The first coffee drinkers did it outside, in the open air, on the streets. As early as the 17th century, European pedestrians could grab a cup of coffee from a street vendor, his wares balanced precariously on a plate. A century later, maids manned coffee stations on corners, their massive cast iron pots sitting atop coals, offering simmering coffee for a penny.
Then in March 1863, Pennsylvanian pharmacist Jacob Dunton took an Army gun carriage and converted the ammunition chest to a coffee bean and grinder hold. Equipped with three 35-gallon wood fired cisterns, the cart made 105 gallons of coffee an hour and, more importantly, went wherever the Union Army went.
Before Dunton's cart, Unions troops wasted much time roasting, grinding and brewing their 1.6 ounce daily coffee ration. Some smashed the coffee on rocks; lucky others had special rifles made with a coffee grinder in the stock. Before the cart, Union troops also drank Essence of Coffee, an early, unpalatable version of the delicious coffee concentrate served and bottled on our cart. Civil War Essence of Coffee consisted of coffee boiled down to a thick, syrupy sludge and then canned in tins. Only soldiers with the worst coffee cravings dared reconstitute the essence with water and choke down the foul coffee-like plaster.
The end of the Civil War did not mean the end of coffee carts. A decade after serving Union soldiers, coffee carts were pressed into service by temperance activists. From England to the East Coast, these more civilized versions of Dunton's war machine were sent out onto city streets by the Temperance Society to encourage push hard working men toward coffee instead of hard liquor.
Technological leaps put easy coffee in every American's kitchen and the street side coffee cart fell out of fashion… until now. In cities around the world, high quality refreshing coffee can again be found curbside or even where there are no curbs. A burned "plain coffee" (cream and sugar) on Manhattan's 42nd Street; Kopi Peng in a plastic bag with ice in a Kuala Lampur back alley; a cappuccino in Boston's Dewey Square; street side cold brew from Mission Coffee in Columbus, Ohio; a flat white from any one of Amsterdam's many espressobakfiets; or a piping Turkish coffee in the sun outside Umm Qais, Jordan.
And now, a New Orleans style ice coffee in Rochester's Peace Plaza.
The Old Abe Dutch cargo tricycle was imported to the U.S. and fitted with a nitrogen dispensing system and stainless steel kegs. Not only does nitrogen help fills cups but also it keeps oxygen away from contaminating the fresh cold brew. The bike features handsome wood and copper and meets local health department codes.