Grand Rapids, Michigan. A city of leaders.
Home to Grand Valley State University, winner of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics for the past seven consecutive years; Gerald R. Ford. the 38th President of the United States; and the top furniture companies in the world (Forbes).
“Furniture City” they call it. During the second half of the 19th century, the city became a major lumbering center and the premier furniture manufacturing city of the United States. For this reason it was nicknamed “Furniture City”. After an international exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, Grand Rapids became recognized worldwide as a leader in the production of fine furniture. National home furnishing markets were held in Grand Rapids for about 75 years, all the way up to the 1960s. Today, Grand Rapids is considered a world leader in the production of office furniture.
Any city that’s incredibly well-known for its furniture manufacturing, I would presume, is a city that prides itself on comfort. A city that welcomes you in with open arms and says, “Sit down in this chair we built just for you, kick your feet up on this ottoman we built just for you, and have a cup of coffee that we brewed just for you.”
Fortunately for us, Grand Rapids is also home to one of the nation’s leaders in the specialty coffee crusade.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of Madcap Coffee Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Feel free to pull up a chair.
What can I say about Madcap Coffee that hasn’t already been said by a million other people?
These hard-working baristas and roasters are some of the best in the entire coffee industry. And shouldn’t that be enough? Do I really need to keep going with this review?
Fine. I will.
I once wrote a review of something I drank at ROWSTER positively, and they commented that the review was written by a guy who didn’t buy into the “hype” surrounding Madcap. But, Dear Reader, I cannot emphasize this point enough—there is no hype surrounding Madcap; at least, there’s no unwarranted hype. This company is the real deal. The genuine article.
Let’s start with their roasting operation. Madcap was the first roaster to come to Grand Rapids that specialized in truly specialty coffee. Since then, ROWSTER has sidled up next to them to really solidify GR’s 1-2 punch, but Madcap paved (and is still paving) the way. Before then, roastmaster extraordinaire and barista demigod Ryan Knapp was experimenting with roast profiles on a one kilo apparatus. When he and Trevor Corlett founded Madcap back in 2008, they invested in a much larger Diedrich, installed it in the basement of their shop, started procuring the toppest-notch greens the world has to offer, and never looked back.
Their coffees, which they typically roast right down the middle of the spectrum, have garnered them immense amounts of praise, both by professional coffee publications, the SCAA, and right here at the Table (which, of course, is an indicator that they’ve truly “made it” in this business). In fact, last year, one of their coffees—the Burundi Kiriyama—made a very strong showing at the Brewer’s Cup.
Of course, the Brewer’s Cup isn’t strictly about the coffee—it’s almost just as much about the people brewing it. After all, a coffee is only as good as the person making it.
Madcap is home to a handful of the most skilled baristas in the country. I made a joke a few weeks ago when a photo of Daniel Day Lewis dressed up as Lincoln was released on the Internet; I said, “Photo of Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln released, Oscar race ends.” The same could be said whenever the aforementioned Ryan Knapp signs up for the United States Barista Championship; “Ryan Knapp declares candidacy, Big Central title already secured.”
This guy has won the Big Central regional the past two years in a row. This year, he brought two of his coworkers along with him to the USBC in Portland: Trevor and Courtney. And, as I mentioned before, another two of their baristas, Colin and Miranda, competed in the Brewer’s Cup! It’s a real honor and a mark of distinction when a shop sends a barista to the USBC; it’s even more special if one can send two baristas; Madcap sent five.
Not only are these baristas incredibly skilled at their craft, they’re also very knowledgeable. While at the USBC, Trevor also spent time administering Barista Guild of America Level One tests, while Colin (their first official Washington, DC employee) managed the BGA Cafe, and helped teach a Latte Art and Introduction to Espresso courses.
Their desire to educate carries over into their shop, then spills over to the Internet as well with “how to” videos and a pretty informative blog. In the shop, they often teach classes and give demonstrations that are open to the public.
On top of all this, their shop is a really cool space. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural light to warm the bare space, which features exposed brick and creamy white walls. The ceilings have to be 20, 30 feet high, they have hardwood floors, and tables, chairs, and leather furniture that gives the cafe a library atmosphere.
This is the sort of cafe that one could very easily all track of time in. I know I’ve done that before.
Madcap definitely makes the top five in my list of Reasons I’m Happy to be Marrying a Girl from West Michigan.