Both my parents were coffee drinkers, and thus I grew up drinking coffee at an early age. I can still remember the smell of morning coffee at our house—first scooped from a large red or blue can (emblazoned with the labels of brands still common to grocery store shelves everywhere) then brewed in an electric percolator. I still remember the sound of the percolator and the mesmerizing dance of the water bouncing off the underside of the lid.
My mom drank her coffee black. Dad was a cream and sugar guy—LOTS of cream and sugar. To my young palate, the thick-ish, smooth, creamed and too-sweet sugared coffee seemed like pure heaven—and, since coffee was viewed as a “grown-up” beverage it seemed, too, like I was, for those moments, with my hands wrapped around the warm cup, getting away with something my young peers were not privy to.
Later, perhaps with the advent of a more mature palate, I slowly abandoned the sugar and then the cream. This change unmasked a world of more subtle aromas and flavors—a world that, even decades later, seems to be in need of further exploration. The sheer number of coffee growing regions and the near limitless vocabulary necessary to describe the varied aromas and flavors of this remarkable beverage could, undoubtedly, occupy a lifetime.
The small town I grew up in hosted, on its college campus, a small coffee shop—no bigger than a large kitchen in one of America’s sprawling suburbs today. One had to climb a narrow, creaky, dimly-lit wooden staircase to gain entry to this little coffee shop—which long pre-dated the chain coffee stores so ubiquitous today.
In one cramped corner was the coffee-bar, usually staffed by two college-student baristas, occupied by a couple of brewing machines, a small refrigerator, a rack of cups and glasses, and an espresso machine. The chalkboard-sign behind the bar listed the day’s brews as well as a variety of specialty drinks—those usually served with a heap of whipped-cream.
In the opposite corner, on a tiny wedge of a raised stage, one could usually find a lone musician—usually with an acoustic guitar and seated on a three-legged wooden stool with a mostly empty hat on the floor so those inclined to do so could tip the poor soul. No electronics were necessary in the small room, and covers of Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and the Beatles were way too-familiar tunes in that place.
Between the coffee-bar and the confined stage stood no more than a dozen small tables and a jungle of chairs—and lots of people standing.
This was a place for intimate friends, dates, studying (in the less busy daylight hours), socializing, likely a few rendezvous, and, of course, for self-caffeinating. It was in this place, although the beginning clearly goes back further, that my life-long love of this amazing beverage was truly born.
And the name of this treasure of a gathering place? You’ve likely guessed by now:
The Two Bit Rush
Tragically, this place, which occupies such a fond part of my young-adult memories, closed in 1979 the victim of world economic events unknown outside of its four close walls.
Fast-forward a few decades…I’m still in love with coffee, and after brainstorming for several days for a name for my new coffee-roasting venture, my wife and I, independently of each other, remembered this amazing place—The Two Bit Rush. From that point on, the choice of name was clear, and Two Bit Rush Coffee Roasters was born.
Or, perhaps, reborn.
So now you know where I got the name for my coffee-roasting business, but where did the name originally come from? What does it mean?
Well, some of the first money used in the early American Colonies was the Spanish Real (or 8-real) coin sometimes referred to as “Pieces-of-Eight” or the Spanish Dollar. The coin was divisible into one-eighth wedges each referred to as a "bit". Two-bits, then, represented a quarter-dollar. Later, and for many years after we had replaced the Spanish Dollar, the US quarter-dollar was often referred to as “two-bits”.
The “rush” part of our name, in the context of a caffeinated beverage, is assuredly self-explanatory!
And, yes, it was once possible to buy a cup of coffee—and the ensuing rush—for two-bits.