Ethiopian, Kenyan, or Columbian. Pour over, French press, cold brew, or drip. Almond milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half. Served with sugar or just plain black. People are particular when it comes to coffee. And yes, the mug matters, which is why the team at East Fork, the Asheville, North Carolina–based ceramics company founded by Connie and Alex Mattisse, has spent the last seven years carefully tweaking and re-tweaking the look and feel of “The Mug.” “We wanted to make a mug that appealed to people with all different styles,” Connie says. “Humble but confident.” No crazy colors or funky handle shapes here.
The resulting coffee mug is one you and your grandmother would want to use every single day—the kind of cup you’ll pluck out of the dishwasher and hand scrub even though there are a dozen different clean ones lined up in the kitchen cupboard. Dishwasher and microwave safe, the sturdy mugs hold ten ounces of coffee with plenty of room for cream or twelve ounces of liquid when full. They’re also denser and slightly thicker than your average mug, and the stoneware not only feels great in your hand, but it holds heat longer—think of it as the all-natural answer to the Yeti cup.
The trick is getting your hands on one. Even with two storefronts in Asheville and Atlanta as well as a robust online shop, these mugs go fast. Just ask one of East Fork’s 114,000 Instagram followers, who check-in regularly for production updates. Made of iron-rich regional red clay, the popular mugs were originally thrown one at a time on the wheel. Individual handles were pulled and then attached by hand. As the mug developed a cult-like following, “We just couldn’t keep up with demand,” Connie admits.
To satisfy their insatiable customer base, Connie, Alex, and company (a past finalist for Garden & Gun’s Made in the South Awards) devoted two years to research, working diligently and deliberately to develop a process that would allow their team to use a jigger and RAM press to facilitate faster turnaround, meaning more mugs in more hands—all without sacrificing quality or character. Despite introducing a few simple machines to the production process, a total of nine craftsman still touch each mug on its way to your breakfast table, trimming, smoothing, and polishing the clay body before attaching handles and glazing, wiping each lip with a sponge to create that signature raw clay rim.
In March 2019, when Alex and Connie finally re-released the company’s iconic mug, the entire inventory sold out in a matter of hours. The mugs come in three year-round glazes: soapstone, morel, and eggshell. East Fork releases seasonal glazes twice a year. “But if the glaze room creates something we really like, we might do another small run,” Connie says, such as the recent plum collection, which, you guessed it, is already gone. East Fork releases around five hundred new mugs a week, and they are still sold out more days than not. “In January and February, we were sold out seventy-five percent of the time,” Connie says. If you’re not on Instagram to receive real time updates, you can email [email protected] with the color and quantity you’d like, and they’ll add you to the waitlist.