AJ’s Café is welcoming chilly weather and exciting new drink and food options to complement the coming fall season, ranging from kombucha to the classic Pumpkin Spice Latte, simply called the “PSL.”
Within the next month, AJ’s Café will be offering autumn-inspired lattes, including a Cinnamon Brown Sugar, Pumpkin Spice, and Maple Spiced latte, hot apple cider, locally-produced kombucha, and, with the arrival of a new machine, nitrogen cold brew.
“Some of the new offerings at AJ’s include Numi Fair Trade golden milk lattes, Zingerman’s candy, nitro cold brew, and assorted new drinks and snacks, like Dasani sparkling water or new varieties of Kind bars and beef jerky,” Marketing Coordinator for Bon Appétit William Persson said. “Part of these changes are in response to student feedback we received requesting more options. Another facet of the introduction of some of the items is our dedication to purchase locally-sourced goods.”
With a focus on local goods, Persson said most of the new syrups including the lavender and pumpkin syrups at AJ’s and Jitters located in Lane Hall are all produced in-house. Bon Appetit AJ’s Supervisor Lisa York gathers natural ingredients and makes the syrups herself.
“Guest satisfaction is our primary goal and we have to make sure our offerings are continually relevant to our guests,” General Manager of Bon Appétit David Apthorpe said. “Further, we find that in order to increase satisfaction we have to disrupt the expected and present our guests with experiences and choices that they may have not had before. As our partnership with the college has matured, we have a better understanding of what may resonate with our guests and we’re hopeful that these new items hit that mark.”
Bon Appétit’s motivation behind the new influx of products and food options is solely for the sake of the students they serve.
“We’re trying to get a variety, and that’s what specials are all about,” AJ’s Lead Supervisor Lisa Beasley said. “We want to give students something different so they don’t get bored with chicken tenders and fries.”
Recent specials that reflect this “disruption to the expected” include overeasy egg flatbread pizzas and turmeric smoothies. Some of these specials have proven successful, such as the turmeric golden milk lattes, which now remain as permanent menu items.
“The golden milk lattes are crafted with Numi powders; Numi is a fair trade-certified tea company that we provide in the Knorr Family Dining Room,” Persson said. “Our commitment to fair trade tea is company-wide, and it only made sense to introduce this new and trendy item to AJ’s and Jitters in a way that maintains our commitment to do this.”
Many options have yet to be released since baristas and managers are making sure the products are fully-developed and mastered before serving them to students.
With experimentation with “trends” like foamy nitro coffee, which has the consistency reminiscent of draft beer, Beasley says that, although true to the caffeine-nature of AJ’s, it still proves unique to student customers.
“We’re trying to keep things exciting and interesting,” Beasley said. “When adding the nitrogen to the coffee, it’s supposed to make the drink smoother and sweeter. We’re still wanting to master the brew before we start selling it, but it’s coming out soon.”
Students are anticipating the arrival of these new items and the opportunity to try AJ’s fresh options, especially as midterms draw near and healthier options are offered to combat the commencing flu season.
“The idea of AJ’s bringing nitro brew coffee and locally-sourced kombucha to campus is really exciting,” sophomore Anna Katherine Daley said. “Just because we live in rural Michigan, doesn’t mean we can’t have access to the latest food and drink trends.”
The kombucha is sourced from a vendor called Sacred Springs, located in Grand Rapids, MI. Persson said this relationship with Sacred Springs is new, and Bon Appétit would have considered implementing kombucha as a drink option earlier but decided to “go the extra step and make it a local product.”
“With kombucha especially, not only is it delicious and refreshing, but it’s also good for your immune system,” Daley said. “Maybe if we have everyone get some kombucha and a flu shot, we can avoid a flu epidemic like last year!”
AJ’s staff is also planning to add other items in the months to come.
“Coming soon to an AJ’s near you: possibly more versions of Zingerman’s candy, new Grab ‘n’ Go options, and locally baked goods,” Persson said.