Drinking on airplanes—that is, what you drink and how much—is a surprisingly polarizing subject. Some feel that tomato juice has no place on a plane, while others happily suck down Bloody Marys on board. Similarly, caffeine fiends can't imagine a flight without at least one cup of joe, while purists would never touch the thin, brown, vaguely coffee-scented liquid poured at 35,000 feet. (They’re not just being difficult either. Taste buds are dulled at high elevation, and in-cabin water quality may not be ideal.)
To satisfy travelers with a taste for adventure and single-origin espresso, airlines have stepped up their coffee game. Several domestic carriers source beans from Rainforest Alliance purveyors and local, beloved hometown labels, and analyze the best way to brew in different environments. Here, five airline-coffee collaborations guaranteed to keep you flying high.
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① JetBlue Mint: Brooklyn Roasting Company
New York City’s JetBlue brews cappuccino and espresso from Brooklyn Roasting Company on Mint, its premium service currently flying between four U.S. and five Caribbean cities. A renowned label with 7 cafés in New York City, Brooklyn Roasting Company sources organic, fair trade, kosher and Rainforest Alliance-certified beans from such global destinations as Indonesia, Ethiopia, and South and Central America, and roasts them in its Brooklyn facility.
Photo: Courtesy of JetBlue
② Southwest Airlines: Community Coffee
For every pound of Community Signature Blend coffee served on a Southwest flight, the two companies make a donation to the ECOM Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds education for the families of farmers who grow arabica beans in Mexico. Nearly a century old, Community Coffee originated in Louisiana, and is the largest family-owned and -operated label in America.
③ Virgin America: Philz Coffee
In the spirit of drinking local, San Francisco-based Virgin America now offers Bay Area label Philz Coffee on board all its flights. The brew of choice: Tesora, a blend founder Phil Jaber himself created and refers to as his "first true love." Started as a family-run stall in the city’s Mission District nearly 15 years ago, Philz is a locally revered drip specialist with major expansion plans.
④ Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Paradise Coffee
Hawaii may be associated with macadamia nuts and tropical fruit, but there’s no shortage of good coffee on the islands—and, fortunately, it’s now up in the air, too. Hawaiian Airlines serves Hawaiian Paradise coffee, a 17-year-old craft label also preferred by the islands' Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua, JW Marriott and Halekulani, on all domestic and international flights. Taste of the Pacific is the carrier’s signature on-board blend and is made from locally roasted arabica beans.
⑤ United Airlines: illy
This summer, United announced a partnership with Italian label illy. The collaboration is the result of months of testing brews and blends until the carrier found the bean that worked best from 35,000 feet. If that sounds like serious business, it is: United serves 72 million cups of coffee in-flight each year. Look for illy in all cabins on flights worldwide.
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