Jitter Bus Is Trying “Mad Hard”
As a mocha reviewer, I’ve tried dozens of mochas throughout CT, but Paul and Dan, co-owners of The Jitter Bus, make my favorite. For the “Best of Connecticut” issue of Connecticunt, they let me climb into their bus and we talked about how hard work and community are two things that keep The Jitter Bus rolling.
I feel like one of the iconic things about the bus is the design, could you tell me a little bit about how the artwork was decided?
P: I did it all myself actually.
P: Well actually no, we had a few people help throughout the years… this side, Jaz-On (@jaz.on.zigzagism) did the artwork and we had a friend help us on the other. I think the plan was always to have it a little shoddy because I don’t like the look of fine tune. I like it to look a little beat up, that way if someone comes they learn that we’re good people and make good drinks and stuff. I never want it to look perfect.
So I’m just gonna be a little selfish now and I want to ask about your iced mocha—obviously my favorite thing on the menu. What makes it so good?
P: We had a guy that was coming to us in the early years. He moved back to Spain but his name is Jorge, he was an amateur chocolatier. He was always super hard on our mochas. Like, “you guys should try this” and “you should try melting a chocolate bar into your espresso”. He kind of opened it up to trying all of these new things and then we landed on using 100% cacao powder and cutting it with a little sugar.What are some of the other factors that make all your drinks really good?
D: The milk we use, for sure.
P: Yeah, we source pretty good—from the beginning this was super important to us—coffee beans. Giv Coffee and Saccuzzo Coffee, our two roasters, really kill it. They source really good beans, they’re both really good roasters. And obviously the rest of our ingredients are really thought out. And we’re owner operated—we care a lot, we’re trying real hard.
I read in an earlier interview that you worked at Starbucks at one point. P: Both of us did, we were both fired from there too.[Laughs] How was that?
D: I got fired cause I was 17, and looking back on it I probably just really sucked at my job and didn’t realize it at the time. But it’s ok because it wasn’t even like a real Starbucks, it was a satellite location at a Stop & Shop.
P: Same thing. I used to be a bit ashamed of how I got fired, but now I don’t care. I stole a pack of Marlboro reds. They fired the shit out of me real hard. But I did steal a pack of cigarettes so you know…
You mentioned earlier that all of your roasters are from Connecticut, was that a conscious decision?
P: Yeah, for sure!
Did you want to focus on keeping everything Connecticut based?
P: For the most part. I think the only thing we outsource out of Connecticut is our chai, which was just because we got it from one of our roasters. It’s David Rio which is out of San Francisco, but we got it because it was there, accessible, and everyone fell in love with it. All of our syrups are made by my brother (AJ Crosby) who’s starting a syrup company called Pink Camel.
Is New Haven an underrated coffee town?
D: It seems like it to me. We’re at Yale so people come from all over and they say that New Haven is one of their favorite spots for coffee
.What are your favorite spots in CT?
D: We go to Atticus Market a lot.
P: I think it’s kind of biased because our good friend works there, but they make good coffee, they pull a good shot of espresso and it seems like they care. I feel like New Haven has the potential to be a really great coffee spot, but the turnover rate is so high, it’s hard to get a consistent drink somewhere. You’re gonna go somewhere and it’s going to be completely different every season. But I think [New Haven] has the potential to be great.
How did the pandemic affect things here?
D: Looking back on it, it really wasn’t as bad as it felt going through it. From March to June 2020, we weren’t allowed to come out with the bus, so instead we would take coffee bean delivery orders and we would deliver them. It would usually be like 10-15 bags a day. We would drive around the city and drop them off to people, which was pretty wild because everyone really supported the shit out of us.
P: We had a good customer of ours start a GoFundMe that raised five grand.
D: It was scary going through it, just not knowing what was going to happen, if we were going to be able to come back out. It sounds like you guys have really great customers. I feel like that speaks to how authentic you guys are. What keeps people coming back?
D: I think we’re pretty friendly with people, I think people appreciate that.
P: But you’ll catch us on our bad days for sure. But, we’re always trying. We’re always trying mad hard, I’m never not trying super hard to make a good drink. Even if I’m having a bad day, it’s probably not because of anything, it’s because I’m slipping up and pissed at myself for not being great...I think overall people want to go and do their own thing. So getting the drinks out as efficiently as possible is number one. [From a] social aspect, we can still hold a conversation. And also we’ve been doing this for over a decade—we’re professional baristas; that was also something I was ashamed of for a little while. Like I fucking spin milk all day long, that’s my profession. But, you know, there’s a lot to it. And I’m proud of it now.
That definitely comes across in the drinks, the dedication and the fact you’re giving a product that you’re proud of.
D: Thank you.
P: Yeah thanks.
What's The Jitter Bus brand?
D: I would say very DIY. Really it’s just us two doing everything. We could hire people, bring people on, and have them do all the work for us, but we feel like it really would take away from our quality.
P: That comes back to stubbornness, but I like everything done by us. I get that not everyone can do every aspect, and you need a team of people to do stuff, but I kind of like doing everything ourselves. It feels good. This is ours, everything about this is ours. Except for roasting coffee, which maybe we’ll hop into when we have the space, but I like that our roasters get to do their thing.
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RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS à la Tyra Banks
Are there ever any disagreements between the two of you when working?
D: Paul and I are usually on the same page when it comes to things.
Has the bus ever been involved in an accident?
D: Yeah, a pretty big one, in this spot too. We were setting up for the day and a car slammed into the generator. I think Commencement ’16 or ’17.
P: Dan was brewing a pot of coffee and it was like a bomb went off. Everything fell to the floor, Dan got splashed with hot water.
D: I was screaming. [Laughs]
What are memorable interactions you’ve had with customers?
D: We’ve made some good friends who have been coming to us the whole time. People I still talk to even though they’re not around anymore.
P: We’ve been friends pretty much our whole lives, same group of friends. So coming here and the nature of this, people getting close to us and leaving, has been tough but it’s also been really cool meeting new people and making new friends.
D: People we would have never met unless we started this, so it’s pretty cool.