Team Profile: Adam Belanich

Introducing Big Boss #1 as the first in a set of company profiles. (We'll let the brothers argue that out, but for our sake, he's quite literally the first.)

Big Boss #1 aka Adam started off running a froyo and coffee truck with his brothers in the busy streets of New York, but is now running this wonderful, rapidly growing coffee distribution start-up.

Adam Belanich Joyride Coffee
Adam Belanich Joyride Coffee

Hometown?

Great Neck, NY

Alma Mater/Degree:

Dartmouth College, 2008.  Fine Arts with a focus in Digital Printmaking

Fine arts? How and why did you get into the coffee business?

By chance.  We had a yogurt and coffee truck.  Originally, I knew nothing about coffee, but the more I learned about it, the more I came to love the nuance, breadth and complexity that coffee has.

How is working with your brothers?

It definitely has its pluses and minuses, but overall it's wonderful.  On the negative side, we sometimes get into shouting matches about what later seem to be extremely minor points.  However, we have alleviated that problem through our ownership structures.  On the positive side, I work with people who I know have my best interests at heart, and who I can trust implicitly.

Coffee is very much an American drink of choice – do you see that expanding into Europe and Asia at any point, why do you think its presence is so large here as opposed to other regions of the world?

The way that coffee culture developed in America is unique.  The idea of a larger volume cup that is a daily necessity has no real parallels in the rest of the world.  Europe, for example, has a devoted and developed espresso culture, but they don't typically drink drip coffee.  Until fairly recently, I couldn't blame them.  As great roasters like Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Counter Culture have developed coffees that focus on terroir, processing and varietal, however, the drip format has allowed the nuances of the cup to come through.  Espresso is such a polarizing brew method that many great coffees come out of it totally out of whack.  By using a more subtle brew method, these coffees can really shine.   On a recent trip to London, I noticed a greater availability of pour-over coffee.  The trend of focusing on these differentiating factors has already started to take root in Europe.  As for East Asia, some of the most expensive and respected coffee roasters and cafes are in Japan and South Korea, so this trend is normal to them.

Most people prefer the grab-n-go option for a quick cup of caffeine in the morning. What is your argument for artisanal coffees?

First off, I think that the dichotomy between 'grab-n-go' and artisanal is a false one.  Espresso was developed to make good coffee quickly.  On certain days, I'll stop by the Queens Kickshaw on the way to work for an espresso.  I'll be in and out within two minutes, but I will still have had a great cup of coffee. Fetco brewers can also make amazing coffee that doesn't require the patience and time of a manual pour-over.

That being said, I find the ritual of making and cupping coffee to be restful and calming.  In the mornings, it helps me collect my thoughts and prepare for the day.  It is its own sort of meditation, and in that respect, there really is no alternative.

Where do you see the coffee industry being in a few years?

It really is hard to say.  The tendency toward a focus on specificity, careful sourcing, and processing will do nothing but raise the caliber of a typical cup of coffee.  On the other hand, the effects of global warming, as well as rising salaries in the countries where coffee is grown, are both likely to raise the price of beans.  I think what we will see is the establishment of a few farms as super-premium level, brand name producers.  In the middle, we'll see more and more regions and farms producing great coffee at a similar price point to what we see now.  I think the real trouble will be at the bottom of the range.  Cheap coffee is getting more and more expensive to produce, and I wouldn't be surprised if even cart coffee ends up at well over a dollar a cup.

Tea is also an alternative. Thoughts?

Tea has had the differentiation that we now see in coffee for a long time.  In China, the difference in price between a high-caliber and low-caliber cup of tea can be orders of magnitude.  That being said, I really don't know all that much about tea, and I don't feel like I have developed a specific enough palette to differentiate sufficiently.

Pet Peeves?

The snooze button.  Littering.  People who blame others for their problems.

Interests?

History, news, economics and politics.  For fun, skiing, cooking and rifle marksmanship.

Best Feature?

Hard to say.  I'd like to think I'm honest.

Bad Habits?

I tend to be pugnacious with my brothers.  Even when they don't deserve it.

Relationship Status?

Engaged.

Engaged!? How did you meet your fiancé?

We were in animation class together the summer of our Sophomore year at Dartmouth.  We didn't date then, but two years later, when we worked together as interns for the Art Department, we got closer.  We only really started dating once she moved back home to New York.

Favorite Movie?

Casablanca.

Favorite Music?

Johnny  Cash, Dead Kennedys, Miles Davis, Belle & Sebastian, Die Antwoord.

Favorite Cup of Coffee?

This year, I was blown away by the coffees by the Toarco Company.  I thought they were great on the French Press.  In general though, I love natural process Ethiopians on a Chemex.

Favorite Alcoholic Beverage?

Belgian Beers, Amarones, and Highland Scotches.

Favorite Non-Alcoholic Beverage?

Coffee. Duh.