April 24, 2021

New Stomping Grounds for SK Coffee

It’s no secret that our team loves coffee. Like… really loves coffee. So when we found out that our partner, SK Coffee, was opening a new bar in Vandalia Tower, we immediately set up time to get a sneak preview. Spoiler alert: it is so good.

New Place for Brew

I arrived last Tuesday morning with extra pep in my step thanks to the sunshine, warm temps, and promise of a fresh cup of coffee. Thankfully, Vandalia Tower has ample parking, so I easily snagged a spot and strolled inside. I was immediately greeted by the SK team - masked but noticeably smiling with crinkled eyes - and the sleek, modern-Scandi aesthetic of their new space. Situated in the airy lobby of an old mattress factory, the new bar has ample indoor seating for folks to spread out and chat, work, or read, plus will open a patio area soon for some outdoor options.

There is so much that I adore about SK’s new shop: the wooden slat-style bar, the George & Willy letterboard menus, the neon Dala horse sign, the abundant plants scattered throughout, the vibrant hues of their geometric barstools. Their team really nailed the details. The element that wowed me the most, though, was the secret window view into their new roasting room. Not only does this give guests a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their production, it also serves as a perfect metaphor for SK’s commitment to transparency and ethical practices in the coffee industry.

Not Your Average Jo

After admiring the new digs, it was time to get down to business. Sam Kjellberg, the founder and coffee-connoisseur behind SK, brought me a cup of their Colombia Finca Bet’el spiced process roast to try. I must confess, I do not typically drink black coffee - and by typically, I mean ever - which is why I was blown away by how much I thoroughly enjoyed the brew in its unaltered format. Not a drop of oat milk, creamer, or sugar was poured; it was that delightful.

Interestingly enough, SK Coffee aims to bring this exact same experience to others. While most shops are all about their extravagant, multi-ingredient lattes or mochas, SK is passionate about showing the impact of an incredible cup of single-origin coffee. By letting the complex array of flavors in each roast shine through, they believe they can help grow others’ appreciation for premium, direct-sourced coffee from all across the globe. As a latte lover myself, I am now thoroughly inspired to continue exploring different roasts and brew methods after savoring every sip last week.

Q&A with SK

During my visit, I also had the privilege to sit down with Sam to discuss the new location and his vision for the company moving forward:

Q: What are you most excited about for this new business endeavor?

A: There are so many things, but more than anything I’m excited to bring people along in the journey of exploring and enjoying delicious single-origin coffee. The real hero of this process is the coffee itself, so I’m eager for the opportunity to bring it to more people and highlight the origin stories, methods, and farmers who bring it to life.

Q: This past year has been wild, to say the least. How did it shape SK Coffee going into 2021?

A: COVID-19 certainly took us by surprise, and we were actually supposed to open our coffee bar in 2020. The delay ultimately ended up being a silver lining because we were able to focus on our subscription customers, take a step back, and be really intentional with our decisions as we continued towards opening the shop. We took the opportunity to host virtual tasting events and often sourced special coffee for those projects to still create the unique experiences so many people were craving. That will definitely be something we continue in-person as it becomes safe again. We watched as so many businesses had to pivot from in-person to digital, so we feel fortunate that we are essentially able to do the reverse.

Q: I saw the SK pledge after George Floyd was killed by police last year. How do you envision the coffee bar will help you make strides towards these commitments?

A: We waited a few weeks before issuing our pledge because we didn’t want to make any promises that we couldn’t keep. After a lot of consideration, we decided to partner with a local non-profit, Right Track Foundation, to aid us in finding candidates for a new internship program at SK, specifically focused on hiring BIPOC students in the Twin Cities. We are by no means experts on this, which is why we sought input from an outside organization, and their guidance has been tremendously helpful. Right Track connected us with the St. Paul School System for hiring, and going forward we’ll work with them directly as we continue to grow our program. Ultimately, the internship not only helps grow representation in a predominantly white industry, but also creates job opportunities for young individuals in our community. We’ve already hired three high school students, Hayat, Keyah and Ryan, and are psyched to have them on the team!

Q: Last question before I let you get back to your other eager customers, and I’ll end with a fun one: given your professional background in music, I have to ask: what music are you planning to play in the cafe?

A: (Laughed) I am classically trained and play a lot of jazz, but I’m trying to not impose that too hard on guests. Nate is a big music enthusiast, so he’s been rocking a bit of LoFi “Euro-chic” jams. No matter what, we hope to create an environment that you can enjoy whether you’re catching up with a friend or cranking out some work.

Show The Love

I’m so happy I was able to visit, and can’t wait to keep supporting this awesome partner of ours! Be sure to show them the love, too, by: