Hubbs's original goal was to create a means of getting Equal Exchange coffee to customers in a flexible, self-sufficient way. At the same time, she was able to create a coffee-mobile that is microcosmic of her company's environmental values.
"We have a pretty unique business model and mission," says Hubbs. "We're a worker-owned cooperative, and our mission is mainly to give small farmers access to the marketplace. . . . Having something new like coffee on a bike was a good way to communicate that uniqueness about us, as well as reduce our environmental impacts."
Riding the coffee bike is a slow and sometimes arduous process, says Jessie Myszka, Equal Exchange's director of support operations. "It feels like you're tipping because you don't lean the bike the way you would ride a regular bike. . . . It took a couple hours for the feeling of vertigo to go away the first time. There's a mental expectation that it will feel the way a regular bike feels, but it's so much heavier and bigger. You're going more the speed of a runner, or slower than a runner."
Luckily, several Equal Exchange employees are used to long bike rides. "A ton of people who work at Equal Exchange are really into bike culture," says Hubbs. "Our roastery is located in West Bridgewater, and some ride occasionally. It's quite a long trek."
But it's not only coffee bikes that will be on the streets of Boston this summer. The Greenway could feature more bike vendors where typically only food trucks ruled.
"It's relatively new in Boston. We get a lot of curious looks because it's not a push cart, not a food truck," says Hubbs. "I think the more there are, the less weird it will be. . . . I know there are a few in Somerville, Cambridge. I just heard of someone who is doing popsicles."
Though these cargo bikes may seem strange at first glance, Hubbs says they have notable benefits for customers and community-building.
"It sort of creates these community spaces in unexpected places, and it's just really cool that that can happen," she explains. "More so than even in our café. It's a much more intimate relationship with the customer because you don't have the counter between you. They tend to ask more questions and get more engaged. It has more of a farmer's market feel to it . . . there's less barriers."
Equal Exchange's bike café is open Monday through Friday, 7 am–12 pm. For up-to-date location information, visit their Twitter feed @EEFreeRange. Liz Pelly can be reached at email@example.com.