A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee
An Ipswich couple turns their Seattle passion into a new life on the North Shore
A specialty roaster and café nestled in Ipswich is elevating coffee culture on the North Shore. Co-owned by Chris Gatti and Melissa Bartz, a couple in their late twenties, Little Wolf Coffee opened its doors in 2016 and has been sharing their love of coffee with guests ever since.
The couple’s passion for coffee first started brewing when they were living in Seattle, where Bartz was working for Amazon.
“We just fell in love with coffee,” Bartz shares, as they began exploring different cafés more frequently with their Siberian husky named River (who you’ll notice is the shop’s logo). But what started out as a leisurely after-work activity quickly became a hobby at home. In addition to brewing coffee and learning about espresso, Gatti soon started roasting in their kitchen at home using a Quest M3 roaster. The couple began sharing coffee with with family and friends, and things grew from there.
“We wanted to share it with more people,” Bartz explains, “and build our own community around coffee.” Eventually, the dream of opening up their own place started to become a reality back here in New England.
After growing up in Ridgefield, a small town in western Connecticut where local businesses felt more like family, Bartz wanted the same feel for the café.
“That feeling was really special to me, and we wanted to find somewhere where could have that same kind of inclusiveness,” she says. The couple knew they wanted to be outside the big city, so they started scouting locations on the North Shore. Known for its growing residential community and seasonal tourism industry, Ipswich spoke to them.
In addition to the ideal location, Bartz and Gatti wanted to create a unique brand. They worked closely with Perky Bros, a Nashville-based branding and design studio, to help bring to life their vision of a playful, yet informative packaging and identity. “River was really there from the start,” Bartz explains, “we would walk her to go get coffee all the time.” Nicknamed ‘The Little Wolf,’ she was the perfect mascot for their business.
Monday through Saturday guests can enjoy a variety of coffee and espresso offerings made from fresh crop that’s roasted on site. “Generally we have five to seven different coffees available, such as Duber Herrera from Peru and Libardo Paya from Columbia, which we roast every Monday and Wednesday,” Bartz explains. “All of the coffee on the shelf is fresh, all of the coffee we use here is our own, and we rotate our coffee and espresso options every few days.” All of the syrups for the flavored beverages are also made in house.
Bags of roasted coffee are available for wholesale ranging from $10–13 online and in the shop, which they’ll grind for you if you don’t have a grinder at home. According to Gatti, the biggest thing you can do to improve the quality of your coffee is to buy a decent coffee grinder. “This way you have control over how you want it to taste. We recommend Baratza grinders. The quality is great and they are built to last.”
If you haven’t already caught on, the owners are extremely dedicated to sourcing the highest quality coffee for their customers. That’s why they work closely with three to four small importers such as Collaborative Coffee Source, Red Fox, Tusa, and Shared Source, who have relationships with farmers in South America and Africa. Gatti and Bartz are constantly sampling new coffees to see what be a good fit for the cafés’ flavor profile lineup.
“My favorite drink is probably a tie between a cappuccino and hot chocolate,” Bartz shares. “We use a really delicious bean-to-bar chocolate from Potomac Chocolate and add homemade vanilla syrup in our hot chocolate. If I could drink it all day I would.” She continues, “Chris’ favorite drink is drip black coffee, however, he enjoys a cappuccino from time to time.”
Even if you haven’t been to the café, there’s a chance you might have tasted their coffee. Little Wolf wholesales to a variety of other cafés and restaurants, both locally and nationally, including Jetties Bagels in Ipswich and Joppa Fine Foods in Newburyport.
Since pastries and coffee go hand in hand, the coffee house has a small selection of baked goods on hand from Sandpiper Bakery in Gloucester and gluten free offerings from Kim Gregory of Pure Pastry in Beverly.
In addition to servicing their main location, the cafe’s bar is mobile which allows Gatti and Bartz to easily do pop-up events with Ipswich Ale, New England BioLabs, Gordon College, as well as events like Art in the Barn.
When asked what’s their definition of a “good” cup of coffee, Gatti replies, “We truly believe that [good coffee] is whatever you want it to be. We just want it to be enjoyed.”
The couple does have dreams of opening up another location in the future, but for right now they are focused on growing their wholesale business and being available in more cafés and restaurants. They also plan to add more seating so their customers can sit outside and sip on their favorite cup of Joe.