|505 e. liberty suite 300
ann arbor, mi 48104
weekdays 8am - 10pm
saturday 10am - 10pm
sunday 11am - 10pm
Lab is an urban café in downtown Ann Arbor. Our coffee and espresso comes from the best roasters in country, we have locally baked pastries, loose leaf teas, and a rotating yogurt bar.
Beyond the food, lab is also a platform to explore the connection between design, space and community. We programmed the space intentionally to foster interaction among our customers: The center bar encourages customers to gather informally and chat. For a more traditional coffee shop atmosphere, customers can move around tables and reconfigure them to best suit their needs. For casual conversations, people meet in our (surprisingly comfortable!) lounge chairs. Because of all this mingling, you constantly meet new people, exchange ideas and spark creativity. Silicon Valley is famously successful because like-minded people bump into each other and push new ideas. Lab recreates this experience on a small-scale.
Equally important is the economic development component. The logic is simple: If you go to a chain, you send money away from your hometown to some far away headquarters. If you buy local, money stays in your hometown and we can grow together. Therefore we buy most of our goods locally, for examples brownies from Tasty Footprints, macaron’s from Cecilia’s Pastries and vegan cookies from The Lunch Room. This way, we can allow several Ann Arbor businesses to grow. Besides the obvious economic benefits, we also support a local food culture. Similar to the Silicon Valley effect in technology – raising awareness about food gets people more interested, who will then demand better products, which in return allows chefs and bakers to start new projects. In other words, good food leads to more good food. And you can never have too much good food!
Now, people often ask us why we don’t source our coffee locally. We believe that coffee is part of a different system. We achieve most positive economic impact in the growing regions, i.e. by supporting coffee farmers in Ethiopia, Guatemala and so on. A local roaster will only do that, roast. However, by changing the way we source fresh beans we aid the development of entire regions. To do so, we primarily work with roasters who follow the so-called “direct trade” model. Meaning, the roaster sources directly from a farmer, bypassing the commodities market. This sort of model pays significantly more than fair trade pricing. In addition, the roaster usually maintains a personal relationship with the farmer and helps with quality improvement. Better beans yield higher prices and therefore increase income in farming communities.
Enough theory for today. Let’s drink some coffee!