Back in the earlier stages of the third-wave coffee boom—before it had grown to be on every street corner in cities large and small across the globe—specialty coffee had totems, little indicators that a person was in the know. They were like a secret handshake to distinguish coffee drinkers from specialty coffee drinkers. It could be a shirt from a favorite coffee roaster or an Espresso Parts sticker on a laptop (or whatever swag you could nab at a regional barista competition or if you were lucky enough to go, at Expo). Coffee is undoubtedly in a better place now that it has gone mainstream and the secret club has opened up its membership to everyone, but it was a fun time when one felt compelled to strike up a conversation with a stranger simply because they had on a Stumptown shirt.
One of the most inside baseball totems from the early/mid 2010s was a Ben Medansky mug. The Los Angeles-based ceramicist created all the servingware for Go Get Em Tiger, one of if not THE destination cafe in America at the time (being started by two US Barista Champions will do that for a shop). Having a Medansky was the ultimate in geekdom, proof that you had made the sojourn out to a US coffee mecca and were willing to pay a not-insignificant price for your souvenir. And they were also a bit of a time capsule. By around 2016 or 2017, Medansky’s ceramics shifted away from functional wares and into more conceptual work, and once his sought-after mugs were gone, they were gone for good.
But joy of joys, after a few years absence, the Medansky mug has returned! In honor of the 10 year anniversary of Go Get Em Tiger, the cafe/roaster has teamed up with the world-renowned ceramicist for a limited run of mugs, and they will be going on sale very soon.
More than just an indicator of a certain time and place in specialty coffee’s history, the Medansky mugs are just really damn good. Weighty enough to feel special but light enough to be your go-to drinking vessel. Like any good ceramic, the mug brought a bit of ceremony to your everyday coffee without being so precious that it would sit unused, waiting for “special occasions.” And the latest collaboration, limited to just 100, appear to be no different (even if they do appear different). Gone are the unfinished tan clay bottoms, the speckled grey upper, and what can only be described as “Medansky blue,” and in their place comes a more subdued color palette: steely greens, brown specks, and muted blacks and greys. Per GGET, these 100 will be the only of their kind ever made.
Going on sale Tuesday, July 11th, the 10th anniversary Medansky mugs will be available for purchase online and at one of GGET’s nine Los Angeles cafes (including sister company G&B Coffee). The price of the mug has yet to be announced, but they previously retailed for $100, so don’t be shocked to find them somewhere north of that.
So while such a vessel doesn’t quite hold the same historical significance as some sort of snapshot of a specific time and place, it remains an undeniable joy that elevates the coffee drinking experience. We all deserve for our everyday coffee to be a little more special, and a well-made piece of ceramic can do just that.
For more information or to grab your own limited edition Ben Medansky 10th anniversary mug, visit Go Get Em Tiger’s official website.
All media via Go Get Em Tiger