Milwaukee is certainly a beer drinkin' town by night, but by day, coffee acts as fuel. The city's home to three coffee roasters -- Alterra, Stone Creek and the Anodyne -- and all shapes and sizes of coffeehouse and coffee drinker. Coffeehouses serve as the centers for conversations and interacting over steaming mugs of coffee.
Well, the Internet also serves a similar purpose. Local coffee drinker Mike Miller melded his love for coffee and the Internet into one with this blog, Milwaukee Specialty Coffee , as well as a MySpace and a Livejournal community.
"The blog's mission is to turn drinking coffee into a social activity, like drinking at a bar," Miller says. "People don't just start talking in coffeehouses yet, so I wanted to start the conversation online. I started it as a blog because I'm not technically skilled and it was easy to do."
Miller says forums and blogs, such as Jim Romenesko's "Starbucks Gossip," inspired him.
"That discussion seemed to be getting too technical and specific to Starbucks drinks, I wanted to do something more general," he says. "I hope there will be a two-way discussion between the stores and their customers. Some of the smaller places should take a page from Broad Vocabulary (a Bay View feminist bookstore) and invite that level of participation."
In his first post, Miller said: "This blog is intended to provide information and discussion about the specialty coffee scene in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Plans call for corporate chain and independent coffee business representatives to be able to post specials and other news."
Currently, Miller says that most storeowners are taking a "wait and see" approach to see how many visitors the blog will get before getting involved.
Before anyone accuses him of being in cahoots with Milwaukee's coffee business, Miller says he's only previously worked part-time in cafes.
"I'm just a layperson... I work as a translator from German to English -- a desk job that is fueled by lots of coffee," he says.
He's also a free-range coffee drinker since he's not tied down to any specific Milwaukee coffeehouse.
"Honestly, I'm very promiscuous in this regard. It's a mood thing. I wouldn't want the employees to get sick of me."
The Milwaukee Specialty Coffee blog will hopefully open another avenue for people to socialize versus only being able to meet other people smoky bars.
"Milwaukee is a drinkin' town. I'm single, but don't really drink. I've heard from other singles -- especially thirtysomethings -- that there need to be other options to the bar scene," Miller says. "We need a coffeehouse like on 'Friends' or 'Frasier.' If they build it, we will come."
This need for something new Miller perceives acts as another reason why the coffee business may seem like it's booming, but it's struggling.
"Even Starbucks' stock is falling, so the old model of just copying Starbucks won't work anymore," he says. "I don't presume to give out business advice, but I'd love to do something constructive and helpful. The bar is set much higher in the coffee industry just to survive."
Miller says, as far as his blog goes, the options are open. "Having no idea what will happen is what I like most about this."
Originally from Des Plaines, Ill., Heather moved to Milwaukee to earn a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University. With a tongue-twisting last name like Leszczewicz, it's best to go into a career where people don't need to say your name often.
However, she's still sticking to some of her Illinoisan ways (she won't reform when it comes to things like pop, water fountain or ATM), though she's grown to enjoy her time in the Brew City.
Although her journalism career is still budding, Heather has had the chance for some once-in-a-lifetime interviews with celebrities like actor Vince Vaughn and actress Charlize Theron, director Cameron Crowe and singers Ben Kweller and Isaac Hanson of '90s brother boy band Hanson.
Heather's a self-proclaimed workaholic but loves her entertainment. She's a real television and movie fanatic, book nerd, music junkie, coffee addict and pop culture aficionado.