Food Truck Tuesday: Pepperbox Coffee
Deaf-owned trailer serves up speedy brews for Northwest Austin
By Thea Newell,
3:30PM, Tue. Apr. 11, 2017
Austin is one of the country’s top cities for Deaf-owned and operated businesses, and Pepperbox Coffee recently joined the ranks of more than 30 such businesses that call this city home.
Unless you speak American Sign Language, as do all of Pepperbox’s employees, most communication happens through pointing to the menu or, should that fail, a small dry-erase board. However, since the menu is small and they’ve anticipated most communication roadblocks, ordering without speaking is easy. Not to mention it increases awareness of the communication struggles that a portion of the Austin population faces every day.
Pepperbox Coffee is the joint project of Nicholas Buchanan and Mario Essig, who started the coffee trailer to fight the mass unemployment and underemployment that the Deaf and hard of hearing population currently faces (about 70%). Their staff is entirely deaf or hard of hearing, as are the two owners, and they are very sincere in their desire to serve the hearing population as a whole but also to provide a welcome space for the Deaf population of Austin. Buchanan and Essig are also on a mission to prove that being deaf does not have to be a hindrance to being a successful entrepreneur, particularly in the service industry, where verbal communication can often seem like a basic necessity.
Both owners hail from Washington, a state whose capital boasts a rich coffee culture, and not just because Starbucks calls Seattle home. The trailer sources its coffee from Costa Rican growers Life Monteverde and serves drip coffee as well as classic espresso drinks, which can be made with almond, soy, coconut, or hemp milk. They’ve also got a selection of custom espresso drinks such as the Gold Digger, an iced caramel latte with whipped cream and edible gold flakes; the Fuse, a vanilla latte with four shots of espresso and habanero syrup; and the seriously delicious Gatling Gun, a vanilla/chocolate/caramel latte that will keep anyone who likes to drink their dessert happy.
The trailer promises speedy, friendly service and competitive pricing. It’s a great opportunity for anyone looking to practice their sign language, and the staff is always happy to teach customers the signs for coffee or anything else you want to learn. Buchanan and Essig bring awareness to the barriers the Deaf community can face, even in the simple process of ordering a cup of coffee. It's an environment that shows that communication between Deaf and hearing doesn’t have to be harder, just a bit different.