The Wheeler Latte

Paying homage to one of Ann Arbor’s great historical leaders

By Ari Weinzweig – From Ari’s Top 5 Pick Newsletter, February 14th, 2024

On Monday, April 7, 1975, Albert Wheeler was elected as Mayor of Ann Arbor. I was entering my eighth month at the University of Michigan, a freshman who was mostly focused on finishing my first year at college without completely failing my finals. I saw Mayor Wheeler’s name in the newspaper now and again, but beyond that, I paid little to no attention. 

Had I been practicing Folklorist Leadership, I would have tuned in much more closely! Wheeler’s election as mayor, I realize many years later, was monumental. He was the first and only Black man (to date, at least) to be elected mayor of this town, a town in which most people who aren’t Black will not know that in the years leading up to Wheeler’s election, had still been segregated through a series of nearly unspoken norms. As the Ann Arbor News later wrote,

Far away from the segregated lunch counters and water fountains of the Deep South, Ann Arbor was wrestling with its own brand of racism in the 1940s and 1950s. Blacks moving to town were only shown houses in the North Fourth Avenue area, a grimy neighborhood heavy with the odor of slaughterhouses and coal-fired plants. Jobs for African Americans at the University of Michigan usually got no better than cleaning floors or operating elevators.

Mayor Wheeler was born in the city of St. Louis back in 1915. He studied biology at Lincoln University, an HBCU in Pennsylvania. He came to town in the late 1930s to study at the School of Public Health at the time that the Great Depression was winding down and the geo-political tension in Europe that was about to turn into WWII was increasing. In 1945, when Wheeler and his wife Emma attempted to buy a house, the banker continually pushed them to look at buying only in Black neighborhoods. Nevertheless, the pair persevered. In 1952, Dr. Wheeler became the first Black professor at the University to be tenured. The Wheelers would go on to be instrumental in the founding of the Ann Arbor chapter of the NAACP. He first stood for mayor, unsuccessfully, in 1970, but ran again in 1975 and won.

As mayor, Wheeler worked to change beliefs about what a city government was supposed to do, advocating significantly increased services for its citizens. His path was not an easy one. Even in our fairly “liberal” city, he faced verbal and physical threats. Nevertheless, he pushed forward, working to help disadvantaged members of the community, create effective public housing, and more. He has been credited with instilling the idea that city government should be actively involved in human services, and that’s something the city continues to do. The Ann Arbor News noted that “a pattern of scattered public housing on small sites throughout Ann Arbor is another Wheeler legacy,” and that Wheeler “worked to avoid the large, isolated housing projects that other cities built with public funds.”

As Wheeler explained his deep dedication to working for Civil Rights in the city, “I thought I was working for what I was entitled to as a human being.” His daughter Mary McDade, an appellate court judge in my home state of Illinois, talks about how her father led with positive beliefs: “He recognized that as women and as Black people, it was going to be an uphill struggle to do anything in this life.” And yet, McDade says, “He was constantly reminding us that if you used your brains, if you applied yourself, there was nothing that you couldn’t do.” Wheeler’s daughters described how dinner conversations were always centered around politics (as long as their grades were good!). They attended marches as young children, and their parents ignited a fire inside them to carry forward their mother and father’s work. Mary and Nancy became judges. Alma became a state senator. And in their 70s and 80s, they are all still politically active to this day!

Albert Wheeler passed away at the age of 78 in 1994. In 1987, five years after we opened the Deli, the name of what had long been called Summit Park, a few blocks to the north of us, was changed to Wheeler Park. The plaque at the park says it well: “The city of Ann Arbor is a better place to live because of the Wheelers.”

In order to honor Albert Wheeler’s good work, and mark what is now nearly a half-century since he became mayor, the Coffee Company has created what we’re calling “The Wheeler Latte.” It’s a super tasty coming together of the Coffee Company’s Espresso Blend #1, a housemade Demerara brown sugar syrup, and steamed milk that comes in from Calder Dairy in Carleton, Michigan. In one of those great coincidences that are really only made possible by being so rooted in the local community, Wheeler’s grandson, Conan Smith, happened to come into the Coffee Company just as the crew was engaging in conversations about this new coffee drink! Conan, a long-time customer, has continued his grandparents’ community work, and served as the CEO of Michigan Environmental Council.

The Wheeler Latte is a tribute to Al Wheeler’s wonderful work here in the 20th century, and also a recognition of what we can all do to build on his caring community contributions. Order one up this week and make a toast to the mayor’s memory as a salute to the social improvements that he worked so hard to make happen, and that all of us remain responsible for today in 2024!


The Wheeler’s 3 daughters, Mary, Nancy & Alma, as well as two of the Wheeler’s grandchildren, Conan & Sara, visited the Coffee Company on February 12th, 2024 to talk with us. Below are some photos from their visit.

Zingerman’s Coffee for ALL.

Introducing a totally approachable new line of joe from Zingerman’s Coffee Company.

Zingerman’s Coffee Company is excited to present a new line of products to round out our presence in the specialty coffee category. The Crowd Pleasers line was conceived to be an approachable introduction to specialty coffee featuring beans with distinctive, balanced flavors.

MSRP: $7.99-$9.99

Coming SUPER soon!

Have questions? Interested in carrying this product?
Feel free to reach out to us at
[email protected]!

New Single-Origin Coffee from Guatemala

A beautiful brew from the coffee-growing “star” of Central America

Ari Weinzweig, CEO & Co-Founder of Zingerman’s 

Guatemala has an ancient and highly esteemed history that goes back to the advanced Mayan civilization dating to about 2000 BC. Coffee is a relatively recent arrival—serious commercial planting started in the middle of the 19th century, primarily with German immigrant planters, about a decade after the demise of a nation-state that almost no one around these parts will have heard of. The Federal Republic of Central America was founded in 1823—less that 50 years after the Declaration of Independence of the United States. The Federal Republic of Central America included what’s now Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Chiapas and Guatemala. It started with much the same spirit as the U.S., as a democratic nation state, but came apart in the course of its own Civil War in 1938.

A century and a half down the road of history, Guatemala consistently produces some of the most flavorful coffee one can find anywhere. And some of the best of the best comes from an estate in the northern part of the country called “Los Dos Socios.” Here’s what the crew at the Coffee Company said:

The name was selected by Don Concepcion Villatoro Matias to refer to “the two associates” involved in producing coffee at his farm: himself and God. His approach has been a simple one since purchasing the farm in 1990: plant bourbon and caturra varietals under shade trees, tend them well, and keep parcels separated to maintain unique lots. His farm in Huehuetenango is up high with a view of the mountains, making for a lovely place to live and work. Huehuetenango is one of Guatemala’s prized coffee-growing regions, and with coffees as vibrant and exciting as this one, it’s easy to see why.

The flavor profile we’re getting out of Los Dos Socios is a thing of beauty: juicy blackberry notes, some really rich caramel smoothness, and a zing of bright papaya all working together. It reminds us of the coffee cherries we snacked on while visiting farms in Guatemala last year—the juicy, sweet, and tangy combination of flavors is a great way to describe the taste of the fruit surrounding a coffee bean. As long days of farm visits wore on, it was neat to see farmers picking a few cherries and snacking – even before it’s processed, roasted, and brewed, coffee can provide small moments to enjoy. We hope you appreciate all the hard work that went into these beans, and that you enjoy your brews of Los Dos Socios all the more for it!

I’ve been loving the coffee for the last few weeks. It’s got… a wonderful combination of depth and delicacy, substance and subtlety, softness and strength. It is, as per what I wrote above about vision, a positive and sustainable testament to the work of Don Concepcion and his team. There is something special, hard to pin down, that makes it so eminently calming, comforting and enjoyable. It has what Christopher Alexander wrote in The Timeless Way of Building: “In our lives, this quality without a name is the most precious thing we ever have.”

Come by the Coffee Company, the Deli, or Roadhouse and grab a bag of beans or a cup to go. Or let us ship—you won’t see it on the site, but email [email protected] and let us know what you’d like. Better still, sign up for a Mail Order Coffee Subscription!

P.S. If you’re at the Roadshow getting coffee, say hi to Celia who is from Guatemala, and proudly thanked me for carrying “her coffee.” I thank her for her great work and for bringing our vision and values alive every day in such beautiful ways!

Excerpt from Ari’s weekly Top 5 E-Newsletter. To stay in-the-know about things that Ari is excited about in the Zingerman’s family, sign up here

Holiday Blend from the Coffee Company

A beautiful brew that can turn any day into a holiday!

Ari Weinzweig, CEO & Co-Founder of Zingerman’s 

If you’re thinking about what to drink when you dive into a nice piece of pecan pie or with a toasted slice of Cranberry Pecan bread for breakfast, this seasonal brew from the Coffee Company could be just the trick.

We’ve been designing and offering an annual Holiday Blend for over a decade now—each year is a bit different to honor what’s best on the “green bean” market and the spirit of that particular season. This year, Steve (our longtime managing partner, and part of that Partners Group consensus), Matthew (the former staff partner I quoted above), and Chris (our roastmaster) have put together a trio of terrific beans for the blend.

Colombian ASPROBALBOA—From a coop of family farms near Balboa. It brings great high notes with hints of citrus and caramel to the blend.

Brazilian Espresso Blend #1—Sustainably grown, carefully processed, with big, well-rounded flavor.

Costa Rica—From the Hacienda Miramonte. It brings subtle sweetness and a rich, velvety body.

Each bean brings its own distinct flavor, and in the cup they come to a nice consensus on a single great flavor! Steve says, “The collection of coffees is representative of some of the best relationships we have—we know ALL of these producers personally and they are some of the longest standing relationships we have.”  It would be safe to say that this year’s Holiday Blend is a beautiful homage to the support they have given us through the years! It’s got a full flavor, and a touch of nice astringency. It reminds me of the dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic that we’re getting from 9th & Larkin. True to the spirit of the 2020 season, it’s a bit darker than last year’s blend, but with notable hints of brightness and subtle floral notes. And, somehow, it seems to leave me feeling a bit more optimistic after I sip it.

Want to sign up for regular shipments of Zingerman’s Coffee? Check out Zingerman’s Coffee Club and the Zingerman’s Coffee Subscription at

Available at the Coffee CompanyDeli, Roadhouse, and Mail Order!

Excerpt from Ari’s weekly Top 5 E-Newsletter. To stay in-the-know about things that Ari is excited about in the Zingerman’s family, sign up here

Coffee’s Sixth Sense 🔮

A History of Fortune Telling and Family Tradition
By Michelle Abbey, Zingerman’s Coffee Company


The year is 1974. The setting is one startlingly bygone, culturally: a family living room, thick with cigarette smoke. Zingerman’s Coffee Company’s Managing Partner, Steve Mangigian, is 10 years old. After a meal together, Armenian coffee is not only served, but read. Steve recalls the female elders of his family flipping the contents of their cups onto saucers, scouring the grounds for images and their associated fortunes to emerge.


What does your coffee hold?


This is the story Steve consistently tells on his tours, during our “What is your first memory of coffee?” group icebreaker. “My parents needed a pot of Folgers to wake up.” is a common answer – I have yet to hear a guest share Steve’s experiences with family divination. He lights up; it’s a beloved childhood memory. 

His experience while treasured is not unique. In fact, Steve isn’t the sole Armenian here in the small family of Zingerman’s Coffee Company! We’ve had a handful of Armenians come and go, and our Purchasing Manager, Laura, has Armenian roots.

“…She said it was extremely creepy and really hated the whole thing!”

The tradition in her family is remembered differently: “My mom talked about the tea leaf readings when she was a kid. This would have been the 1930’s. She remembers all the old Armenian ladies sitting in a circle bending over these cups and telling fortunes – they would tip them over into the saucers and read the leaves. She said it was extremely creepy and really hated the whole thing!”

The practice Steve and Laura describe in their families is called Tasseography: a divination or fortune-telling method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments. The terms derive from the French word tasse (cup), which in turn derives from the Arabic loan-word into French tassa, and the Greek suffixes -graph (writing), -logy (study of), and -mancy (divination). 

The practices’ origins can be traced back to medieval Europe. Fortune tellers read molten substances such as wax or lead. The method evolved into reading patterns of tea leaves after Dutch merchants introduced tea to Europe via trade routes to China. The tradition of coffee cup reading specifically is believed to have started in the 16th century when coffee made its way to the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. The cultivation and distribution of coffee started in Ethiopia and moved from Yemen to the Arab trade and then to the Ottoman Empire. Armenians then popularized coffee in Europe. 

Turkish coffee reading is very popular in Turkey and Greece. You can also find it in Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as Baltic and Middle Eastern countries.


Two full and ornate Armenian-style coffee cups on saucers, side by side in front of an ibric (Turkish kettle) on a coffee table with a vase of purple flowers.

A traditional Ibric (kettle) and Armenian coffee cups. Note how the sides of the coffee cup do not slope down – this is necessary for proper grounds reading.


This tradition has gone by the wayside for some families, but the Mangigians are keeping it alive in their brood. Steve’s daughter, Bethanie, has taken over the tradition – but took her own route to get there. 

“I actually wasn’t introduced to Armenian fortune-telling within my family, I wasn’t around it a lot as a kid.

“‘…’I see three men in your cup, encircling you.’ It was dead on, I had three orbiting at that time!”

I started doing this when I lived in New York. I was in college and took a course in Armenian history. I was first captivated by cup reading sitting in an ancient Armenian library. My professor did my first reading for me, it was startling and thrilling. She said, ‘I see three men in your cup, encircling you.’ It was dead on, I had three orbiting at that time! Should we include that?” she laughs.

Bethanie studied and lived abroad in the familial homeland of Armenia, with a host family. She got practice pulling cups with them, a family of artists. 

“In their home and in the country itself, I was surrounded by beautiful imagery and architecture. There were beautiful symbols everywhere to inspire interpretations.”

It’s not just the cultural connection and experiences which draws Bethanie to cup reading. 

“My mom uses the word ‘Kezba’, to describe this sixth sense that we have. And I work closely with people as a social worker and therapist. When you read cups, you have a connection with that person. I love this medium as a way to develop relationships with people. You cut through small talk to who they are, what their journey is. I can guide the reading, but people come up with their own interpretations, which is fascinating insight.”

Her eeriest experience? 

“I did a cup reading at a party for a guy I had met just a week prior. We ended up dating later on, and the symbols I saw in his reading ALL appeared throughout our relationship. A chameleon was one symbol – it ended up being way too telling! This is why I prefer to read for strangers. Reading for friends can hit too close to home. You have to be prepared for what the cup says.”


Bethanie hosts an Armenian Christmas party every year on January 6th, at her home in New Orleans. Her party favor giveaway is a drawing for someone to get a cup reading.


How do you read coffee, anyway? Simply drink your Armenian-style coffee in white china with no inside pattern or decoration. Shapes and patterns inside the coffee cup and on the saucer need to be visible for reading. After drinking most of the liquid in the coffee, cover the cup with the upside-down saucer and swirl three times. You wait for the grounds to fall from the bottom of the cup. This is why it is important to use the Armenian style espresso cup which is not rounded on the sides. The grounds fall down the sides of the espresso cup and dry at the bottom.

Put it down and allow a few minutes for the coffee to settle. Though it has some universally agreed rules, coffee cup reading is a very personal experience based upon on the “sixth sense”. 

The type of coffee you use doesn’t really matter, just make sure it’s ground even finer than espresso and prepared, well, however your grandmother taught you to! 






Bethanie says this practice feels more precious in these times. “There’s a war against this small country [Armenia]. Holding onto these traditions feels even more important now. There are a lot of people I’m thinking about and worried about there right now.

“You may lose territory, but you can hang onto your culture.”

She wishes she could have been at the table with her Dad when her great aunt was telling fortunes. “It goes to show that these things need to be explicitly passed on, or you may lose them. You may lose territory, but you can hang onto your culture.”


Check out tasseography symbolism and best practices:




Tree Town Blend Coffee Beans

A fantastically flavorful cup of coffee that does the town proud
Ari Weinzweig, CEO & Co-Founder of Zingerman’s 

Looking for a good coffee to perk up your mornings this month? Something to mark the start of September, welcome autumn, and sip while you watch the leaves start to change color? The 2020 release of our annual, early-autumn Tree Town Blend would be a particularly terrific way to do it. While the temperatures and the leaves slowly but surely start to fall, Tree Town is on the way up. Steve Mangigian, the Coffee Company’s managing partner, and I both agree—this year’s blend is better than ever!

Why “Tree Town”? Ann Arbor was founded in 1824, named for the wives of the village’s founders, both named Ann, and the stands of burr oak trees. That fall the U.S. held its 10th election for President. Voting lasted five weeks, from late October through December 1. No candidate won a majority of the votes and the election was turned over to Congress, where John Quincy Adams was elected. The “Tree Town” moniker derived over the years from the high volume of trees in the city. Until the arrival of Europeans, most of this part of the world—originally home to the Ojibwe people—was fully forested. But one of the first acts Europeans often engaged in was to take down large numbers of trees for timber, and then to plow virgin lands in order to farm—most of the city’s original trees were clear cut in the second half the 19th century to use for building here and for sale back east. Fortunately, early in the next century—around the time that Rocco Disderide built what’s now the Deli’s building back in 1902—the city embarked on a reforestation program. Given the positive impact that all those trees have on the aesthetics and ecology of the town, it seems that all of us who live here now ought to give those who led that project a big round of appreciation. The Tree Town blend is a celebration of that beauty.

Like the town for which it’s named, the Tree Town Blend is wonderfully well-rounded. And, as is true for Ann Arbor, its personality features contributions from caring sources from around the world—in this case, coffee beans Brazil, Guatemala, and Tanzania. The base is the Daterra espresso blend we get from the Pascoal family in Brazil. To that we’re adding coffee from a wonderful “crop to cup” lot we took possession of last month from Tanzania. And the whole thing is rounded out with some of that great Guatemala Esperanza (read more here…scroll down).

The result is a seriously tasty cup of coffee with a clean base of chocolate and caramel. It’s kind of cocoa-y, a bit nutty, remarkably smooth, and complex in a way that hints at dark plums. I’ve tried the Tree Town blend in all the brew methods at the Coffee Company and all have been pretty terrific. The Clever brewing was my favorite, but test them out and see what you like. You can drink a lot of it. As Steve says, “It’s not overpowering, and you could sip it long and slow all day. I love it.”

The Tree Town Blend is available at the Coffee Company on Plaza Drive, at the Deli, and at the Roadhouse (come sit outside at any or all of them and sip away)! Or ship some of this very special coffee to anyone who would appreciate a little taste of Ann Arbor!


Excerpt from Ari’s weekly Top 5 E-Newsletter. To stay in-the-know about things that Ari is excited about in the Zingerman’s family, sign up here

Crafting Coffee, Curbing Covid: Checking in with Barista Becca

We’re in “these times” together, but our experiences are unique and personal.
In this new series, we’ll be checking in with the friendly folks who bring your favorite joe to life – the Zingerman’s Coffee Co. team – to see what the “new normal” means for them.

Name: Becca
Years at Zingerman’s Coffee Company: 3
Role: Barista


Q: You are our global traveler who’s usually jetting off across the world. How are you dealing right now? 

A: Handling wanderlust in the age of Covid is a challenge I have no choice but to accept. In these times, I feel grateful for all of the traveling I have pursued thus far. While I long to give my freshly-renewed passport some well-deserved love, I have been exploring the Great Lakes State instead. I visited the Warren Sand Dunes for the first time recently, and will visit Sleeping Bear Dunes soon.

Something that I have always loved about this country is how multicultural it is. By recommendation of a fellow ZCoBer, I recently visited ZZ’s Market on Packard in search of tahini. They were out, but every person in there had a different accent, and one man suggested Aladdin’s Market, just past the light. I thanked him and made my way over. The owner of Aladdin’s helped me with my hummus recipe and gave me a sample of his product, saying ‘try to make yours taste like this’. Needless to say, my first batch of hummus turned out pretty tasty.

Q: I have to ask!: Have you been to any of the coffee-growing countries?

A: Yes! I took a vacation to Panamá, and happened to make the acquaintance of a coffee producer there who invited my friends and I to his farm. He gave us a demo on how to pick beans, explained how different woods burn at different temperatures and which are good for roasting, and of course let us taste some coffee! I ran over to my friends saying how naturally sweet the coffee was. They were in disbelief until they tried it themselves.

Q: Back home here at Coffee, what’s your favorite bean/brew method combo?

A: My favorite brew method we carry is the press pot;  I like my coffee less filtered. It pairs great with the new Peru. I will say I miss every Mexican coffee we’ve sourced and would love to see a comeback.


Comparative Cupping

Sample coffees from Africa, Central and South Americas, and the Asian Pacific. We will taste and evaluate these coffees using the techniques and tools used by professional tasters. This is an eye-opening introduction of the world of coffee.

COFFEE CHAT with Hacienda Miramonte

Meet your coffee producer! Learn about the story behind Hacienda Miramonte, the farm from which we source our Costa Rican coffee! Viviana Gurdian from Hacienda Miramonte will lead a presentation about her family’s farm, the coffee that is grown there, and their unique approach as a coffee producer.

Seats are $10 and include hor dourves from the Zingerman’s Southside, as well as an informal tasting of coffee from Costa Rica.