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”

Japanese in New York

This is not a cup that deserves daily usage.

The moment in which it is used could be seen as a celebration.

Nothing I know about this tiny piece of composed porcelain tells me anything about ordinary life on an ordinary day with an ordinary coffee.

Demitasse from Café de L'ambre, Tokyo, Japón / Leica D-Lux 4
Demitasse from Café de L’ambre, Tokyo, Japón / Leica D-Lux 4

Today I had two coffees for breakfast

For years I have been eating avocado. Growing up with a Cuban Father and a Puerto Rican Mother that is very much a given. But just like music always invited me to experiment, so have foods and drinks tickle me in challenging directions. Avocado halves succumbed to my coffee universe many years ago, but experiences of the palate are even more abundantly available than the monetary wealth any of us might witness. And so, a couple of ingredients I have known for many years were composed in a new form today, accompanied by a spice totally new to me from Turkey: Urfa Biber – a type of chili pepper native to the Urfa region of Turkey. It is smoky, slightly sweet and of a milder spicyness. Here I suggest just filling the avocado cavity with two parts Pumpkin Seed Oil and one part Espresso Balsamic Vinegar.

Make sure you mind your palate.

Reading Spaces

I do not know if my basic reading system is framed by a talent, luck or wealth of experience, but dozens of times visiting cities for the first time, not having a clue as to where a good coffee might be located, I must rely on what I read through a window. Wherever and whenever I decided to enter, I was satisfied with their coffee offerings. Only once – just a few months ago – my choice to enter turned out to be a bad one. It was in Soho, New York, where I did not feel like walking to the next coffee spot I am familiar with, and spotted a new locality with a respectable coffee machine installed on a convincing spot. My nose told me to keep going, so I did. As I turned the corner, I chose to give it a chance and safe myself a walk and time, so I returned an entered. My cappuccino was served in the wrong cup – making it an unbalanced drink – and several other things did not make me happy.

A dissection of my system of analysis when trying to decide where and where not to enter, could be safely broken down into a short list of aspects that could be observed through the window of the establishment.  Namely, the interior architecture, the décor, even sometimes a glance at the baristi and staff, in general, an attentive viewing of the atmosphere.

91b3a314de3711e18e7522000a1e8a86_7Everything found in a space is filled with expressions about the intended mindset: the inclination to nature, to artificiality, towards fastness, dwelling, or mere practical effectiveness, etc. I must read signs of dedication with a purpose and a demanding attitude to quality somewhat clearly, in order to enter. If we care, we are attentive and if attentive, we see clear signs, at least enough to connect several dots properly.

I believe that seeing a framed print of a Norman Rockwell in a predominant space of a coffee shop or house will attract a certain crowd and make a certain statement about what the atmosphere and thus what the offered product might deliver. When I see plastic flowers and plants as decoration, I do not read dedication.

Zibetto is an Italian-style espresso bar I saw firstly on my regular visits to the former De La Concha Smoke Lounge (now Davidoff of Geneva) on New York’s Sixth Avenue. As we know from the traditional Italian style of earlier days, the menu is displayed on a black board with a textile surface, on which individual white letters could be slid into any desired position.

Right next to the  Nat Sherman Townhouse, where I have become a regular in the last few months, there is another Zibetto Espresso Bar. Towards the end of the long and narrow space, on the back wall there is a simple but expressive mural, designed and produced by Jonas Lundgren, a student at Parsons School of Design in New York.

A space should be a coherent picture. The quality of the product sold must be reflected on the decoration, furniture, face and fashion of the staff, even – when possible – in the architecture. Seeing a mural that suggests a high level of dedication and a fair amount of professionalism, invites me in and informs me greatly about what I could expect.

Mural by Jonas Lundgren / Zibetto, New York, NY / Leica D-Lux 4
Mural by Jonas Lundgren / Zibetto, New York, NY / Leica D-Lux 4

Years ago they were used as spoons

We keep developing as self-named civilized cultures, or due to accidents or new findings. And in the same way, what is fine and good becomes new perspectives.

Earlier was not fine behaviour to use a coffee spoon, but to drink out of the saucer. Yes. As strange as it might sound, that was fine etiquette in earlier days.

Blue Bottle, New York, NY / iPhone 4
Blue Bottle, New York, NY / iPhone 4