Coffeehouses ban smoking / Coffeehouses ban the house

The London Coffee House - grounded in 1754 / Philadelphia, PA / Foto: public domain
The London Coffee House – grounded in 1754 / Philadelphia, PA / Foto: public domain

On an intercontinental level, for the past five-hundred years, the cultural centre of humankind has been the coffeehouse.

16th Century – The first coffeehouses began operation in Mecca and Constantinople.

17th Century – This new social model built on popularity in cities like Venice, London, Amsterdam, Boston, Paris, New York, Hamburg and Vienna.

18th Century – Reaffirming their importance in several cities and spreading to new ones, Philadelphia, Prague and Berlin got their own.

19th Century – It became self-evident that this was the best social frame for the world to gather, as even more spread further into all continents.

20th Century – During the first decades one of the most important coffeehouse cultures of the world was flourishing in Vienna and its vicinity. However, towards the middle of the century, the dynamic had subsided. I am not aware of any coffeehouses that opened after the Second World War. This is the time where coffee became the motor for a much faster and disconnected society than for those where the coffeehouse had served as a homogeneous, multi-cultural and multi-class nucleus. At this point the coffee shop model became commercialized and spread rapidly throughout the world.

As we evolve in various areas of our society, the functionality of the coffeehouse has kept its main attraction – Coffee. One needs not wonder. But, while our understanding and appreciation for coffee has increased immensely in the past thirty years, our understanding and attention for our social and intellectual needs have diminished. Today the coffeehouse is not so much competing with other coffee spots, but with the changes in our society and their difficulties finding a model Continue reading “Coffeehouses ban smoking / Coffeehouses ban the house”

Letting Coffee Smoke since 1948

Ichiro Sekiguchi started his Kissaten (coffeehouse) in 1948. Ever since he has been roasting everyday – except Sundays. In May of 2014 he turned one-hundred years of age.

This is dedication. This is experience. Determination. Clarity. Longevity. True sharing.

Café de L'Ambre, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan / Leica D-Lux 4
Café de L’Ambre, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan / Leica D-Lux 4
Café de L'Ambre, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan / Leica D-Lux 4
Café de L’Ambre, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan / Leica D-Lux 4

 

A Coffee Sunday / Blue Bottle Coffee, Chelsea, New York / July 21st2012

Today will be a Coffee Sunday.
I am on my way to the Siphon Coffee Bar in the Chelsea branch of the Blue Bottle Coffee Company.

The following awaits me:

Chelsea Menu
Siphon Bar, July 2012

Siphon
Abakundakawa C.O.E. (Rwanda) 7.75
hibiscus, honeydew melon

Fazenda Santa Inez (Brazil) 7.75
hazelnuts, dried figs, tangerine

Amaro Gayo Washed (Ethiopia) 7.50
Blackberry, nutmeg, dark chocolate

Nel
Amaro Gayo Washed (Ethiopia) 6.75

Brioche Toast
Served with American Spoon Black Raspberry Jam and Vermont Creamery Butter 6

Mini-cookie sampler 3.5

Pastries
A full selection of pastries from our espresso bar is available, including cookies, parfait, and granola.

Teas
Yunnan Gold (Dian Jin) 4.5
Jade Oolong 4.5
White Silver Needles 5

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Siphon, Lights, Coffee!

Yesterday my day ended much better than it had started, but it had started magnificent.

The ingenuity and high end design from Japan impressed me once more with this Siphon machine for infusing (and/or brewing) coffee. A coffee made with 16 – 18 gm of coffee and 250ml of water give a different experience in the world of drinking coffee.

A full report on this and a Cascara (Quishr) experience will be published here very soon.

Coffee: Amaro Gayo Washed (Ethiopia)
Locality: Blue Bottle Coffee, Chelsea, New York
Date: June 24th 2012
Barista: Grace

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India Coffee House / An Article by Isabel Putinja

After having obtained joy from this find, I wish to share it with the Coffee Dramatist readers and with that, most surely multiply my joy.

Isabel Putinja spends much of her time writing about her culture and her surroundings. A couple of her articles address a special Coffeehouse concept found in India. These Coffeehouses serve not only a coffee with a demanding approach based on tradition, but they are owned and operated by coffee worker co-operatives. Even for many of us, who perhaps will never visit these parts of the world, it is inspiring to see how throughout the planet the coffee industry is not only contributing to the economy, but also to the culture behind and around it. Most of all it is satisfying that also on the political level much progress is being achieved.

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Coffee House Waiter/Server

Like the Calcutta Coffee House, Bangalore’s own India Coffee House on MG Road is one of the city’s historical landmarks. It’s part of a nation-wide chain of coffee houses run by the Indian Coffee Workers Co-Operative Society of which the Bangalore chapter was established in 1957.

The India Coffee House, ran by a Coffee Workers Co-operative Society (Street View)

As part of my personal protest against coffee chains like Café Coffee Day and Barista, which remind me too much of very similar chains in other parts of the world, I try to frequent independent cafés which usually also happen to have more character and ambiance. The India Coffee House definitely has lots of both and stepping through its door is like stepping into the Bangalore everyone reminisces about. Though I have visited it several times since I’ve been here, I haven’t gone as often as I would have liked to. If I had known that it wasn’t going to be around forever, I definitely would have visited much more often. Now that there’s news of its imminent closure, I’m truly sad that this Bangalore landmark will soon disappear into dust and probably make way for one of those horrible glass structures which are slowly taking over the city’s landscape. The face of MG Road is also changing at a fast pace… in the past few months many old buildings have been torn down and trees have been chopped down to make way for the metro which will permanently scar this major artery.

I was at the India Coffee House not too long ago… on a Sunday morning in December. The downstairs section was full as it often is, so we headed upstairs via the narrow outdoor passage and stone staircase. From the front window I had a good view of MG Road which is almost treeless now. There was only the trunk remaining of one of the huge trees and a worker was busy sawing its last remaining branch… A sad sight.

Inside the café, patrons were busy having breakfasts of omelettes and dosas. The waiters serving them were dressed in their trademark India Coffee House turbans and uniforms, elegant but completely filthy. I sipped at my coffee and nibbled at my dosa and remembered that I don’t like their coffee or their dosas – you can get better South Indian filter coffee and crispier dosas at any of the city’s many sagars and darshinis! OK, so the coffee actually isn’t great, the café is more than a bit shabby and the toilets are definitely a no-go area, but all these things do not matter. These are just minor minus-points which I’m willing to easily overlook because I don’t go to the India Coffee House for the coffee. I go for that old-world ambiance and to get a feeling of how Bangalore once was, in a place that probably hasn’t changed for the past 50 years.

The Coffeehouse Guests

There are reports that the lease has now expired and the café will be either renovated or demolished by the owner of the property. It may move to another location if a suitable one is found, but of course the original atmosphere and setting will be difficult to recreate. The India Coffee House will close its doors at the end of the month. I think many of Bangalore’s inhabitants and visitors will mourn the loss of this favourite haunt.

Also in India a Mirror is welcomed in a Coffeehouse for some extra elegance

Photos: India Coffee House.

* Reblogged with kind permission of Isabel Putinja and originally published in her blog India Outside My Window *

 

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Coffeehouses – and Priests and Doctors: to Serve or to Service

We all know servants. It is not alone the rich family, or the top politician, or the Royals in Europe and elsewhere, not only those who have butlers are familiar with the importance and dedication of a servant, for not only butlers are servants. We all know priests or pastors, doctors and restaurants that serve.

There are plenty of theologians that feel they have been chosen, called, set apart by a power higher than the one bestowed upon them through credentials given by universities to exercise a right to preach, marry and counsel. There are plenty of medicine practitioners who just the same feel chosen, called upon by the voice of humanity to assist individuals as well as masses in their need to find health, be it through medicine, counsel or warm hands, hearts and eyes. They provide more and deeper healing than years of academic studies, testing and conferences could ever teach, on their way towards obtaining the tittle of a Medical Doctor.

Plenty of localities prepare food for strangers. Nevertheless, there are only some in which those strangers feel instantly blessed, at home and enchanted by the food and the way it is cooked, given and presented. Priests, Internists or Cooks, they could all live in the hearted and minded convictions that they are servants to humanity, here to serve and not just exercising a profession, not just servicing to wants and needs for monetary or any other types of rewards. Those who feel an honest and modest calling have a more transcendental, spiritual and responsible approach and thus give their undivided attention to what the soul of the recipient wants and needs.

A New York classic designed by Leslie Buck. This ‘Anthora’ coffee cup has been a coffee symbol in New York since its introduction in the 1960s.

I have seen many serve, I have seen many service. Those doing service often fail to see how they mistreat, insult and at times simply oversee the individual on the receiving end. They live not by the existential desire to contribute to the energy flow in all, but rather abide by their right to obtain their salary and regularly find the need to express a few sentences and phrases to display their servicing roles and clearly pronounced realm of duties.

“That’s not my job”
“That’s our policy”
“That’s not my problem.”

(Notice the ‘that‘ putting a distance between subject and job/duty.)

There are several ways of us knowing if we are either serving or servicing those who come to us with material, mental, physical or many other needs. If we wish to have our customers feel welcomed, feel that we appreciate their financial support to our business, but also that we appreciate them as beings and foremost that we want their well-being, we will only invite our guests to dwell in spaces that provide the proper setting for dwelling. Even when many just pass by in our contemporary to-go society, those seconds or fractions of seconds ought to be heavenly ones.

Do you service a King? Do you serve a car? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I observe that we often do not know what it means to serve, even in simple, as well as professional positions that require precisely the attention of a one who serves.

The simplest transactions of depositing checks or retrieving cash at a Bank, requires that a window at the entrance does not insult the customer with the view of spilled coffee that has not been cleaned for days and makes it look more like an abandoned coffee station than a bank entrance.

First view: June 13th, 2012
Two days later (6.15.2012) a bottle of water and more paper had been added.
Tree days later the cup and the water bottle have been removed. The coffee spill and paper soaked with coffee are still there.
Four days later some of the coffee soaked paper has been removed.
Six days later is the coffee spill still there, plus some paper rubbish has been added.

Please Notice that the following is NOT an Art Installation, but an eating locality. I have been walking by for more than 9 months and their chairs are still wrapped in the protective plastic they came with.

Chairs that have been in their wrapping for at least 9 months, while each day customers come in and are serviced sitting on them

A highly relevant point in any industry is the use of proper utensils. This is also applicable in the gastronomy. Otherwise the impression might arise that the sole goal of the business is to make money, while the customer is of no importance at all. Even of higher importance is to know about the products being sold in any particular locality, long before starting to serve or even service customers. In the same restaurant where I photographed the following cup with the wrong saucer, I asked for a cortado, just as it stays in their menu. The lady asked me if that was a juice, although it is an espresso with very little milk and a bit of froth.

An Espresso served in the proper demitasse, but the cup placed on a dessert plate, instead of being placed on the proper matching saucer.
Dessert plate, instead of espresso saucer.
Plastic flatware will destroy the pleasure on any food.

If individuals do not have the capability to understand the difference between ‘to serve‘ and ‘to service‘, then it is clearly the responsibility of the management to know it and implement the difference clearly. Employee, employer and customer, all will profit from such clarity.

Coffee Dramatist deals obviously with coffee, but coffee is used as the main example with which to transport the ideas we see as most effective and uplifting within a holistic approach to life. As a result the core of this thoughts is not coffee, but serving. The core is that we need and deserve to be served and should only serve. There is as much need for plain service and bad service in our coffee houses, as there is a need for servicing and abusive priests and doctors.