It is seven a.m. in Columbus Ohio. I am walking through a gentrifying neighborhood towards my first cup of coffee of the day. My oldest son is still asleep a few blocks away. I am in town to visit him. A few days ago, I texted him because I envisioned this scenario. He prefers tea and I knew I would be up earlier than he would be . In response he told me there was a coffee place a few blocks away. I had lived in this very neighborhood when I was his age. It is “nicer” now. As the walk clears my mind, I wonder about how our lives take shape. Are we in charge of our lives at all? Are there clearly defined ends and beginnings? I don’t want to get too heavy before my first cup of coffee but when I walked these streets over two decades ago, I never dreamed I would have a son, let alone three other (now) adult children.
In the spirit of beginnings, journeys and paths I am starting a random but regular series of posts focused on my visits to coffee establishments of all kinds. The title of this series is “Searching for The 3 Grove Cafe”( on hold for now, obviously). The address is that of the house where I grew up. Within the title is the hope of discovering a place so perfect it doesn’t exist. It carries the hope I can find childhood again. The hope of a carefree summer day in the old neighborhood running from green lawn to green lawn with childhood friends who, in my mind and with me, stay forever young. Where was I? Oh, yea. Beginnings. Why not make the first post about the coffee place that started my lifelong romance with great coffee. That would be Sta- no, no, no…Not them!...Stauf’s, right here in Columbus, Ohio.
The doors opened for me and the less important general public at seven a.m. By this time, the two baristas have spent at least a half an hour prepping Cup o’ Joe https://www.cupojoe.com/ for the long Saturday ahead. This reminds me that a person currently reading Tripio, and there are a few out there, told me earlier this week that she was amazed at how much went into getting a coffee shop opened. In the case of Tripio, it would have been a Starbucks in Lincoln Park in Chicago in 1992. The coffee doesn’t’ brew itself. The espresso bar does not prime and test itself. The pastries don’t deliver themselves. Now is the time I stop rambling and give you what you are reading this post for: a bit of my accumulated wisdom from over a quarter century of this coffee thing -my heritage barista’s look inside the bean.
At Cup o’ Joe on this Saturday morning the opening work had mostly all been done. I had chosen my drip of the day which was a wonderfully berry like Ethiopian Yerg. As I waited for it to cool a bit, I watched one barista water the plants and say his hello’s to the Saturday regulars. One of them requested the fireplace to be turned on. It was cold this morning. Once the fireplace was on, he assumed a seat, feet facing it, and opened his book. In fact there were as many books as laptops in attendance as the day started. I forgave the book readers for not having selected Tripio, and read the local coffee house periodicals. Here, I find the most interesting events and places. Nearly all coffee houses have a selection of these locally produced papers and they can’t be beat for obtaining the “feel” of a certain city, or if that city is large enough, a certain neighborhood. Of course, it worked. I found an article in one of the mags on a coffee house not too far away called Cafe Kerouac. Hell yes. I would go there later. A wonderful memory hit me. I had given my ancient copy of On the Road to my oldest son many years ago. The same son I was now visiting. So fitting. So many paths. I felt great about my life then and there at Cup o’ Joe, whose coffees are roasted by Staufs, where my own coffee journey began before my son was starting his journey in this world.
Damn, started rambling again. Too much caffeine maybe. Back to how much more I know about coffee than you. My heritage barista’s look inside the bean is: Next time you get to a coffee house as it opens, appreciate that the barista or baristas have already been there working for some time to get your coffee ready. Remember also that these baristas have to make a coffee drink for themselves. So, if the shop isn’t completely ready when you step in, be patient. After all, if the baristas aren’t drinking the coffee they serve then you may want to head somewhere else.
“ May I help who’s next”