Adda Coffee & Tea House, a Pittsburgh coffee chain, has abruptly closed all four of its locations in an apparent response to staff unionizing. The company posted on Instagram on Thursday evening that they were financially unable to continue. According to former employees and video evidence, this announcement came hours after informing Adda’s owner, Sukanta Nag, that they had unionized.
Originally, Adda opened its first location in Shadyside, catering to an upscale clientele. Most of Adda’s offerings were priced over five dollars with a tip. Its customers could be distinguished by their collection of premium credit cards at the cash register. However, Adda was a favorite among Google employees from Bakery Square and foreign exchange students going on dates, and sometimes both.
In recent years, Adda sought to become Pittsburgh’s premier coffee chain, expanding into Garfield, North Side, and Downtown. Each location boasted a clean aesthetic similar to an Apple store. Outside, their bluebird egg-colored logo and lights made them stand out in the city’s black and gold palette. While Adda’s coffee was good, it was the locations that truly carried the business.
Sukanta Nag claims the pandemic finally caught up with the business. Despite opening four locations, they stated, “Our monetary reserves are depleted, and we need to close our doors.”
Chris Gratsch, the former lead barista at Adda’s Shadyside location, and 30 coworkers had informed Nag of their unionization the night before. The Adda Workers’ Union believes the closure was a result of union-busting tactics.
Time periods in coffee culture, often referred to as waves, change. A shop like The Beehive, which stood on E. Carson Street, was the height of second-wave coffee in the 1990s, emphasizing atmosphere and hangout spaces. The third wave saw the popularity of pour-over shops in the Strip District, touting process over conversation. Currently, scholars believe we’re entering a fifth wave of coffee that focuses on quality and moral obligations.
Adda’s demise may partly be due to Pittsburgh’s changing tastes. Customers now want to know not just where their beans come from but also that their baristas are well taken care of. Coffee Tree Roasters unionized, much to the dismay of their owner. Starbucks employees have been trying to unionize for years. Crazy Mocha’s closures have led to their resurrection as Yinz Coffee shops.
This news signals one thing: We are entering a new wave of coffee in Pittsburgh. Get your Stanley tumblers ready.