Stay caffeinated with coffeeannarbor

An interview with Aaron Cruz, the mind behind Instagram account coffeeannarbor

By Sarah M. Parlette - Associated Producer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - It goes without saying that Ann Arbor loves its coffee. With coffee shops and cafes scattered throughout the city, it can be hard staying on top of the latest coffee trends or new openings.

Thankfully coffeeannarbor, an Instagram account created by web developer and coffeephile Aaron Cruz, does all the legwork for you.

Cruz, who started the Instagram account on New Year’s Day in 2017, loves being caffeinated, and he needs to be -- now that he and his family have welcomed another son (congrats!).

We reached out to Cruz to ask about A2 coffee culture and what inspired him to start the Instagram account that is almost as recharging as a strong cup of java.

You're clearly passionate about coffee and the coffee culture in Ann Arbor. What gave you the idea to dedicate an Instagram account to it? What were your motivations?

I have taken pictures of my coffee as far back as I can remember. I first took [them] just for my own use, then posting to my personal Facebook, Instagram and other social pages. A couple of years ago I moved back to the area and started spending a lot of time in Ann Arbor coffee shops. At the same time, I started following foodies and coffee lovers on Instagram, many of which were dedicated to a specific area. With that on the brain, one day I was curious to see what usernames were available in relation to Ann Arbor and coffee. You should have seen the smile on my face when I realized “coffeeannarbor” was free.

Motivations? Simply put, it is to help spread the word of how much the Ann Arbor area has to offer in terms of coffee -- from coffee shops to roasters, each with their own unique style and purpose.

Also, I just don’t enjoy coffee out. You’ll find a full arsenal of coffee gadgets at my home too. Shocking! I like purchasing beans from local roasters, giving my two cents on, as well showing the steps I take to make an AeroPress, pour over, etc. I’m definitely an amateur when it comes to making craft coffee at home, but I’d like to think I’m getting better. You’ll see I frequently highlight my home endeavors on Instagram Stories. I’m learning and motivated, hopefully helping others to learn too. It’s amazing how complex that little coffee bean is and how much there is to discover.

According to your Instagram account, you also spend some time in Atlanta. What do you think sets A2’s coffee culture away from others?

Yes, I’ve lived in Atlanta off-and-on and taken lots of trips there over the years. The coffee scene is now thriving there, as it is in a lot of places I’ve visited. I believe Ann Arbor can certainly stand up to anyone in that regard. It’s amazing to me the number of coffee shops that have popped up for a city its size. Just walking around the Michigan Theater and State Theatre, for instance, it seems like every other storefront leads into a coffee shop or a place that serves good coffee. I am definitely not complaining! What’s even more exciting is that these places are full and thriving.

Everyone in the community seems to be so passionate about coffee and in support of each other. I get excited when I see a shop that doesn’t roast, but uses local beans. Argus Farm Stop, for instance, uses beans from Roos Roast and Milan Coffee Works, while selling Ypsilanti’s Hyperion Coffee beans on their shelves. It seems to be a tight-knit community as everyone seems to know each other. I’ve run into multiple baristas that have bounced between shops in the area over the years. Ann Arbor’s coffee love came out in my eyes during the first Caffeine Crawl that took place during the summer. I could see all the passion during that event interacting with shop owners, baristas and fellow local coffee lovers.


 

How do you decide where to go and what to feature?

Sometimes I get inspiration looking through my Instagram feed, other times I just go somewhere in the heat of the moment. Naturally, I wind up going to the same places a lot. Each time, I try to get something different off the menu or the same drink using a different bean, so I can experience the gamut.

Places I go and have shared has also been related to local coffee events, tastings and meetups I’ve attended and invitations I’ve received to check out a place. Besides my own coffee experiences, I like to repost and share others as well. It’s a bonus helping to show off the coffee scene from the eyes of others. I think it all makes for a good mix. It leads to some mystery as to where that next great experience will come from.

I do try to spread the love around the area. Besides the immediate Ann Arbor area including Ypsilanti, I like spending time in neighboring towns Brighton, Dexter, Milan and Plymouth to name a few. I consider them to be close by with plenty of coffee options and worth taking a few extra minutes to drive to and have a great coffee experience.

You have an almost signature style of photo that you regularly put on coffeeannarbor. How did that happen or evolve?

I do! Going back to my personal Instagram account, I have posted pictures of my blue shoes or young son in the foreground to similar backdrops as well as coffee. That translated nicely to coffeeannarbor, as there are endless scenic backdrops in the area. I do it in part to help showcase what Ann Arbor is all about.

A lot of people have asked me if I have someone alongside that stops traffic so I can walk onto and/or set my cup of coffee in the middle of the road! I’m an early riser by nature, even more so now with kids, so I don’t usually have to wait too long to grab a shot like that. Even if I do it’s worth it!

This is a bit of a tough question but where are your top 4 favorite places to get a solid cup of coffee? Any other places or specific drinks you'd recommend?

You're right, it is hard to just pick four. I will go with Roos Roast, Zingerman’s Coffee Company, Comet Coffee and Black Diesel Coffee. As far as specific drinks go, if you are looking for a latte, either regular or matcha, I recommend Lab. The triple-shot Long Pull at Roos Roast is always a winner. Looking for a true craft coffee experience? Order a Syphon coffee at Zingerman’s Coffee Company, making sure to watch it being made. If dessert is your thing, head to Literati Coffee for an Affogato. I could go on and on.

 

 

Any places you haven't tried yet that you would like to?

 

 

 

A bunch! I have spent a lot of time in most of the traditional coffee shops in Ann Arbor. I have started venturing to more nontraditional spots to have a coffee. Someone I follow on Instagram is always posting pictures of lattes from Felix. I would like to experience a liquid brunch there sometime. Likewise at Sava’s. Places don’t even necessarily have to offer straight up coffee. I’m looking to experience local Coffee Beer as well. I hear HOMES Brewery offers a cream ale that is made using Milan Coffee Works beans. *We checked, it does!*

Outside of Ann Arbor, Brewed Awakenings Café in Saline is at the top of my coffee shop list to experience. I’m always keeping an eye out for new shops and roasters in the area.

Peak at coffeeannarbor while patiently waiting for your pour-over or check out Meredith’s guide to fall drinks in Ann Arbor.

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