Coffee shops are becoming increasingly sustainable as they phase out single-use items. Plastic cups, lids, and other goods aren’t offered in some craft coffeehouses to encourage patrons to buy reusable tumblers. Bar Nine of Culver City, CA, has found another nifty way to cut down on trash: glass jars.
Bar Nine was founded in 2013 and opened its first store in 2014. The shop ran on partial solar power as early as 2016, but by 2020, they switched to 100% solar-powered electricity.
The company’s claim to fame has been the glass jar program. All to-go coffee orders are put in a screw-top jar, with guests receiving 25 cents toward their next drink if they bring it back. The shop calls this the #GlassRevolution, and it has reduced Bar Nine’s waste disposal. However, customers are encouraged to bring their tumblers rather than use the glass jars, also receiving the 25-cent incentive.
Founder Zayde Naquib says he hopes to get a 100% return rate on the glass jars. When he came up with the idea for Bar Nine, Naquib wanted to use some kind of sustainable product, formulating ideas like compostable cups but ultimately turned to reusable tumblers. While it took some time for customers to grasp the concept of the glass jar return, they understood the message being sent: plastic cups aren’t necessary.
Bar Nine uses compostable food-to-go packaging on top of recyclable materials. It also cuts water use substantially. As of February 2023, water consumption is down 100% and energy consumption by 20 to 30%.
It is also packaging coffee grounds in white kraft bags, which break down better in nature. The seal for the bags is made from an alcohol-based ink in place of a paper stamp.
“I certainly hope more shops start thinking about their impact from an environmental standpoint. A simple reality is that coffee shops around the world are responsible for [billions of] paper cups thrown away yearly. That alone is crazy,” Naquib said in an interview with Sprudge.com. “But there are so many other areas where we can all improve as an industry, from water waste with RO systems to where we get our electricity from to what we’re packaging to-go food items in.”
In the past, Bar Nine served a single type of coffee each day, offering espresso, hot, and iced coffee. It reduces waste and doesn’t require more water to brew more blends. One day the coffee could be Ethiopian beans; the next day, it could be Sumatran.
However, according to the company’s website, the Culver City shop is now serving four espresso offerings, including its Decaf, making the experience “like a tasting room, a wine bar but for espresso.”
Bar Nine has focused on Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, and Panama for beans, especially the Gesha variety. Gesha is known for its floral, citrus, and jasmine flavors. The shop is establishing relationships with farmers in Panama, ensuring they are getting the best Gesha beans available.
In September 2020, the business opened an offshoot of the coffeehouse, aptly named Ten. Based in Marina Del Rey, CA, this cafe is the restaurant side of Bar Nine. Ten offers food tastings, wine pairings, and of course, coffee. The company also released its “Pure Espresso” in bottles starting in 2022.
Bar Nine’s sustainable coffee brewing and sourcing efforts have garnered the shop serious recognition. In 2017, it earned the StarChefs’ Rising Star Roaster award. Multiple coffee reviews have given Bar Nine’s brews 95 points, and the “Los Angeles Times” has featured The 9 Blend in the paper. The shop has also had its coffee used and competed with in the United States Barista Championship every year since it opened.