At first glance, Arriviste’s mid-century modern furnishings and sunny, Ellsworth Avenue space seem like reason enough to visit for your morning coffee. If you’re a seriously coffee drinker, however, the expertly brewed, single origin beans and artisan approach to coffee really make this shop stand out from the others in Pittsburgh’s coffee scene. We recently sat down with Arriviste Managing Partner Kim Lopez to find out a little bit more about what might just become your new favorite coffee shop.

What is your background in coffee?  Where did your passion for coffee start?

I was not a coffee professional by trade and prior to getting into the business, I would best describe myself as a highly enthusiastic consumer at best. I guess I started getting really interested in this stuff when I had my first single-origin Ethiopian coffee from a Brooklyn specialty roaster that happened to be serving coffee in the lobby of the Brooklyn Museum. It tasted as if fresh blueberries had been crushed into the coffee—quite unlike any kind of coffee I had tasted before.

I moved to Pittsburgh in 2014 to follow my fiancee (now wife). I quit my consulting job in New York but struggled to find something close to what I used to do for a living. I figured I had gotten so into coffee and I had business education and experience, so why not give this coffee shop daydream a go? I went to an actual coffee school in Portland (well, of course) to get some baseline barista training as well as learning coffee business specifics. Then, as I started to actually put a business plan together, I was very fortunate to be let into the Commonplace Coffee family as a barista in their Mexican War Streets shop. My time with the team there, in particular, not only solidified my technical skills in a real-world setting but also crystallized the actual thought that this really was something I wanted to do.

How is your store different from others? Why use single origin coffees?

First of all, there was already a thriving specialty coffee scene in Pittsburgh before we came along. We might not have as many shops as some major markets but the handful of shops that we did have were mostly of very, very high quality in terms of the coffee. Quite frankly, there aren’t any big coffee-making secrets anymore so what I felt like I could really differentiate ourselves on was a higher-end customer experience. […] Everything from the coffee we brew, the food we serve, the equipment we use, to the lighting, the furniture, the music, the art on the walls, even the satisfying sound the bathroom door makes when it closes—everything is intentionally calibrated to make a customer instinctively know that they’ve walked in to a shop that is quite unlike anything they’ve been to in Pittsburgh and maybe even in much bigger cities.

[A single origin coffee is] a coffee where all of the beans were harvested from a single specific region in a specific country of origin. It’s kind of like saying that a wine is from Bordeaux to distinguish it from a wine from Burgundy. The importance of specifying that a coffee is a single-origin lies in the idea of “terroir”, i.e. unique environmental factors (weather, soil, water, etc.) are responsible for imparting unique flavors to the coffee that is grown in that environment. So, if you plant coffee tree seeds taken from Panama in Ethiopia, Guatemala, or Colombia, none of those coffees would taste the same (we’ve in fact served such coffees side-by-side at the shop). To me, terroir is what makes specialty coffee truly special.

We are always, always looking to learn more so that we can keep raising the bar for you. Now available at the shop is Craft Coffee: A Manual from @j.easto. Written for a non-pro audience, it is nonetheless pretty extensive and super useful even for us. I’ve already sequestered a copy for myself and the boys. Grab yours now or come to the home brewing class this Friday 3/30 for a 20% discount on the cover price! #knowingishalfthebattle #themoreyouknow #arrivistecoffeebar . . . . #pittsburgh #pittsburghcoffee #coffee #coffeeshop #coffeegram #coffeelife #coffeebreak #coffeetime #pourovercoffee #pourover #singleorigin #kalitawave #kalita #hariov60 #chemex #barista #baristadaily #baristalife #shadyside #thinkshadyside #ellsworthavenue

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Give us more details about what a guest can expect from you and your team when ordering.

I like to think that our coffee service is very intentional. Every aspect of how we make and serve coffee or food has been designed to enhance the experience. […] We try to be very precise and consistent, which means espresso shots get weighed, we taste everything multiple times through the day to see if we need to adjust, and we dial in pour-over recipes as a team to make sure that all the coffees taste as good as they can.

[We also] try very hard to be warm and welcoming to our customers. I’m not oblivious to the fact that the way we look quickly forms impressions about what kind of shop we are. That’s also very deliberate but isn’t always very positive for us. A lot of people expect us to be coffee snobs, cold, sterile — I’m never happier than when we are able to show someone that we may look the part of condescending third-wave coffee shop, but that we’re actually quite friendly and eager to please.

What’s new at the shop?

We have an East Coast-centric multi-roaster program, so expect a pretty constant rotation of the coffee menu. We’ve just started serving coffees from Brandywine Coffee Roasters out of Wilmington, DE. Really good sourcing, on the lighter, more Nordic end of roast profile.

For the summer, we’ve created three specialty drinks—all iced to keep you cool. The Luca Brasi is a coffee mocktail with espresso, cola syrup, orange bitters, and seltzer. The Blase Tucci is basically a coffee Arnold Palmer, half flash-brewed iced coffee, half lemonade, and lemon bitters. The Stormy Daniels is an adaptation of the classic Dark & Stormy—cascara tea, ginger beer, whiskey barrel bitters. We also serve affogatos (made with Leona’s Ice Cream) year-round.

Through August, we are having an exhibit of art from several of our shop regulars called “There Goes the Neighborhood”. These are photographs and paintings from customers who are not artists by trade but were eager to have a venue to share their talents to the public. Expect a new show to go up by September.

When you aren’t drinking coffee at your shop, where do you like to go?

The coffee obsession is definitely an off-shoot of my food and drink obsession, so my wife and I are always looking for the best new places to eat and drink in Pittsburgh. D’Anoia’s is a reliable favorite. Driftwood Oven — best pizza in Pittsburgh, end of discussion. And don’t miss my friend Raf Vencio’s pop-up Filipino dinners at Driftwood called Kanto. Anything Jamilka Borges is involved in. Poulet Bleu is the only legit French bistro in town but they’re only open at night, which I hope someone remedies soon. Bitter Ends Luncheonette is as farm-to-lunch counter as it gets. And please, please, please try the vinegar pie at Pie for Breakfast!