If you’re a lover of coffee, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about the Draft Latte© in the past few years. In fact, it’s hard to believe that this relative newcomer to the coffee world has only been around since 2015, given its overwhelming popularity. Did you know that this nationally loved beverage it got its start right in Philadelphia? We recently caught up with La Colombe Coffee Roasters to learn more about their passion for coffee and their big plans for the future.
La Colombe’s Founders
In their own words, founders “Todd Carmichael and JP Iberti founded La Colombe on a simple but profound premise: America Deserves Better Coffee.” The company gets its name from La Colombe d’Or, France, where the founders are from. Both Carmichael and Iberti had also lived in Seattle where there had been a growing coffee scene, and when they decided to start their own business, they wanted to bring that scene to a new city. They fell in love with the Rittenhouse area of Philadelphia, which reminded them of quaint squares they had seen abroad.
Todd Carmichael has lived and breathed coffee for over three decades. He has visited the world’s developing countries to responsibly gather the planet’s best coffee, and is a passionate crusader for social and ecological causes. Along the way, he has made his company a leading coffee roaster while managing it philanthropically.
Working for his father at France’s top produce distributor and growing up in the restaurant industry, JP Iberti had an idea of what it would take to make La Colombe into America’s leading culinary coffee. His experience in the high-pressure restaurant environment allowed La Colombe to quickly gain ground with some of the country’s top chefs, resulting in a large and successful wholesale program.
La Colombe Gets Its Start in Philadelphia
La Colombe launched in 1994 in a small cafe in Rittenhouse Square. From day one, their focus has been on sourcing coffee in socially-responsible ways, creating long-term relationships with small farms and growing associations. At that time, the coffee was roasted right in the cafe. Later, the team moved on to purchase a warehouse for roasting, and expanded their wholesale operation, selling coffee to hotels and restaurants from New York to Los Angeles. Today, their bagged coffee and ready-to-drink beverages are sold by retailers across America, and La Colombe is one of the largest independent coffee companies in the country. They operate cafés in Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Boston, and Chicago.
Sourcing the Best Beans
La Colombe partners directly with coffee farmers to ensure they are fairly treated, and they carefully taste each and every coffee to perfect their roasting and blending techniques. Like many coffee roasters, they source beans from all over the world. This is because different variables produce different flavors: Things like climates, soil make up, growing altitude, rainfall, and processing techniques all contribute to the final product. They source milk that is hormone-free and add lactase enzymes to the milk, rendering it lactose free.
“By working directly with farmers to create mutually beneficial partnerships, we can increase transparency in the supply chain, guide farming practices to yield better and better beans, and support the livelihoods of coffee-producing communities.”
In 2009 Carmichael and Iberti founded the Haiti Coffee Academy: a nursery, model farm, and training center to help improve the quality of life for Haiti’s coffee farmers. The center ensures that farmers are receiving a fair price for their product.
The Draft Latte is Born
Todd Carmichael once worked as a barista for (then widely-unknown) Starbucks. He recalls when he first heard a customer come in asking for an iced coffee, and to him it was “like someone asking for a hot beer.” No one was drinking iced coffee at the time. Years later, iced coffee beverages surged in popularity, especially European-style “specialty” drinks. Carmichael couldn’t help but notice that the “iced latte” he was seeing on menus was a misnomer – it was, in fact, just milk and espresso over ice. The ice watered down the beverage – it wasn’t a latte at all!
For years, this perplexed Carmichael, until his eureka moment came on January 19, 2015: he was enjoying fruit and whipped cream with his son and found his inspiration in the pressurized can of whipped cream, which produced a desired texture and mouthfeel from a basic design. The Draft Latte© was released later that year, and Carmichael shares that after it’s release, “in twelve months we put draft lattes in 62 percent of all the stores in the United States of America.”
How It Works
Every can contains a special patented valve at the bottom, which releases liquified gas into the beverage as you open the can. (This video shows how they’re made!) The result is a rush of tiny air bubbles and silky microfoam, creating the perfect, creamy texture. The milk is pasteurized in a way that renders it shelf-stable for 180 days, making the Draft Latte© super convenient to transport and store. The coffee they use is a Brazilian blend they call Nizza, and the beverages also come in seasonal favorites like Pumpkin Spice and Peppermint Mocha.
While hugely popular and growing quickly, this local business has not forgotten it’s Pennsylvania roots. That’s why this Summer, Kimberton Whole Foods has been given the chance to exclusively offer our customers La Colombe’s Honeysuckle Draft Latte©. This unique drink blends perfectly frothed milk, a shot of cold-pressed espresso and natural honeysuckle extract. It’s made with nutrient-rich and hormone-free milk, delivering 7g of protein. It is also low in sugar, lactose-free and kosher. We hope you’ll try it and let us know what you think!