Recently opening an outpost at the RISD Museum’s Café Pearl, Bolt Coffee aims to make craft coffee for the masses. We caught up with General Manager Mark Hundley, who is also the Vice Chair of the Events Committee for the Barista Guild of America, to discuss Bolt’s new space, what’s trending in coffee and more.
You ended up in the coffee business by accident. How did that happen?
My neighbors owned Hava Java in Woonsocket and offered me a job in 2001. I thought it was going to be temporary, but it was the first job where I didn’t mind going to work. Five years later, I ended up buying the business and owned it for five years. Along the way, I started getting more into the fancier side of coffee – the specialty coffee scene.
At that point, I was kind of overwhelmed at Hava Java. I wanted to focus more on learning about coffee and that next level of execution, so I started looking for something else. That’s when I stumbled upon Seven Stars Bakery. Everyone told me they had this really awesome training program. When I went to apply for the job, they thought I was overqualified because it was an afternoon barista job and I had just owned a coffee shop. I explained that I wanted to learn as much as I could, and they hired me. I quickly climbed the ranks there and started managing one of their locations.
Then, an opportunity opened up to fill a coffee director position. I applied and got it. For the last four years I was there, I was running the coffee program. I was training people, implementing recipes, and got to go to Guatemala to pick out the coffee we were using in-house.
How is the Café Pearl space different from the one at The Dean Hotel?
Bolt Coffee has always been about being part of a community, and that’s our main focus. Working with RISD has been another step in that direction. We’ve extended our food program and are getting more into seated service. A lot of our customers are sitting down, eating lunch and having coffee. We’re really mindful of asking ourselves, “How can we make the experience more meaningful?”
Of all the places to open a second location, why the RISD Museum?
Bolt had been approached by RISD about opening up a big space, and that’s when I came in. With my experience from Seven Stars, I was able to help make that transition of opening the RISD space really smooth.
What can guests snack on at the RISD outpost?
From the food standpoint, our avocado toast is probably the most ordered item. Popular drinks we have on the menu include the Woodsman, which is a latte with maple syrup in it, and the Espresso Tonic, which is a play on a gin and tonic.
How do you decide which beans to roast?
We’re bringing coffees to Providence that a lot of people have never had an opportunity to try. We have a cool partnership program that features different roasters. We’re starting to create more overall buzz in specialty coffee, so we have a lot of roasters sending us samples, and we reach out to roasters we like all the time. We have our team taste all of these coffees blindly and decide which ones have a place at Bolt. Things will come up like “Wow, this could be an awesome espresso or this coffee would be really good as iced coffee.” We usually work with roasters for four to six months and feature two at a time.
What coffee trends are you seeing in the craft coffee scene right now?
More thoughtful ingredients in specialty coffee drinks – not a ton of corn syrup and fake sugar. On the flip side, there are coffee shops now incorporating food menus into their coffee service. So it’s not just an awesome cafe with your standard baked goods. They’re places where foodies can get a full meal as well as a great cup of coffee.
What does the future hold for Bolt Coffee?
We have exciting plans for a flagship location. I’m trying to get all the parts moving to make something like that happen.
Bolt Coffee Company
Locations at 122 Fountain Street (inside The Dean Hotel)
and at 224 Benefit Street (inside the RISD Museum)