Cafe2U’s bright red vans are emblazoned with coffee beans, the Cafe2U logo and a beautiful latté. The van is hard to miss when it pulls into a company’s parking lot — even before it blares a humorous, distinctive “Godfather-themed” musical horn.
The cargo bay doors open to reveal a $7,000 Unic twin Rumba espresso machine and a $1,000 coffee grinder. This is top-of-the-line equipment — in fact much better than what you’ll find in most coffee shops.
The espresso machine keeps the water at 198°F, and pushes it through the coffee grounds at 9 times the normal atmospheric pressure. The grinder can be adjusted to create a coarse or a finer ground — which controls how quickly the water filters through the coffee and of course the taste. Getting the timing right is critical to a good espresso. If you’ve ever had an espresso drink that tasted bitter, that’s usually because it was over-extracted. Have you had an espresso that didn’t have enough body and tasted thin? It was probably under-extracted. Cafe2U trains its franchisees so that they know how to make an excellent cup of coffee each and every time.
The back of the van also holds the syrups that can be used for flavored coffees, Cafe2U coffee cups, cinnamon and other toppings, hot chocolate and chai mixes, a blender and storage space. There’s even a small awning that can be unfurled in case of rain.
The cargo bay doors open to reveal the menu, including daily specials.
The passenger side sliding door opens to reveal a refrigerator that holds milk for the espresso drinks, soda, juices, energy drinks, sandwiches, wraps, salads, cookies, muffins, scones and yogurt. A fresh water tank — which provides the water for the espresso machine — is next to the refrigerator. A cooler holds the ice for frappes and smoothies. On the driver’s side of the cargo cabin sits a sink and the gas generator that provides power for the whole operation. The generator is tied into the van’s gasoline tank, so when you fill up the truck, you’re fueling up your operation. When the generator is turned off, the truck can be plugged into an electrical socket to keep the refrigerator running.
Serena Liu’s Cafe2U operation is built on a Ford Transit platform, which is expected to make up at least 90 percent of the Cafe2U fleet in the U.S.