There’s a new movement percolating in the world of mobile culinary retail. If you spend much time on Kickstarter, you may have noticed it already. The food-truck trend, in full-force for a while now, is giving way to an even more eco-friendly option: trikes. Like food trucks, trikes can navigate to wherever their customers may be, and they aren’t tied to the mantra of “location location location” like a brick-and-mortar shop. And they’re often quite beautiful examples of industrial design.
In particular, I have been noticing a spike in interest in mobile coffee trikes. From the recent Kickstarter campaign for Solar Cafe in Columbus, Ohio, to The Coffee Trike I spotted at the recent Eat Boutique showcase in Boston—not to mention several international examples—coffee trikes are making progress on the culinary scene and in design media.
One of the most beautiful examples is Velopresso, designed by a pair of Royal College of Art students named Lasse Oiva and Amos Field Reid. It features a sleek curvilinear body and swash-type logo. It has won the Deutsche Bank Award for Design and the Pininfarina Design Contest, both in 2012. The Velopresso boasts “near silent ultra-low carbon human-powered operation, with no electricity, no motors, no noise.” Just five seconds of pedaling power will grind enough beans for a double shot of espresso. An obvious next step would be to gather energy from locals who want to log 15 minutes on a bike during their lunch hours.
Boston’s Alessandro Bellino also has an impressive setup, pairing functionality with aesthetic sensitivity for his Coffee Trike. After attempting to find space to open a traditional shop, he decided to try his hand at mobile coffee instead. Bellino initially brainstormed the framework of the trike with an architect friend, Matt Burness, who helped him troubleshoot the structure. He later worked with a talented woodworker and craftsman named Nick Doriss. “When I was designing the build-in, I was always trying to optimize workflow, and making sure the setup was intuitive and as easy to use as possible,” he says. In the end, Bellino succeeded in marrying concept with efficient form. The trike’s workflow moves from left to right, beginning with steaming milk and rinsing the milk pitcher; progressing to the knock box, the grinder, and the espresso machine; and ending at the shelf where drinks are presented to customers.
How far we’ve come from Mr. Coffee, once the ultimate convenience. Today, convenience means some of the finest espresso drinks coming to a street corner or farmers’ market near you. Listen for those adorable bicycle bells; they’re the ice-cream truck melodies of tomorrow.
Jeshurun Webb is a graphic designer and illustrator currently working from Boston. Webb received an MFA in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design. View her work at Formletter.org and follow her at @jeshurundesigns.