Monday, July 20, 2009

Coffee and cups and place

Coffee always is better in a handmade cup. I know that, and I know that many of the people who read this blog know it, too. In fact, for many of us, our livelihood depends on other people enjoying their coffee or tea best when it's sipped from a handmade mug or teabowl. And especially when they know the potter.
Still, there are times when the coffee is the thing. Or, rather, the time spent with the coffee and a newspaper, a book, a friend, a mate. In that case, if there is no handmade cup available, something else will do.
I've been drinking coffee quietly, often alone, in many parts of the U.S. and the world for many years. I worked for more than 10 years for a news wire service in Washington, D.C., and I occasionally got out of town to do some reporting, almost always alone. The best part of those trips was sometimes the quiet hour when I sat down in a cafe with my notebook and a cup of coffee and filled pages with my impressions of the place, or of the people I had interviewed. Those notes would fuel the stories I wrote once I got back to my keyboard.
I remember sitting at the Uptown espresso bar in Seattle, near the office of a friend, and filling the notebook with words about a program run by passionate people who wanted to give Hispanic-American youth a chance at a better life. I sat at the far counter of a coffee-and-donut trailer early one morning at the West Virginia State Fair, cup of weak coffee at hand, and wrote about the passion of pie contest participants. And most mornings during the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, I woke myself with an espresso (called in Spanish "cafe solo") at a dark wood espresso bar near the main press center, served by a beautiful and entirely uncommunicative waitress named Meles. (Why do I remember her name?)
So the coffee has always been a part of travel for me, especially so in countries or cities where there is enough European influence to instill a cultural respect for good espresso. Seattle, where our son and daughter-in-law live, is the U.S. capital of coffee culture, so it should surprise no one that we've tracked down our favorite places to sit with good coffee and watch the city go by. Vivace, Uptown, Diva, Caffe Ladro are all good, and there are hundreds of others. Our "local" is Cloud City, a very funky cafe in north Seattle that was once a gas station. Friendly bleached, pierced and tattooed baristas, a variety of people from retirees to young parents with brand-new babies, everything in between. Laptops and newspapers and books. Cloud City reminds us of our favorite Falmouth coffee shop, Coffee Obsession. That is high praise. Coffee Obsession is the center of the community for a certain kind of Falmouth or Woods Hole resident.
So, all of this was an excuse to run a few coffee-related photos here on the blog. The top is an exquisitely artful caffe latte from Seattle's Vivace, across the street from REI's main store. Second is part of breakfast at Sunshine Baking Company and Cafe in Seattle. And at bottom, what's left of a cafe au lait at Top Pearl guesthouse in Charlotteville, Tobago.
Back to pottery news tomorrow.


FBF said...

Great post, Hollis. I was thinking about you today while at Coffee-O (in town). I ended up with a Mexican Cafe Mocha, but I had it iced (I had just run the road race route to see if I was kidding myself about the upcoming race).

Anyway, it was tasty, but I wished I had my favorite mug made by you.

I think I'll go brew a pot.

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, Barry. And good luck with the race. There will undoubtedly be several other people with you.

mengley said...

Damn, now I have to go to Cloud City for a cuppa. See what you've done?

Hollis Engley said...

I know. My writing has that kind of power. Without it, you'd never be drawn there.