Stream 1: Coffee
For my first assignment I decided to do the coffee stream. There’s something about coffee shops that allow me to relax, unwind, and read a good book. However, not all coffee shops can offer that experience. So, I traveled around Manhattan comparing different coffee shops.
The first coffee shop, or should I say tea shop, that I visited was Harney & Sons.
This place specializes in tea! I absolutely love tea! When I first walked in I was overwhelmed with the amount of tea they had for sale. There were shelves and shelves of tea! They also had tea pots, mugs, mug holders, books, and more! There was also a small café in the back of the shop. Because it was in the back of the shop, it felt like it was a little separated, which created a more private place to enjoy your cup of tea. The seating area was very dainty and seemed like a nice little place to relax. I could see myself coming back and ordering a nice cup of tea and getting lost in a good book. The floors were hardwood, the walls were lavender with wooden shelves, and strips of individual lights hung on the very high ceilings. It kind of reminded me of a studio where someone could be living.
The people there were very friendly and made me feel very welcome. If I had a question about anything they would be more than willing to answer my question or help me out. However, they were a little expensive. I found one can of tea that was $45.00 for two ounces. I personally think that is very expensive, but it must be some good tea!
If I were to compare this place to a bigger chain, I would say this place is a little more personal. Chain places are always busy and just want to get their customers through the line. This place, however, is willing to take their time to help you. One couple was at one of the counters asking a million questions about the teas they had for sale. The couple probably spent 10 minutes asking questions. The employee working with them did not mind at all and was happy to answer all of their questions.
The second coffee shop I visited was Think Coffee.
This place was very charming on the outside and I didn’t expect it to be so big on the inside. But, before you are completely inside, they have a sign that gives information on roasters and how Think Coffee is different. “Most roasters rely on importers and brokers to tell them where their coffee comes from. That means they have little or no direct contact with farmers. And for the coffee shops that rely on these roasters, the relationship between farm and cup is that much more distant. At Think Coffee, we go to the source ourselves and develop direct, personal relationships with all of the farmers represented in our blends. We, not our roasters or importers, see how farmers treat the land and their workers.” I believe this message is very true about chain coffee shops. I would imagine that major chain coffee shops do not take the time to get to know the farmers. This makes Think Coffee seem more personal and the customers feel that they know that their coffee is coming from a place that is well known.
Another way this coffee shop is different from a chain coffee shop is the fact that they have an option to have your drink “for here,” which means you can get it in a mug or cup! However, you can only get it in a medium. So, if you want a small you will have to get a “to go” cup instead. But if you want a medium and want to stay there and have a more personal experience, then the “for here” cup is the way to go! They also have a lot of seating which included some couches. Talk about feeling at home! Everyone had their laptops or iPads out with their “for here” cup of coffee. One way this coffee shop is the same as a chain coffee shop is the way they take your order. You get up to the counter, you say what you want, you pay, and then you go to a different standing area to wait for your drink with other customers. You better remember what you ordered and hope you didn’t order the same thing as someone else because they don’t write your name on the cup like a chain coffee shop, such as Starbucks, does.
One thing that surprised me about this particular coffee shop was their bar! When I think of a coffee shop I think of hardwood floors, small tables, and a variety of coffees and pastries. I don’t think of a bar. The bar was more to the back so I didn’t notice it at first. When I was there, no one was at the bar, but that may not be the case a little later in the day.
The third place I went to was Caffé Dante.
This place had a small seating area outside and a larger seating section inside. However, this café was very different from the others. The first think I noticed was the sign that said “No laptops.” To me it is customary to see people with laptops I was expecting a coffee shop. This place, however, had a full menu of food and drinks! This place also has a bar, however, it seems to be more separated from the desserts/pastries. When you walk in there is a room with tables and chairs much like a restaurant and a bar. In order to get to the desserts/pastries, you have to go to another room which also has the same table and chairs. It makes it seem like the services are separate, but it is the same place.
When I was standing outside, a waitress came out and asked me if I would like to look at the menu. She was very friendly and wanted me to feel like I was being taken care of. Another difference to this place compared to the others is that you will be served. You can sit down and a waiter/waitress will be over to take your order. This gave it more of a restaurant feel than a café feel. Especially the fact that you couldn’t have laptops out.
I would say Caffé Dante felt more like a chain, maybe because it was more of a restaurant feel to me. Needless to say, this place was not my favorite. I didn’t exactly like the decorations inside, and maybe I shouldn’t judge it based on that, but it is not someplace that I would spend most of my time.
My fourth adventure took place at Tea & Sympathy.
Before entering the coffee/tea shop, I felt a little unwelcome. They had rules posted on their door that you “must” read before entering. I had never seen such a thing before. They made sure that customers knew their place was small and only had 23 seats available. The rules are as follows:
- “NO Exceptions: You will have to wait outside until your entire party is present. Late comers will not be accepted.
- Be pleasant to the waitresses- remember, Tea & Sympathy girls are always right.
- Occasionally you may be asked to change tables so that we can accommodate everyone.
- There is a $11.95 minimum charge per person.
- If we don’t need the table you may stay all day, but if people are waiting and you have finished your meal, then it’s time to naff off. Sorry, but we are trying to make everyone happy, when we are busy, there will be a time limit and you may be asked to leave. Nothing personal.
- Out of town visitors- Please note it is customary in NYC to tip. A good guide is to double the tax, however please feel free to tip more if you wish.”
Rule number two stood out to me because the saying is usually “the customer is always right.” At least, in chain coffee shops, they live by that rule. Tea & Sympathy’s rule makes it seem like they are snobby and won’t listen to their customers. It was just a first impression and some of the waitresses may actually be really nice. Another thing that bothered me was the minimum of $11.95 charge per person. If you ask me, that’s a little ridiculous. This is not a place to go to get a cup of tea. You must actually sit down and have a meal.
Despite my unpleasant first impression, the place was pretty cute. The tables were small with floral table cloths and old pictures hung up everywhere. They also had tea pots scattered throughout the place.
Before I left I noticed they had their own car! It wasn’t just any car though, it was a taxi that you would see in London! The steering wheel was on the opposite than what we are used to. I was uncertain as to whether this meant they delivered or if the car was just an advertisement. Either way, that was something I found very interesting and different from the other places I had been.
Once again, this wouldn’t be the first place I would pick to visit. I might be kicked out or there may not be room. Plus I would have to spend $11.95 and if I am just looking for some coffee, I don’t think this place would be for me.
71 Irving Place Coffee & Tea Bar was my fifth stop on the coffee adventure.
When I saw the outside of this place, I immediately liked it. It was settled in a neighborhood environment, something you don’t see a chain coffee shop doing, and it made it feel homey. On the inside, it looked like it used to be part of an apartment. There were doors and stairs as if leading to different rooms. I noticed that there were apartments directly above the coffee shop, so I would assume that the stairs could have led up to the apartment, but it is now sealed off.
On the wall, there is a Zagat review that says this place is the “anti-Starbucks” and the “perfect pit stop for a refuel.” I find it interesting that they are trying to break away from the Starbucks chain. It certainly shows by having a homey/apartment setting. This makes people feel more at home and the desire to spend more time there.
Besides their coffee and tea, they sell breakfast and lunch items. So, if you want someplace that doesn’t have a minimum charge per person, you would be able to get a cup of coffee and a breakfast/lunch item most likely cheaper than $11.95. However, this would not be the first place I would choose to go. This is because they got a “C” for the sanitary inspection. This makes me question what I am actually eating and drinking. Anything less than a “B” is a bit frightening to me. I would assume that chain coffee shops are cleaner because they are trying to keep up their reputation and don’t want their customers questioning if they should actually order something there.
The sixth coffee shop I visited was Joe the Art of Coffee in the Grand Central Terminal.
First, I would like to say that was my first time in Grand Central Terminal and I felt very lost and out of place. Everyone was rushing around like they were all late! Me, on the other hand, was meandering along taking in the sights and trying to find my way to the coffee shop. It was down one of the halls that wasn’t nearly as crowded as the other hallways.
This place wasn’t nearly as attractive as the other places I had been, but I guess that didn’t matter. If people are traveling and want coffee, this is the closest and most convenient place to get it. Therefore, appearance doesn’t really matter all that much. I think this coffee shop is perfect for the Grand Central Terminal. Everything is fast paced, which means this place needs to be fasted placed. Unlike the other coffee shops, this place had no where to sit. You got your coffe and you left. The small space of the coffee shop also creates a sense of urgency. There is no room to linger around, making the customers feel like they have a limited amount of time to get their coffee situated with all of the sugar, or cream that they need.
This is definitely different from a major chain coffee shop. The chain coffee shop wants you to stay and maybe order something else while your there. Joe’s is the place where you order and leave.
Once again, this would not be my frist choice of a place to go. Mainly because I am not traveling all that often. It is also because they are a little pricey, but that is because this is probably the only place travelers are going to get their coffee and they will spend just about anything to get it.
The seventh stop I made was at the Coffee Inn.
This little coffee shop is down first avenue on the Upper East Side. It is a very small place, but very inviting. Outside seating is available as well as bar stool seating along the edges, but the outside seating is more abundant.
The walls are all brick and Marilyn Monroe seems to be the favorite picture to hang up as there are many pictures of Marilyn Monroe on the wall. This place is also pricey though, although what else would be expected from the Upper East Side. There was one employee working who was very friendly. He let me take my time in deciding what I wanted to order, and when I did he made it very quickly. As I was paying he asked me how my day had been and made a little small talk with me. As a customer, this made me feel like the Coffee Inn was more personal with their customers instead of just wanting their money. I did not have any experiences like that at any chain coffee shops that I have been to. Those places just want to get the customers through the line as quickly as possible. I’m sure that if the Coffee Inn was busy, the employee wouldn’t have taken the time to make small talk, but he may have asked me how my day was while I was paying.
Because of the friendly manner of the Coffee Inn, I would much rather go there than a chain coffee shop. However, the latté I got was not as good as what I had gotten at Starbucks before. But maybe I’ll go back to the Coffee Inn and try something else.
In my drink at the Coffee Inn, I noticed that there were little coffee grinds at the bottom. I didn’t see those in the other drinks I had ordered, but maybe this means that they make their drinks differently. I don’t know whether that is good or bad because I am not an avid coffee drinker, but the coffee grinds didn’t bother me one bit.
My final destination was Café Sabarsky.
This dainty café is located in the Neue Galerie which is a museum dedicated to Austrian and German art. Upon entering, there was a gentleman to greet me and ask me if I was there for the museum or the café. This led me to believe that the café is extremely popular.
Walking down the hall to Café Sabasrky, I could tell this café was different from all the others. First, it was the most expensive café I had visited, and there was no option for take out. Everything was sit-down. There was also a very nicely dressed waiter to show you to a table and take your order. The floors were a dark hardwood, there was a lovely fireplace, and great big windows to let in that gorgeous sunlight.
The people there were dressed very nicely. No one was wearing a simple t-shirt or jeans with holes in them. Instead, most of the women were wearing heals with skirts and a nice blouse. Most of the men were wearing nice button up shirts and khakis. I would say this café is a nice place to go if you want to get semi dressed up and eat fancy food or delightful dessert. It also may cost a little more, but it’s an experience everyone should have.