- There is a Starbucks on every major street corner (not to mention a Dunkin Donuts, Lenny’s, sandwich deli, and one or two hole-in-the-wall coffee shops in between each crowded Starbucks).
- New York is the “city that never sleeps.” Coffee is partially to blame.
- No one works a real “9-5” in New York…Coffee keeps the wheels turning long past your typical 40-hour week.
- Winters are freezing, coffee is warm. Summers are scorching, iced coffee is refreshing.
- The city has mastered the craft of coffee – the art of brewing and preparing signature drinks.
And don’t even get me started about being a college student in New York City. You might as well attach an IV of espresso to my arm as I stake my claim at the corner desk of the 4th floor of the library until the wee hours of the morning.
But coffee means more to New York, to it’s history. Coffee was an important factor that contributed to the cultural, political, and social growth of New York over over 200 years ago. In the mid-1600’s, coffee was brought to New Amsterdam, a location later called New York by the British. The early American settlers wanted to emulate the esteemed coffee houses of London which served as gathering places for political meetings, book and poetry readings, and other special events. Here is a citizen’s complaint issued in the New York Journal from October of 1775:
To the Inhabitants of New York:
It gives me concern, in this time of public difficulty and danger, to find we have in this city no place of daily general meeting, where we might hear and communicate intelligence from every quarter and freely confer with one another on every matter that concerns us. Such a place of general meeting is of very great advantage in many respects, especially at such a time as this, besides the satisfaction it affords and the sociable disposition it has a tendency to keep up among us, which was never more wanted than at this time. To answer all these and many other good and useful purposes, coffee houses have been universally deemed the most convenient places of resort, because, at a small expense of time or money, persons wanted may be found and spoke with, appointments may be made, current news heard, and whatever it most concerns us to know. In all cities, therefore, and large towns that I have seen in the British dominions, sufficient encouragement has been given to support one or more coffee houses in a genteel manner. How comes it then that New York, the most central, and one of the largest and most prosperous cities in British America, cannot support one coffee house? It is a scandal to the city and its inhabitants to be destitute of such a convenience for want of due encouragement. A coffee house, indeed, there is, a very good and comfortable one, extremely well tended and accommodated, but it is frequented but by an inconsiderable number of people; and I have observed with surprise, that but a small part of those who do frequent it, contribute anything at all to the expense of it, but come in and go out without calling for or paying anything to the house. In all the coffee houses in London, it is customary for every one that comes in to call for at least a dish of coffee, or leave the value of one, which is but reasonable, because when the keepers of these houses have been at the expense of setting them up and providing all necessaries for the accommodation of company, every one that comes to receive the benefit of these conveniences ought to contribute something towards the expense of them.
A Friend to the City.
“Coffee houses” of the mid-18th century were typically two-stories high – the first floor had private booths and tables while the second floor was a more open, long room for business meetings and public assembly. The coffee houses often transformed into drinking taverns at night. Some of the most famous early coffee houses include the King’s Arms, the Exchange, the Merchant’s Coffee House (sometimes called “the Birthplace of our Union”, the Tontine, Whitehall, and Burns. During times of war, the coffee houses acted as resorts for army officers and as a civic forum for the general public.
But I digress…Why am I blogging about my caffeinated adventures in New York City? To me, coffee has become more than my morning “wake-me-up” cup. Coffee, ironically, helps me to slow down for a moment. The strong, rich smell of ground coffee beans reminds me of my mom’s habitual morning mug of Starbucks Dark Roast with a splash of 2% milk (just enough creaminess), microwaved for an extra 45 seconds to the perfect piping hot temperature. The bitter-y sweet flavor that I used to detest as a child but have grown to savor. The comforting feeling of my favorite “I [heart] NY” mug in hugged between my cupped hands.
I love everything about the experience, whether its ordering my signature Starbucks soy latte or trying out a timeless independent coffee house in the Village. I’ll drink coffee while I’m studying, catching the subway, waiting at a chorus audition, writing an essay, reading a book in Central Park, catching up with a few friends, or flipping through a a fashion magazine. Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, that simple cup of coffee centers me (and gives me a little boost, of course!).