“Ain’t no party like a coffee party, ‘cause coffee parties don’t stop!”
Last Thursday, Sept 24, coffee news center Sprudge threw a kick-off party for the NY Coffee Festival, doubling as a sixth anniversary celebration in conjunction with local chain, Everyman Espresso. I had the opportunity to attend this party on behalf of my cafe.
The event began at 8pm, but I arrived an hour later. The entire neighborhood seemed unwelcoming and closed off, hanging on the border between too elitist safe and too urban dangerous. To be honest, had it not been for me following the sound of stereos blasting Beyonce, I would have not found the party with as much ease. One of my coworkers came out from the gate and walked me inside, already quite drunk off the free (but typically inexpensive) beers provided by our hosts.
It was barely 10 minutes into my time at the party when I realized everyone was waiting in anticipation for something–and that’s when she appeared. Behind Hand and Detail Car Wash on Lorimer St, far from the tourist heart of Williamsburg, a drag queen with hair as fluffy as a bush and dressed in prison garb was lip syncing to a Madonna track I was too shocked to Shazam. People were throwing singles at her, and she simply continued on with her act. It wasn’t necessarily the drag queen or the Madonna track that caught me off guard though. It was more of the fact that this did not fill the stereotypical “get drunk and try to pour amazing latte art” party I had grown used to over the years. The funny thing is, after the initial “am I at the right party?” question, comfort set in and I began to recognize the faces of my peers.
There were more notable features, too. The homemade Espresso Punch was tinged with gin and citrus notes, balancing the darker, chocolate tastes of the coffee itself. Dancing coffee bean mascots were interacting with the crowd. As an avid music lover, I appreciated the Flashdance, Cyndi Lauper-esque tunes coming from the DJ. That’s pretty much how coffee parties are: tight-knit, predictable and unpredictable all at once, with all of these weird, unconventional things meant to make you laugh yet simultaneously encourage you to let go and have fun.
I’ve seen a lot over the past few years, but this party alone was a reminder that the scene is ever-evolving. The archetypical barista is a proud but awkward geek, who listens to EDM during opening shifts and rap music during close. While not everyone should be shoved into a category, I’ve known many people to assert this opinion, too. Baristas are also very talented–rarely do I ever meet people who are just as serious about their work, even more serious about what defines a “perfect cup,” and are willing to take time away from work to spend more time with the same people they see at work. What I love most, however, is that baristas are just as warm and inviting as the coffee they serve–fresh with the humor, clean in style, and dark realism when it counts.
Coffee culture is a world away from the norm, but always open to those who dare wander inside.