Jonathan Cunningham is more than a coffee drinker; he’s a student of the beverage.
Like a lot of people, Cunningham started consuming coffee in college to power through all-nighters, but his interest soon went beyond the caffeine rush.
“I started learning more about the process and went further and further into the culture of specialty coffee,” Cunningham says.
Now, along with his wife Kelsey, the cup of joe aficionado is sharing his passion with customers at Round Table Coffee Co. Located in the former Crazy Mocha space at 5830 Ellsworth Ave. in Shadyside, Round Table is open on weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The shop, which opened on Dec. 17, boasts a large, open area that’s bathed in natural light. There is seating for about 30 patrons. You can pull up a chair at a round two-top table or gather with friends at one of the long, banquet tables. The neutral colors and plants create a calming atmosphere that balances the caffeine buzz.
The Shaler couple serves drip coffee, tea, hot chocolate, espresso, cortados, cappuccinos, lattes and cold brew. All syrups are made in-house and there’s also a variety of pastries available from Gluten Free Goat and other local bakeries.
While they don’t offer on-site roasting, Jonathan Cunningham is constantly coming up with new drink recipes and experimenting on his home roasting equipment. Before the financial consultant upgraded to a Behmor 1600 Plus Customizable Drum Coffee Roaster, he used an old popcorn air popper to find different flavor profiles using green coffee beans from Honduras, Ethiopia and New Guinea.
“We want to serve beverages that we’re really proud of and we believe honor the traditions that go into producing a cup of coffee,” he says.
To take his hobby to a professional level, Cunningham teamed up with TJ Fairchild, founder of Commonplace Coffee, a Pittsburgh-based roaster that provides beans to Round Table. The industry veteran has taken the newcomer under his wing and has even assisted with staff training. With Fairchild’s help, the Cunninghams hope to open more Round Table locations throughout the city.
“That’s what gave us that little boost of encouragement to feel like we can do this — that it’s not an unattainable dream,” Jonathan Cunningham says. “TJ is so passionate about coffee and Pittsburgh and the relationships he’s formed here. He wants to see the culture and the businesses thrive. Before we opened, he mentioned to me that when you sit in a circle it’s easy to pull up another chair and expand that circle.”