Some mornings, making a cup of joe is an inexorable ritual. Stumbling bleary-eyed down the stairs, the only thing that ensures I’m not sleepwalking is the sound of beans being beaten into submission by my coffee grinder. Other times, it’s a luxury, an indulgent treat served over ice, accompanied by a dog eared book in a favorite cafe. No matter what your relationship with caffeine is, venturing to new coffee shops is always a treat, at least for me.
Brigade Coffee is a mobile cafe of sorts, serving up lattes, espresso, cappuccinos and of course, iced coffee all from the confines of a 1940s style Citroen H Van. Co-owners Shawn Parsons and Andy Anderson are childhood friends that were inspired by the usage of these World War II service vehicles as food trucks in France. And while food trucks aren’t exactly a unique concept in New Orleans, a drink-slinging one is.The style of coffee that Brigade offers symbolizes a shift in New Orleanians’ palettes. Simply put, it’s a better cup. By roasting and sourcing their own beans, Brigade has better control over their product. But technique is what counts as well. Listening to barista Mackenzie Smith describe the alchemy behind the perfect cappuccino reminds me why I entrust the experts with my foamy drinks. He fervently talks about dosages, water, and weighing beans with the expertise that 10 years of experience in the coffee business brings. “My passion is beverages,” he remarks, which is evident from our one hour chat.
Smith projects that coffee culture in New Orleans will start enjoying the same attention as the craft beer movement, with Brigade Coffee helping to spearhead an uptick in quality control. And though they are delicious, chocolate and caramel are like fillers that mask an inferior brew — Smith challenges me to order sans sugar. I found my iced cappuccino to be sufficiently flavorful, without doctoring it up. But should you need a saccharine boost, Brigade makes their own simple syrup. Grab your own and taste the difference on Freret Street, in front of Company Burger from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day.
Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at slowsouthernstyle.com and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.