East Bay Food Trucks Get Caffeine Boost

Mobile vendors are using revamped ice cream trucks to bring freshly brewed iced coffees, teas, and shakes to the streets of Oakland and Berkeley this summer.

In 2013, Karina Vlastnik and Molly Gaylord spent two months living out of a Mazda campervan in New Zealand. The two women — who met at art school in San Francisco and are now roommates in Oakland — immediately suffered from caffeine withdrawal when they began traveling overseas. “It was hard to make or find coffee,” said Vlastnik. “So we started making tea and we got super into it. Soon, our whole trip revolved around where we were going to get tea.”

Their obsession with tea soon grew into more than just a hobby. Today, they run a pop-up business called Steep Tea Co (SteepTeaCo.com), making organic tea blends out of their West Oakland home and selling loose leaf teas and freshly brewed drinks throughout the East Bay. The tea company is one of a growing number of mobile vendors dedicated to bringing coffees and teas to street corners, festivals, and other events across the Bay Area.

Vlastnik and Gaylord recently bought a 1967 Jeep — a former postal truck that they said was also once used as an ice cream truck — which they are now converting into the “Steep Jeep.” This year, they plan to launch a full-fledged food truck-style operation out of the vehicle, allowing them to expand Steep Tea Co beyond their current pop-up business. “There’s always coffee everywhere, but you often can’t find tea,” said Gaylord. “We want to fill that gap.”

In the meantime, customers can find their teas — including popular summer drinks, such as iced hibiscus ginger tea and iced tropical green tea — at local events and in several Oakland locations (including Coloso Coffee at 1715 Webster St. and Kilovolt Coffee at 1829 Mandela Parkway).

Several other East Bay drink trucks have proven in recent years that there is a demand for mobile coffee and tea in the Bay Area and beyond. The longest running truck, Drip! Mobile Espresso and Coffee (DripMobileEspresso.com), has been serving high-quality coffees and espresso beverages since 2006. Owner Michael Breden, based in Oakland, brings his yellow truck to a number of regular local events — including the Jack of All Trades Market (Jack London Square on second Saturdays) and the Alameda Point Antiques Faire (2900 Navy Way, Alameda on first Sundays) — and to festivals and private events throughout the West Coast.

Breden said he initially considered launching a brick-and-mortar business, but ultimately decided on a mobile operation that would allow him to bring his drinks to places at which there was a need for coffee. “I had a lot of wanderlust — I liked moving around a lot,” he said. Breden’s most popular summer drink is his iced coffee, which he brews for 24 hours before serving. He also serves a frappe — a blended and creamy iced coffee with mocha or vanilla — and a Numi iced tea made with real fruits.

Beulah’s Bean Truck (Bit.ly/BeulahsBeanTruck), an Oakland-based coffee vendor founded in 2012, parks outside Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (350 Hawthorne Ave., Oakland) on weekdays and does a wide range of events on the weekends. Candace Workman, who runs the truck with her partner Vincent Fernandez (Beulah is their dog’s name), said their $3 Italian sodas made from seasonal fruits are great summertime beverages.

Workman said they decided to sell coffee out of a truck — in this case, a former newspaper delivery vehicle that was later converted into an ice cream truck — after realizing how hard it was to find coffee at farmers’ markets and other events with mobile food vendors.

Get Goes Mobile Cafe (Bit.ly/GetGoesMobileCafe), another Oakland-based mobile coffee business, operates just like an ice cream truck — driving around neighborhoods where caffeine-starved residents can hail down the vehicle in person or order a drink via text message or a phone call (510-910-4820). “Who wouldn’t want a morning cup of coffee delivered to them?” said Zeva Williams, who runs the truck with her husband, Jeff. Get Goes Mobile is also stationed at the Alameda Main Street Ferry Terminal (2990 Main St., Alameda) on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings.

The company sells a wide range of iced drinks, including six-dollar shakes — espresso, mocha, or jasmine tea — which offer customers rich ice cream blends that make for great summer indulgences. Customers, Zeva said, have dubbed them “crack shakes.”

Beyond the special treat that the shakes provide, Zeva said they are dedicated to making people’s morning routines a bit easier: “It saves everyone from having to come park in front of Starbucks.”

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