Northwest and Chronicle have new art in all three stores! The show was curated by baristas Rachael and Katie. They scheduled the art to change in all stores simultaneously, and held one opening representing all artists. The opening was at Chronicle on April 11th. Their mission is to get work by contemporary local artists in the stores, in order to enhance the look and feel of each individual store.
Annie Sayers’ work is brightening up the Clayton store. Annie is from Kansas City, and completed her BFA in Painting at Washington University in St. Louis. She will receive her Masters in Education this May. Annie’s work focuses on pattern and repetition within society, exemplified in her large scale paintings of crowd scenes and abstracted aerial views of urban areas. Her work questions the way that repetition within America flattens our lives as it flattens into pattern in her paintings.
Grace Hong’s work is in Chronicle Coffee. Grace is from Birmingham, Alabama, and completed her BFA in Printmaking at Washington University in St. Louis, and now works at the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis. Her gouache paintings are constructed by her taking a screenshot of a street view image on google maps, then layering an image over it of a paper crane in the process of being folded. She then uses bright colors to paint in the pattern that has been created. These paintings are on cardboard, evoking the imagery itself – transient, easily destroyed, not archival. The paintings, set in the North City neighborhood where Chronicle is located, show how beauty and grace exist in within the abandoned buildings of our middle American city.
Central West End
Anya Liao’s work is in the Central West End store. Anya is from Wuhan, Houston, and Honolulu, and completed her BFA in Printmaking at Washington University in St. Louis. She currently works as a math teacher and afterschool teacher in St. Louis. Anya’s large scale charcoal drawings on fabric flutter in the breeze at the Central West End store and roastery, punctuated by her shrines scattered around the store. Her charcoal banners depict women balancing the harshness of this world with humor, and her shrines show regard for the accumulation of people and times. Anya’s work about race, ritual, and queer bodies resonates in the CWE store – a space that has been reappropriated several times for different uses, currently functioning as a workshop and store. Her work similarly carves out space for the traditionally marginalized, and honors them without ever losing a sense of humor and tenderness.
Last Sunday, Chronicle hosted Sloup #43. As explained on their website, Sloup is “a monthly soup dinner in St. Louis, MO, that supports projects, primarily artistic or communicative, that need a little funding and belief.” Leading up to each Sloup event, St Louis individuals and groups send in proposals. At the event, each group speaks a little bit about their proposal, then the audience members vote. The winner gets the Sloup “pot” consisting of all of the $10 entry fees.
It was incredible to watch the crowds pour in to Chronicle for Sloup. The atmosphere was uplifting and social, and the ideas were all excellent. The winner, announced today, is A Sustainable Revolution. With the Sloup grant, Sweet Sensations will expand their work in the Greater Ville Community. Sweet Sensations is an entrepreneurial program that provides resources and work for underserved youth. Previously, they have worked with youth designing and running a beekeeping business. Now, they will be able to move forward with the creation of a “Sensational Garden.” The garden will be located on Maffitt Ave, and will be designed by the teenagers who are part of the program. It will be artistic, colorful, sustainable, and delicious. It’s an exciting and necessary project!
Other proposals included:
Conversations in Mourning
A series of workshops incorporating art, story and culture to help communities process loss. These workshops will serve as a much needed resource for communities of color who are disproportionately affected by violent deaths.
A retreat to help people focus on (all too often) unfinished creative projects. Seehttp://www.creativeweekend.org for more details!
Imagining Compassionate St. Louis
Inspired by Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion, and compassionate cities efforts in Seattle, Houston, and Louisville, they are launching a compassionate movement in St. Louis.
A quarterly event centered around sharing adolescent artifacts. The more awkward the better. Find a old diary entry, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and get ready to read it aloud at the next Minor Lament event.
More Free Bikes for the Penrose Park Velodrome
Exactly what it sounds like! To race at the Velodrome, participants must have a bike that is track ready – and they are expensive! More bikes to loan out would mean more people getting to race!
St. Louis Small Press Expo
An event celebrating and bringing together small independent publishers in St. Louis. It will be held next September 26 and 27th. They are accepting applications now!
The Mighty Mississippi
Anne McCullough loves the Mississippi and wants to share its beauty, tranquility and energy with you. She is beginning to host canoe trips along the river in April.
This Northwest barista and blogger was in San Diego last week. I scoped out the coffee scene for you, St. Louis.
First of all, the weather was incredible. After three months of storm warnings and too many inches of snow, getting to wear shorts and lie by the beach was a treat for me and my girlfriend. We broke up the time by sampling coffee by different roasters, finding a fun coffee scene not much bigger than the one in our city.
Disclaimer: My goal was not to rate the coffee shops. I did it all wrong: I got different drinks at each place, and I left out a couple of roasters that were too hard to get to. Instead, my goal was to scope out what other cities are doing with their shops and coffee.
Caffe Calabria was the first place I went. The store is located in North Park, but they source to many shops around town. Caffe Calabria has been around for about fifteen years, and their presence is ingrained in the San Diego coffee culture. I read a couple of top ten lists before choosing the shops I went to, and Caffe Calabria always makes the list. Often, a few shops that it supplies make the list too, including Elixir Espresso Bar in the Gaslamp District, and Krakatoa in South Park. The store is beautiful, with high ceilings, large plants, and murals on the wall. There’s a glass wall across from the espresso bar, which separates the roastery from the store. They weren’t roasting when I was there, but I love the idea of being able to watch the roasting through the glass.
We ordered a mocha, a latte, and a piece of Cinnamon Walnut Rugalach, and found the baristas to be skilled and friendly. Also on offer were a number of small delicious looking sandwiches, pizzas, and other pastries. The mocha had a full chocolate flavor without being too sweet, and the rugalach was incredible. I found the espresso in the latte well balanced–sharp enough to be interesting with smooth flavors supporting the top notes. Overall, Caffe Calabria deserves its place as a well established shop in the community. They serve up a solid, carefully crafted product in a lovely atmosphere.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
Bird Rock is all the way out in Bird Rock, between La Jolla and Pacific Beach, but it was well worth the trip. Opened in 2006, the small store roasts on site, and holds concerts and art exhibits. The small company has a big impact on the San Diego coffee scene. They work directly with farmers to import their beans, 50% of which are organic. In 2012, they won the Micro Roaster of the Year award from Roast Magazine. It is well deserved, as owner Chuck Patton constantly seeks to improve his coffee, and the coffee community of San Diego.
We got a latte and a cup of drip coffee, choosing the Kenya, a medium roast. While I waited for my latte, I chatted with the barista behind the counter, who gave me some insight into the local coffee scene and managed to pour some great looking drinks without losing track of the conversation. Both the espresso and the Kenya were incredibly smooth, the smoothest while still flavorful coffee I’ve ever had. They had zero harsh notes, yet retained flavor. Perhaps I would have liked slightly more complexity, but mostly I was impressed. The vibe was relaxed even in the midst of what seemed like a morning rush. I am currently scheming about ordering some beans to ship out and give to my Northwest and Chronicle coworkers. Bird Rock was not only my favorite drink in San Diego, but also the most community oriented (and we’re all about community!). I love their dedication to the details of the craft.
Joes on the Nose Coffee Truck
On a Saturday morning walk through the Little Italy Farmer’s Market, I happened upon a food truck serving coffee! At first glance, I expected Joes on the Nose to be underwhelming, but as I scanned the truck I found more and more of those tell-tale details that let me know yes, this place knows what they’re doing. The final straw was the big cup of cold brewed iced coffee I bought, which was perfect for the hot morning. I was duly impressed. Though I subsequently did a lot of online research, I’m still unsure about where they source their beans. I did find out that its all organic. If you ever happen by a Joes on the Nose truck on the San Diego streets, get a drink.
Better Buzz Coffee Roasters
Better Buzz is a local roaster with four coffee stands and one (new) sit down establishment dedicated to nerding out about coffee. It’s called The Lab, and is of course the one that I went to. It’s located on Mission Boulevard, a quick walk from Mission Beach. I loved the atmosphere as I walked in. The space was a gorgeous combination of wood paneling, coffee making glassware and naturally lit seating. I also loved the way their menu was arranged: the top section was labeled “the Purist” and included drinks such as an espresso shot, a latte, cappuccino, macchiato and pourovers, while the bottom section was labeled “Handcrafted” and included their specialty drinks such as a mint mojito latte, honey latte, and something called The Best Drink Ever.
We got a chocolate chip cookie (delicious), a mango strawberry smoothie (delicious) and a small espresso drink of indeterminate type. This was my fault. When I ordered, I asked if they could make a cortado (2 oz espresso, 2 oz steamed milk) and the barista looked confused but ultimately agreed to try. What I got was I think supposed to be a macchiato, but it was a little off and slightly burnt tasting. I drank it anyway, and next time I would order either The Best Drink Ever, their single origin espresso, or try the Kyoto drip (made through a giant machine that takes hours to drip the coffee! It must be good).
Other things that I liked about Better Buzz: their staff while I was there were all women (specialty coffee shops tend more towards the male, while more mainstream ones tend towards the female. I’ll blog about this troubling trend someday), and they source their coffee from women-run or woman-owned coffee farms! Overall, they had a great atmosphere and quality food items, I love the way that they manage to cater to many different aspects of the coffee world, and I’m pretty sure the quality of my drink was a fluke.
Coffee & Tea Collective
The Coffee & Tea Collective is located in a tall white building in a strip in Normal Heights, with just an ampersand (&) marking the store. This made it difficult to find. The Coffee & Tea Collective is a small roaster that views coffee as a craft, to be treated as such. Browsing through their blog, I noticed that they support other local crafts, collaborating with a letterpress studio and a designer who makes handmade bags. The white walls, open space, and decent art made for a calming, if intimidating, atmosphere. My only question: are you guys actually a collective?
Here at Coffee & Tea, I solved the mystery of the confused barista at Better Buzz. It appears that, while in St. Louis a macchiato is a dollop of milk foam with shots poured over it, in San Diego a macchiato is 1 oz espresso to 1 oz steamed milk. So when I asked for the same thing by a different name, the barista didn’t quite know what to do. The Coffee & Tea bearded barista answered my questions though was not interested in chatting any further. The espresso was sharp and acidic, but ultimately enjoyable. I wanted to try their cold brew, which they sell in growlers and 12 oz beer bottles. I found The Coffee & Tea Collective to be skilled, meticulous, and well-designed, and perhaps if I had caught them on a different day they would have been more friendly.
Roasters I missed: Virtuoso, Dark Horse, and Zumbar.
Restaurants you HAVE TO GO TO if you ever go to San Diego: Tiger! Tiger! (Conveniently located a block from Coffee & Tea! The best bar ever!) and DaoFu (Huge portions! Free dessert! Incredible food!)
Last night, I had the good fortune to get to work at the Planned Parenthood Sex Trivia night event. It was their fifth annual Sex Trivia night, with about 350 guests vying for prizes for trivia, best costumes, and best decorations. Tables of ten competed in ten rounds of questions about sex, including the history of sex, sex in movies, and fetishes. Chronicle Coffee had a coffee bar, and we served complimentary pour-overs of our Tanzania Peaberry and Mocha Java. Guests were interested in the labor intensive process, and we had fun adding our coffee to the party. It was great being in a room full of Planned Parenthood staff, supporters, and friends. The atmosphere was welcoming, diverse, and fun, and we’re grateful to have been a part of it.
Recently, I read an article on ozy.com about how Square has changed tipping in our country. You can read the original article here. The author, Rachel Levin, brings up interesting points about how Square is changing the face of tipping. However, it was the first paragraph of the article that I couldn’t quite get past:
“I’m greeted most weekday mornings with a smile. Often by name. Sometimes my low-fat double latte in a small cup is already made before I’ve even paid. And still, when the smiley guy behind the counter swivels that damn Square screen toward me, I survey the options: 15%, 20%, 25% … and I admit it: Four days out of five, I sheepishly press that other option. You know the one: NO TIP.”
It’s not so much that I expect every customer that comes into a coffeeshop to tip, but when she is receiving this good of service? I had to reply. Below, you can read my email to Rachel, and her reply. Ozy.com ended up publishing my email here.
“This is in regards to Rachel Levin’s article, Turned Off by Tipping. I am a barista, living in St. Louis, Missouri. In Missouri, minimum wage is still $7.35/hour. I have friends who work at several coffeeshops around town, and wages for baristas in St. Louis vary from $6/hour to $9/hour. Generally, coffeeshops keep baristas’ hours to 35 a week, so we cannot be full time, and do not have to be offered health benefits. For example, a wage of $7.50/hour at 35 hours a week is $13,125 annually, before taxes. This is at about 116% of the federal poverty level for a 1 person household.
Additionally, this is a skilled job. Many shops require employees to work for months before they are allowed to make espresso drinks. There are competitions surrounding the making of lattes. It’s a job where your boss often expects dedication and passion for the art and world of coffee, though they do not pay you a living wage. It’s a job with strange hours, in some stores, you could be leaving the shop at 11pm and getting back to open the store at 6 am. It’s a job where you are a cashier, server, cook, barista, and janitor. Many stores require employees to work alone for the closing shift – for my roommate, this means that she is alone in a shop that serves espresso drinks, food, and beer from 4-10pm, on a street with a lot of traffic. She has been harassed many times. However, despite all of this, the job also has little upward mobility.
Why, I ask you, do “Waiters. Bartenders. Bell staff. Hotel housekeeping. Cabbies. Pedicurists. Curbside bag checkers.” all deserve tips, but baristas do not? You say yourself that you receive impeccable service, “greeted most weekday mornings with a smile. Often by name. Sometimes my low-fat double latte in a small cup is already made before I’ve even paid.”
I agree with many of the commenters on the article – if you come in to get a cup of drip coffee, go ahead and forgo the tip. But if you come in every day, order a drink specially made for you, by hand, by people who know your name and order, by people who make minimum wage, and don’t you live in San Francisco which has the highest cost of living in the US while minimum wage is still $8.00/hour ($14,000 annually)… what was your reasoning for not tipping?
Please let me know if you have any questions, clarifications, or would like to continue the discussion. Thanks!”
Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. We’d love to run it on the site– would you be okay with that? Please let me know.
As for my reasons… briefly, traditionally, technically over-the-counter transactions have not been considered as jobs where customers are expected to tip. however, as coffee has become highly personalized, that may be changing. and in my defense, i did say 4 days out of 5, which i meant to imply that usually one day a week i do tip — just not everyday. but you raise great pts, ones i do think about as i go about my day as a customer and consumer.
Here is the full new menu. It will be available at the Clayton store, and Chronicle. All food created and crafted by Ben Poremba of Olio and Elaia. Sandwich names subject to change :)
An addition to our breakfast sandwiches:
The Bagel and Lox – smoked salmon, cream cheese, romaine, tomato and dill sauce on a bagel
Open Faced Chicken Salad – grilled chicken and olive muffaletta over romaine, tomato, dijon and olive oil bread
Pastrami – pastrami, sharp cheddar, romaine, tomato, dijon, and horseradish mayo on torta bread
Intersection 2.0 – herbed turkey, havarti, cranberry sauce, romaine, mayo and mustard on torta bread
Sundried Tomato and Artichoke – goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, romaine and havarti on honey whole wheat
Last Thursday, the Young Friends of StL Public Radio came together at a coffeeshop on the North Side of St Louis. The event was the latest installment of Public Radio on Tap. Tonight’s topic – Coffee and Community. I arrived early, and was behind the counter when the Young Friends started piling in, ordering coffee and removing their scarfs. We started brewing pots of Guatemala and pulling shots of espresso as the room filled up. Zoe Scharf, an NPR representative, hosted the evening. She did a great job, keeping things light, to the point, and meaningful. Four men sat on the panel to speak about coffee and community – Mike Maquard of Blueprint, Mark Atwood of Comet, Scott Carey of Sump and Jason Wilson of Chronicle and Northwest.
Mike started off the evening in an easygoing manner, talking about his beginnings as a barista at Kaldis, and how he became more and more entrenched in the world of coffee. He spoke about a type of coffee experience that was then prevalent mainly in communities of baristas – attending cuppings, entering latte art competitions, and being invested in a high quality, unique drink. He said that with his new shop, Blueprint Coffee, he wants to make that level of coffee available to the public. He wants anyone to be able to come into his store – whether they know nothing about coffee, or a lot, and feel comfortable. Blueprint is located on the Delmar Loop, just west of Skinker.
Next to speak was Comet Coffee owner Mark Atwood, who began by letting us know that he has a fear of performance and public speaking, and that’s why he gave up his first life’s path, playing the cello. He then studied math and economics, became a fish monger at Schnucks, and ended up working at a Kaldi’s coffeebar, also in Schnucks. Mark explained that one of his reasons for opening Comet Coffee is his belief that coffee should be held to the same level as fine dining – that you should be able to make a career of it, and it should be respected as more than a type of “fast food” as it is now. This idea came up again and again in the evening. These men love coffee and believe in its worth, and seem to some extent disappointed and offended that the drinks dispensed in gas stations fall under the same title as their carefully crafted cupfuls. Comet Coffee, by the way, is off of Oakland, between Hampton and Kingshighway.
Scott Carey of Sump Coffee, in South City on Winnebago and Jefferson, introduced himself next. He stood, bringing his eloquent presence to its full force, and spoke of Hemingway’s story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” The story focuses on an elderly gentleman, for whom a café is a place of respite and calmness and the waiter who doesn’t want to close the shop for the evening, because he wants to continue to provide this gentleman with such a place. Scott used the story to explain his motivation for opening Sump – to in some small way lift the weight of everyday life, if only for a moment. Later, he spoke about how stores and restaurants – like all represented – add worth to a city, and make the place, as he termed it, “sticky.” Saint Louis is not considered a primary market by outsiders, and locally owned, high quality establishments raise the quality of life and investment opportunities here. As an audience member thoughtfully pondered, coffeeshops like these make it harder to move away from St. Louis.
After Mike, Mark, and Scott, our very own Jason Wilson took the floor, telling the crowd about how he fell in love both with coffee and the gatherings it creates, while, improbably, in China. He was there for a trip while pursuing his MBA from Wash U, and began drinking coffee to fight jet lag. Then, as he sat with his peers, having meaningful conversations about globalization half a world away from home, Jason thought – we need this environment in the North Side of Saint Louis. He began to see that a coffeeshop can create a community center, and when he got back from China, Jason started the long process of opening Chronicle Coffee in the historic Blumeyer neighborhood. The shop is not big, but the beliefs and hopes it implies are huge. Jason sees Chronicle expanding the invisible but rigidly drawn lines of race and income level in Saint Louis, and he sees it creating a place for locals to have conversations about social engagement and civil discourse. He spoke about his acquisition of Northwest Coffee, and how the two brands have contributed to each other.
Zoe took the floor and opened the room to questions. The crowd shuffled slightly, ordered more coffee, found a new seat. The sound of the espresso grinder and the hiss of steaming milk flowed in and out of the conversation. The men at the front of the room responded to questions with passion, long stories, and an underlying belief in the unsurpassed excellence of their own product. Scott explained some of the hidden economics of coffee, in response to Mike speaking out against an NPR story saying that coffee prices should be dropping, and are currently too expensive. Mike explained that a $20 pound of coffee yields about 40 8oz cups, coming out to only $.50 if you brew it at home – there are stratifications of cost, he said. If you can’t afford a $5 pourover, buy beans and take them home. Mark points out that a Red Bull is $2.50. Then Scott took the mike and methodically explained the costs and losses from grower to cup.
If you buy specialty coffee at $5-$8 a pound, they tack on the “commodity cost” at the end of the day, adding another $1.50 or so to each pound. Then, after you get the green coffee, you roast it, and in the roasting process lose 10-15 percent mass. And let’s say it’s the first time you have bought this green coffee – it might take a couple of roasting batches to get the profile down. Okay, so you finally get a good roast, and you’re ready to serve your shot of espresso. Not all shots are servable, because Scott wants to serve the best coffee possible. After all that – he says a shot of espresso would cost him about $1.25. And you must realize that coffee has a shelf life. After roasting, it decreases in quality in a matter of weeks. After its brewed or a shot is pulled, it loses value instantaneously – in a matter of minutes. Additionally, this is before accounting for labor. And labor in coffeeshops is a sticky point. Mike said he wishes he could pay workers $10/hour. Scott spoke of the phenomenon that working with coffee is a skilled job, and those who are good at it get bored, and move to roasting, wholesale, or leave and open their own shop. He also mentioned that most of these people are men. More on that later. So no, buying specialty coffee every day is not cheap, and no one had an answer for how to cater to all income levels. They can stratify the offerings, but the truth is that, other than Chronicle, these shops are not concerned with that issue. They are concerned with serving the finest coffee, and elevating coffee to the level of wine or fine dining – worlds that unapologetically cater to one demographic.
So what do these shops have to do with community? Chronicle Coffee is rooted in community, intentionally placed in the city, and speaking out for social change. Scott argued for a clean, well lighted space, and for adding “stickiness” to a city. Mike argued, persuasively, that Blueprint rounds out the Delmar Loop. Most stores on Delmar are bars or restaurants, and the street comes alive at night. What is it like during the day? Blueprint is here to serve that community, and to complete the street, which has only one other local café, Meshuggahs. (It also has a Starbucks and a St. Louis Bread Co.) I unfortunately took terrible notes, and do not remember exactly what Mark (Comet Coffee) said about this topic, but I do have an incredible quote from him. He said he’s sick of hearing the word “trend” applied to coffee. It’s not a trend, he says, it’s a revolution. Carefully crafted, intentionally sourced coffee is here to stay, and Comet is an oasis in a world of gas station coffee, flavored coffee, coffee as fuel. Everyone wants to educate the city in coffee, they say, so they can stop chasing the same five hundred customers.
The panel ended with each owner sharing a story about a meaningful interaction with the community. A coffeeshop is possibly the only establishment that you can go to every single day without it being a cause for concern. It’s a place where regulars reign, trust is built, and community is created, whatever type of community it might be. But before this, each owner spoke about the benefits of roasting your own beans. Jason brought our roaster, Kitaro, to the stage, and Zoe commented on the similarities between his beard and Scott’s beard. An audience member joked, “How long does your beard have to be before you get to be a roaster?” To which Zoe replied, as an aside, “I guess that’s why there aren’t many women in coffee.” I wonder, in choosing a panel to speak about community, why NPR chose four men. Jason was the only one bringing diversity to the coffee panel, and was the only one actually working intentionally with the community at large, as opposed to the coffee community. I wonder why the female owner of Rise Coffee, Jessie Mueller, whose shop focuses on sustainability and bringing a much needed daytime destination to the Grove neighborhood, wasn’t asked to speak. While Rise does have a similar focus on quality, specialty coffee, there are also other cafes in town which focus on community outreach, though they might not have the same focus on coffee. Mokabe’s, in South Grand, passes out warm winter clothes and blankets to the homeless on cold winter nights. Mokabe’s is also super LGBT friendly, which enhances the community by providing a safe space for all. Another possibility would have been Foundation Grounds in Maplewood, who have a core focus on sustainability. Possibly, there were reasons I’m not aware of for choosing the panel, or possibly some owners were reached out to and declined.
In all, the evening was interesting, informative, and sparked discussions between attendees. The evening raised questions about the inclusivity or exclusivity of the coffee world. I have been to all the shops represented, except Sump (which I will go to soon, as I’ve heard really great things about their delicious coffee), and have no doubt that Mike, Mark, Scott and Jason will all continue to raise the bar and improve the city’s worth. The evening did, as promised, challenge and invigorate attendees, and helped lead us to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the complex and fascinating world of coffee.
Join us this Thursday, February 6, 2014, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Chronicle Coffee for a Public Radio on Tap event discussing Saint Louis Coffee and Community. The Young Friends of St Louis Public Radio sponsors the Public Radio on Tap series, which they describe on their website as a way to “bring together young professionals in the St. Louis region… to debate, discuss and converse over what currently makes St. Louis tick.”
This event focuses on Coffee and Community, and will bring together Mark Attwood of Comet Coffee, Scott Carey of Sump Coffee, Mike Marquard of Blueprint Coffee, and our very own Jason Wilson of Chronicle Coffee and Northwest Coffee. We are so excited about this event because we believe that Chronicle is the perfect venue to discuss the intersection of coffee and community in Saint Louis. Please join us for what is sure to be a fascinating and stimulating evening – but if you miss it, be sure to check back on this blog for a recap.