If your image of a coffee shop is along the lines of Central Perk in old reruns of Friends
— a frumpy, cozy, low-key hang filled with marginally employed loafers and giant mugs of lattes — you haven't been getting out much lately. In 2016, the best coffee shops have style that rivals high-end restaurants, with sleek lines and cool aesthetics.
Robert Schneider set out to chronicle some of the nation's best examples of that modern look, and the result is Coffee Culture
, a big new book chock full of gorgeous photos
. The book features 33 top coffee shops — among them, Blueprint Coffee in the Delmar Loop.
Schneider, a Minneapolis-based architecture enthusiastic, took a minute to explain how Blueprint ended up on his radar — and why design matters. (Our conversation has been condensed.)
RFT: How did Blueprint get on your radar?
The name came up somehow—perhaps in a conversation or from reading an article (do not remember). But eventually I checked out its website, researched the history/people, contacted the shop — and had several conversations, contacted the architect, met some of the founders at a barista competition and eventually visited the shop (a very pleasant and enjoyable experience).
What made it worthy of inclusion?
Blueprint Coffee is included in the book for possessing top-tier coffee (an A grade) and top-tier design (an A grade). ... Everything comes together as a unified whole — you know it when you see it/experience it. The design is separated from the common or ordinary by small details and the way the pieces have been put together—resulting in an authentic space having integrity and soul.
The coffee bar is sleek, clean, low, level, and open and transparent to invite interaction with baristas and easy viewing of their art/presentation/theater. Brewing equipment and the espresso machine (functional pieces of art) are in full view to appreciate their wonderful design aesthetics. The built-in pastry case is flush with the countertop maintaining visual flow. Roasting operations are open and transparent for observing and learning. The brand (personality) is consistent regarding the interior design, signage, logo, website, and packaging.
As you note in the book, Blueprint has a laboratory feel. Is that something you saw elsewhere in your research, or something fairly unique?
It is fairly unique — other shops have certain aspects of a laboratory feel (perhaps serving coffee in flasks or beakers) but not to the same extent as Blueprint (evident in serving coffee in flasks with rubber stoppers on metal trays but also in its name, logo, precision roasting/brewing, and certain design elements).
How does design play into our enjoyment of a cup of coffee?
Admittedly, my preference is for modern and minimalist design. However, I do think design (good design) possessing standard design principles does touch all of our emotions and impacts the way we interact. Design can also inspire creativity and curiosity. Encourage ideas and insights. Create atmosphere and personality. Design also defines spaces, neighborhoods, communities, and ourselves. Consequently, I do strongly believe that great coffee + good design (for instance, an open and transparent bar) results in a more meaningful, satisfying, and enjoyable experience.
See also: 20 St. Louis Coffee Shops That Are Better Than Starbucks