 years ago modcup as we know it now was formed.
From the start, the little cart at the Farmer’s Market had a line and their coffee and iced tea would sell out. When we heard that they were opening a storefront, I don’t think there was more excitement for anything. Now businesses are following their lead knowing that commerce can thrive on Palisade Ave. Pretty exciting to be the change that was needed in our neighborhood.
So let’s talk about why people love modcup!
According to Justin, “There is product behind it. We stick to our original mantra of being a blend of art, music, fashion, and science.”
Milo, the manager of The Heights Cafe who makes amazing hibiscus tea I drink everyday I can, said, “And the coffee is really good.” He continues sharing his journey at modcup, “I started working here because I liked the coffee. My first couple of jobs were in coffee and I had the Bali and was hooked. I asked if they needed people with experience and they made it worth my while to work here in many different ways. It is really nice to work for a company that appreciates their employees and doesn’t look at them as dispensable. This is such an easy place to work, but still hard work. You learn to respect the chain of people it takes to get a cup of coffee. That is something I never really paid attention to and most people don’t. It is so interesting to me where it comes from and how much effort it takes to actually get a cup of coffee, let alone a coffee bean.”
Educating their customers on coffee has been one of their primary focuses from classes at their locations, to explaining how the coffee is made and roasted at the shop, to reteaching us how to drink coffee. “All our coffees are brewed with science and soul, which means we brew it for you with the science of coffee. We do everything by hand here,” which includes roasting the coffee at the Senate Place location.
One of the biggest challenges they face is reteaching us about coffee, their hopes is “To have people stop thinking of coffee as a drug. Too many people forget that coffee is just as intricate as wine or craft beer. The coffee industry is held back by people thinking it is a cheap $1 drug. People do not realize the amount of work it costs to produce coffee and to charge a $1 for that is crazy to me (Justin). I hope we can raise awareness and the standard of how people consume and enjoy coffee.”
When I took one of their classes over the summer with Ryan, their marketing director, we sampled 3 different coffees from 3 different areas of the world, made with different processes. We learned that the coffee bean is actually inside of a coffee cherry (remember the fruit pun!?) and modcup now makes a coffee like drink with these cherries which is great. If you ever wanted to learn about coffee these are the guys to learn from.
So if you have not tried modcup coffee, I recommend you say hello to one of their amazing employees, at one of their stores, or drink a cup on the water at exchange place. You can also find their coffee and a coffee gelato at Bucket & Bay Craft Gelato Co. and drink a delicious coffee beer from Departed Soles called the Modern Cup of Sole (we learned about them on our food tour with Jersey Girls Food Tours).
What are you waiting for, the best coffee you have ever had is waiting for you.
Big thank you to modcup for bearing with me as it took months to post this article.
Photos were taken on and around their truck @ Exchange Place right outside the Hyatt and at the 25 Senate Place location.
Also shout out to Safety Third Racing for let me test out the drone gear before their competition.
Photos courtesy of Jabari Harris of JNH Fotos