Lines for coffee now stretch from one side of the Bon Appétit kitchen to the other during peak times at lunch and dinner.
The increased demand for coffee comes from Bon Appétít’s switch at the beginning of the semester to Blue Hat Coffee, located in Coldwater, Michigan. Students said the cafeteria’s coffee is not just a source of energy — they look forward to it as a treat.
“It tastes a lot better,” sophomore Hannah Kwapisz said. “I can actually drink it instead of just gulping it down furiously before class to try to avoid the flavor that the old coffee had.”
Last winter, Phillip Jewell, the chief operating officer of Blue Hat Coffee, tried Bon Appétít’s cafeteria coffee, and said he thought the students would appreciate a more palatable drink.
Dave Apthorpe, Bon Appétít’s general manager, brought the idea of Blue Hat Coffee to a panel of students who review the cafeteria menu and provide suggestions.
All the students in the group liked the idea and suggested holding a contest to allow Hillsdale studens to pick their favorite coffee from Blue Hat, according to junior Paul Mittermeier, who serves on the panel.
Last semester during finals week, Bon Appétít served Blue Hat Coffee in the Grewcock Student Union and polled students to decide which they preferred.
The Guatemalan huehuetenango, also a favorite at the Blue Hat store, won the contest.
Apthorpe said he chose Blue Hat Coffee for the cafeteria because the students enjoyed it and it qualified for Bon Appétít’s Farm to Fork program which encourages the use of locally produced foods.
Artisan coffee doesn’t come cheap, though. The Guatemalan and Kenyan coffees cost $14 per pound retail at Blue Hat and according to Jewell, Bon Appétít uses approximately 80 pounds per week.
“It’s significantly more expensive, but there is value there for the students,” Apthorpe said.
To offset the expense, Bon Appétít stopped brewing decaf coffee because much was thrown out each day. AJ’s Café will continue to sell Zingerman’s Coffee, Apthorpe said.
Some students said the new coffee is stronger.
“Both of the new coffees, Kenyan and Guatemalan, are really great,” senior Ben Strickland said. “They’re actually brewed strong.”
Blue Hat will supply different coffees to Bon Appétít each month. The Guatemalan huehuetenango will stay as the house coffee but Blue Hat has a Rwandan peaberry coming in next month that will go to Hillsdale, Jewell said.
Jewell selects his own beans through a highly selective process called “cupping.”
“We normally test roast about 20 coffees for every three or four that we buy, so we’re pretty picky about what we select,” Jewell said.
In addition to the coffee’s popularity among students, Blue Hat Coffee’s connection to the abolition movement “was a good fit with Hillsdale,” Apthorpe said.
The original owner of the shop’s property used it to raise trotting horses for the Union during the Civil War.
“Branch County provided more horses to the Union Army than any other county in the country during the Civil War, and a lot of those horses came from here, from this farm,” Jewell said.
The Union cavalry rode such horses, and they wore blue hats, which inspired the coffee shop’s name, Jewell said.
Today, Blue Hat Coffee is a popular place for many Hillsdale students.
“At exam time, if you come here on a Saturday or a Sunday, you’re going to see a lot of students,” Jewell said.