Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gimme Coffee

We had not heard about Gimme coffee until a friend introduced us to it a month ago. With every cup of gimme coffee we learnt more about it. We heard more, we read more. We realized that it was not just a cup of coffee, it was not just a cafeteria, it was the whole new culture that we were getting absorbed into.

Here’s what it is. Gimme coffee is the neighbourhood coffee place. The first Gimme coffee shop opened at Cayuga Street in Ithaca, Upstate New York in the year 2000. Thereafter, more outlets opened in Ithaca and at Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York city. Soon, this small artisan roastery became a known name as it began to feature in the news. The GQ magazine said: “This is serious stuff, seriously good”. The Forbes Traveller wrote: “Yes, there’s life beyond Starbucks”

So, what made Gimme coffee so good? It’s the roasting, they said. I’m sharing here a link to Gimme Roastery on their website which is an absolute must-read! With this kind of attention being poured into a cup of coffee, it had to be good. They also share with you on their website, information about the farms where the coffee is sourced from on their ‘sustainability’ page where they talk about organic coffees, relationship coffees and so on.

For us, the first cup we experienced was at the Green Street outlet in Ithaca. The following weekend, we were cajoled by our friend into visiting the outlet at Cayuga street. Did we really have to visit Gimme coffee again?! We had only a few weekends in Ithaca and all we seemed to be doing with them was going from one Gimme coffee place to another. But, of course, now we do think it was all worth it! And, it’s not that I have not wanted to share with others our very own ‘chai’ culture which I wrote about earlier at: what is chai

So, while we were at this Cayuga place on the Sunday morning, we looked around us and the place was filled with young people sipping their coffee and browsing the net. In India, we gradually moved over from the ‘Indian coffee shop’ to the ‘Café coffee day’. Actually, not quite. The people who visited the Indian coffee shop were a different generation from the ones who “hang out” at the Café Coffee day. Of course, there’s a few of us who belong to that previous generation who are still around and go to the Café Coffee day as well, for the “conversations” part of the coffee experience although I must say we just can never converse in the midst of all that music and din as effortlessly as the youngsters do these days!

The Café coffee day experience in India is probably more comparable to the Starbucks experience in the American city. Gimme coffee is a bit different. It’s not about “being on the go”. It’s not about “conversations”. It’s more about the coffee. As we waited for our coffee at the Cayuga place, I saw a book on their shelves – ‘Café Life New York: an Insider’s Guide’ It was a book about New York city’s neighbourhood cafes. I browsed through it with great interest and came across these lines about the Gimme coffee: ‘Nobody comes to Gimme coffee for its décor, or its roominess, they come for the excellent coffee’ That said it all.

This reminds me that I have earlier written about the Stolen Coffee room which was really only about the décor because it’s objects from Chor bazaar made it so special. And now, this sharing about the artisan roasted coffee at the neighbourhood café is more about how one experiences a city and imbibes the culture of its people as you walk the streets, spend time at the café and have the opportunity to know experiences that are special to those who live there.

There was always a prelude to our visit to Gimme coffee. A past experience that had to be shared or a story about it’s many flavours, since we were going to be able to sample just a few. There is the 'La Primavera Decaf' coffee with its taste of sweet cocoa, currant and brown sugar and the 'Finca San Luis' which tastes of crisp citrus, grape, apple and peach with an aroma that reminds of orange and fresh florals. This was how deep the experience could go! You could say this was way beyond the real thing, that it was about branding or about romanticizing the experience. Well, whatever it was, we enjoyed it!

And, then there were times when we came back home and continued to talk about coffee! We talked about R.K.Narayan’s essays on coffee and our friend shared this YouTube video about the television sitcom Seinfeld, (another cultural phenomenon in America) and we watched an episode from ‘The Opposite’ on the coffee table book about coffee tables! That was the epilogue that seems to have made the coffee experience totally immortal for us!!

The taste of the coffee lingers on, only this time the aroma ties up with much more because in America it was the coffee lens through which we saw life in the city.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Ithaca Farmers' Market

The week we arrived in Ithaca, the local Ithaca Times carried an article on the Silent movie era and its early days in Ithaca. It said ‘In 1913, Theodore Wharton came to Ithaca to shoot footage of typical college life, he liked the natural beauty of the town with its gorges and its lake and produced over 100 film titles from about 1914 to 1919. This is one of the few original silent film studios in the United States’. However, most people know Ithaca as the place in Upstate New York where Cornell University was founded in 1865 and which continues till today to be home to students from all over the world.

For a student at Cornell, the University campus is all they know when they leave school. There is no time for anything else. Some remember the quadrangle where their department is housed. Others only remember the library where they spent all the hours of all their days here. For a student, this is definitely the centre of the universe with nothing else beyond. But, if you do not come here as a student, it is nice to also experience the town. For instance, there is the Cayuga lake, there are the Taughannock Falls, there is Stewart park and there is the Ithaca Farmer’s Market!

The market is a co-operative with over 150 vendors who live within 30 miles of Ithaca. These vendors bring fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry as well as freshly baked goods, honey and sauces to the market at the Steamboat landing locatio (which we visited) every Saturday and Sunday. There is also the Dewitt Park location where the market takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are artists and photographers who exhibit their work here. The Ithaca farmers’ market first opened in 1973 as a place for local food growers to sell their produce and for local artisans to market their crafts. Today, the location at the Steamboat landing is also a picnic place as people come here to shop, to listen to music and to just sit by the waterfront.

I am sharing here some photos from our weekend visit, when the weather was absolutely wonderful and we got a glimpse of the ‘shop+picnic’ scene in Ithaca.

There is a lot more about the Ithaca Farmers’ market at: