In today’s increasingly insular, digital world, where the Gig Economy has led to a large segment of the workforce to produce in isolation, there’s much discussion about the third place; a place to congregate or socialize, separate from the office (where less and less people seem to go) and home (where most people now keep an office). 

While it’s not new to think of it as a third place, the coffee shop–for many freelancers, creatives, etc.–holds a unique position as not only a place to interact with others (a third place). Coffee shops are increasingly a destination where people feel that they are at their most productive (a second place, if you will). The fact that I’m writing this from the bar of Bold Bean Coffee Roaster’s Jacksonville Beach shop should only serve to punctuate that proposed narrative.

Bold Bean’s led the third-wave coffee charge in Northeast Florida for those who want to get charged up on high-quality, artisanal coffee. They’ve opened three storefronts and their wholesale business is flourishing. If any coffee is ubiquitous in Northeast Florida, it’s Bold Bean’s. Meanwhile, with the Gig Economy in full-swing, Bold Bean’s three shops are, in effect, co-work spaces, hosting meetings, brainstorming sessions, and sometimes even the fruition of an innovative new idea.

We talked to Erin Lee, Bold Bean’s longest-tenured employee and current Wholesale Accounts Manager, and asked her about the role coffee shops and great coffee play in defining a region.   

Does a great region need great coffee shops? Why or why or not?

I’m confused by the question, but I’ll say this: I believe every region deserves a space where all people feel welcome to congregate. I believe that great coffee is a catalyst for great ideas. I believe access to both of these things is crucial to social and economic progress. 

Relatedly, can you have too many coffee shops? 

There’s so much to address in this, but the short of the long is: yes and no. In pursuing any business, I think you have to start with “why.” In our case, there weren’t any quality-driven specialty coffee shops or community hubs in Jacksonville, outside of the bar scene, at the time. I think if you’re pursuing roasting, you have to bring something to the cupping table that other roasters are not. As far as coffee shops, as a whole, if any one region can support the survival of the number of shops within, there probably aren’t too many. 

Out West, people tend to like coffee that is more bitter. In the Northeast, the trend is more citrus-y. Is there a North Florida coffee palate?

I think for any region, it really all comes down to individual experiences and associations. This is one of the reasons why it was always so crucial for us to serve people with warmth and excitement. Great coffee is not only a product; it’s an experience. It’s not this abstract thing that can only truly be enjoyed by “coffee professionals.” I believe great coffee starts with a passionate barista. With that said, I think the North Florida palate is built on the collective passion that North Florida baristas exude about the coffee(s) that they’re serving. 

OK, hypothetical, here: Pretentious baristas are visiting Northeast Florida. They have brought beans of their own, from outside of the 904, and are unwilling to try any coffee roasted here. You must convince them that the 904’s coffee is worth trying. You have two sentences to do so!

Every single roaster in the United States is getting coffee from the same coffee-growing regions. Get your head out of your a**! Or, an alternate second sentence:  When you go home and tell your friends about Florida coffee, are you going to speak from a place of experience or ignorance?

If you had a magic wand and could use it to give the 904 one thing that it’s currently missing, what would that be? 

Mountains.

Here are the complete results of our #1 in the 904: Drinks & Bars poll

Bar (Amelia Island, Fernandina)

Locals Cocktail 

Bar (Jax)

Sidecar 

Bar (St. Augustine)

Ice Plant 

Bar (urban core)

Dos Gatos

Bartender 

Greg Harbour 

Beach Bar 

Lemon Bar 

Beer Selection 

9ZeroPour 

Cigar Bar

Island Girl 

Coffee House

Bold Bean

Coffee Roaster 

Martin Coffee Company 

Craft Beer (not Brewery)

9ZeroPour 

Craft Brewery

Southern Swells 

Craft Brewery (New)

Reve 

Craft Cocktail 

Sidecar 

Distillery 

Manifest Distilling

Dive Bar (Amelia Island, Fernandina)

Hammerhead Beach Bar 

Dive Bar (Jax)

Pete’s

Dive Bar (St. Augustine)

No Name Bar

Drink Bottled in the 904 (non-alcoholic)

Moonbooch

Growler Fill Up Spot

Brewz 

Happy Hour

Locals Cocktail 

Hookah Lounge

Casbah 

Irish Pub

Culhane’s 

Liquor Store

Riverside Liquors

Margarita

Flying Iguana 

Martini 

Ocean 60

Milkshake

M Shack 

Rooftop Bar 

River and Post 

Smoothie 

Smoothie King 

Sports Bar

Time Out 

St. Augustine Party Spot 

Dos Gatos

Wine Selection

Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas