From our bar stools to our cocktail ingredients, everything at Cardinal has a story.
Eventually we'll tell you all of them.
The folks at Hopscotch Coffee, the roaster and coffee shop at Dodds Street and the B-Line, are our friends and neighbors but we don't like them only because they are nice and nearby.
Hopscotch makes phenomenal coffee. So, that, along with being nice and nearby, makes them wonderful collaborators, too. Hopscotch is our house coffee, and we use it in our caffeinated cocktails like the Iced Hopscotch, White Russian and Cafe a l'Orange.
We've even been using Hopscotch Coffee to make our popular coffee liqueur in very tiny batches ever since we opened. This week we're finally bottling and selling it for the first time. (Speaking of which: come to the coffee liqueur release party this Thursday. White Russians! The Big Lebowski! Free mugs!)
Recently we walked the B-Line with roaster and co-owner Jane Kupersmith to talk all things Hopscotch...
Cardinal: Hopscotch makes an amazing drink called the Cobra Verde, and it's definitely the drink of summer. Tell us everything about it.
Jane: Cobra Verde is our iced green-coffee drink — it’s really zippy and fresh, and it doesn’t taste anything like coffee. It has organic citrus and ginger juices, a little cane sugar-simple syrup and green coffee extract.
My childhood friend Jarrett Mitchell, who runs Wake Up Iowa City, invented the Cobra Verde recipe and extraction process, so we licensed that formally from him. We’re working on kegging it for the summer.
Hopscotch’s espresso machine is gorgeous. What’s special about it?
That’s our Cadillac. It defines how we do coffee here.
It’s a La Marzocco FB80 — it’s the 80th anniversary machine for La Marzocco, so it’s a little bit of a retro design. We feel like it pulls really smooth shots of espresso. It extracts more evenly and is less likely to have a bitterness.
So, when people come to the shop and want to order an espresso, we often tell them that they can try something a little stronger than they might elsewhere. If they usually get a cappuccino, which is two ounces of espresso and four ounces of milk, maybe they’ll try a cortado, which is two ounces of espresso and two ounces of steamed milk.
What should we know about the coffee at Hopscotch?
Consumers are more and more concerned with the ethics of coffee. We know that it’s possible for farms to not have the best practices in terms of labor or growing practices, and so we want to highlight farms that have really good practices. We are certified fair trade and we use that coffee often.
We try to highlight really interesting beans that are well sourced and then we try to share the roasting process with the consumer so they are really getting information from start to finish.
One kind of fun blend is called Mother’s Little Helper, and that is a half-caf blend. It’s all fair-trade, organic coffee — one half is this really nice decaf and the other half is from this Sumatra Ketiara women-run coffee cooperative. The president of the coffee co-op is a woman, and the majority of the members are women, which is super rare in the coffee industry. They reinvest in community infrastructure and health care and schools, and it’s really nice to be able to make that connection.
What do you love about roasting?
It’s really sensory. The roaster I have has an open chamber which is cool because you can see, smell and hear the roasting process, and I feel like all those components are really critical in knowing what’s going on. There are a lot of high-tech roasters, but my roaster is small. It roasts 10-pound batches.
There’s a thing called dry cupping where you take a bean that’s going through the roasting process and taste it, and that’s really interesting because a lot of the flavor notes that we talk about or that we list when we talk about our coffees, you can taste them right out of the roaster.
So, how's it going with Cardinal Spirits? Asking for a friend.
Our coffee is so good. How do you make it better? You make it boozy. And serve it in a nice place. It’s a no brainer.
That’s been just a wonderful gift. (Cardinal) is like-minded in that they saw this neighborhood and they could see the potential here, and they’re also making really wonderful craft products. It makes sense that we would try to find ways to work together.
I am so proud of what they’re doing with our coffee. I think it’s more incredible than what we’re doing with our coffee.
Hopscotch jazzes up coffee drinks with syrups and sodas from a local food truck called Bea’s Soda Bar. What are some favorites?
Our collaboration with Bea’s Soda Bar has lead us to some interesting drinks. Right now we have lavender syrup from Bea’s, and we’ve just been delighted with its popularity. We make lavender lattes with that, or you can buy a handmade lavender soda.
Another seasonal drink right now with Bea’s syrup is the Bee Sting, which is a vanilla honey blossom soda (from Bea’s) with a double shot of espresso floated on top of it. It has a little bit of fizz, a little bit of sweetness and a little bit of bite.
People talk about the interior nearly as much as the coffee at Hopscotch. How did the design come together?
We wanted it to feel well designed but we wanted everyone to feel at home and welcome, and I really feel like we did it.
Three people have had such an impact on the design. Rusty Peterson is our carpenter and we went to him with our ideas and needs, and we knew that he’s just such a thoughtful and practical builder that it would just come out like Rusty. It’s funny because Rusty says that he doesn’t have a particular aesthetic, but he does, and it’s always thoughtful, clean, simple — his designs make sense and they’re useful and just so well crafted.
When we told him we had this idea for a floating bench … it turned out he had this hundred-year-old, three-inch-thick, 17-foot-long piece of native beech that had been reclaimed from a demo job downtown. It was subfloor in an old car garage. So, if you come sit on our bench, that’s what you’re sitting on.
And then (co-owner) Jeff’s wife, Erin, is a graphic designer and she came up with the mural on one of the walls. She designed and hand-painted the entire thing. It’s just lovely. It’s a sweet and humorous way to break up what otherwise could be a serious space.
And then the third person is Vincent Edwards. He designed the chairs and stools that are in the space. What’s neat about these people is that they’re friends and loved ones, and what’s inside their minds, we get to have in the shop.
What’s next for you guys?
There’s a lot of pressure to expand, and I think we’d like to do that. But I think we want to wear this hat for a while and see how that goes, and make sure that we’re doing everything well.