POSTED ON DECEMBER 27, 2006:
As You Like It
If you can't afford to doze, take a break from the maddening holidaze, with a stimulating respiteWith new shops opening on Brookside and Cherry Street, the coffeehouse is not so much making a comeback as strengthening its place in current culture
The Sacrificial Bean. Roasted, toasted, ground and leached. The end justifies the means when it comes to a good cup of joe.
Coffee houses have proven themselves to be more than just a place to pick up a cup of java and a muffin. They're gathering places, meeting rooms, art galleries and performance stages. And they have been since their conception.
The first coffee house was born in Constantinople (now Istanbul), Turkey, in 1475 and was called Kiva Han. The Turks brought coffee to Europe in 1529 when they left bags of it behind after invading Vienna, Austria. There, Franz Georg Kolschitzky opened a coffee house, filtering the Turks' strong, black version of the brew and sweetening it with milk and sugar.
Coffee shops gained popularity throughout Europe, finally reaching England 1652.
The Turk's Head was the first coffee shop to open in Britain and is responsible for the gratuities that baristas and serving staff today appreciate so much. A cup sat next to the register at The Turk's Head that read "To Insure Prompt Service."
British coffee houses were called "penny universities" because entrance to the shop and a cup of coffee cost a penny and because the upper-class businessmen could usually be found there. So much so, in fact, that one coffee house in England run by Edward Lloyd became what is still Lloyd's of London insurance company.
The popularity of the coffee house spread all throughout Europe and then to America. In America, like Europe, coffee houses were places for social interaction, commerce and learning. The Tontine Coffee House, established in New York in 1792, was the original location for the New York Stock Exchange
Evolution of the bean
Coffee is said to have been discovered in Ethiopia when goat herder Kaldi noticed his goats becoming more energetic after eating red berries off of a shrub. Kaldi tasted the berries and observed that he, too, became more lively. Coffee plants were first cultivated and the beans roasted and boiled to form a beverage by Arabs. The drink was called "gahwa" and it meant "to prevent sleep." The Arabs used it for wine and medicine before finding ways to make a more tasty drink for pleasure.
Over time, people have learned to cultivate different types of beans and devise new methods of roasting them. Perhaps the most important advancement in coffee to the development of coffee houses was the invention of the espresso machine by Achilles Gaggia in 1946 in Italy. Espresso is a brewing method that extracts the heart of the coffee bean to produce a thick, rich, full-bodied coffee. To produce espresso, a pump-driven machine forces hot water through the extra-fine grounds. Espresso is best if the beans aren't ground until the drink is ordered. It is served by the shot or blended with frothy milk to make cappuccinos, lattes and all the other choices you see on your local coffee shop's menu board.
It's nearly impossible to discuss the expansion and growth of coffee shops and the coffee industry with mentioning Starbucks -- that coffee shop that started out as a little café in Seattle in 1971 and grew into an international, multi-million dollar franchise. It recently opened a new shop in the heart of Brookside.
Starbucks turned "double-tall nonfat Café Mocha" into a household phrase. But before you jump in your car and head to the nearest Starbucks drive thru, try one of Tulsa's locally-owned, one-of-a-kind coffee houses. There are plenty to choose from, and you're sure to get more than just a good cup of coffee for your buck.
A brief history of coffee in Tulsa
According to tulsatvmemories.com, Tulsa's first coffee house opened sometime before or around 1960 and was called Le Cirque. It was located at 6th and Lewis and run by Bill Cunningham, a one-armed guitar player and folk singer.
The Rubiot was another coffee shop established in the early 60's by Sonny Gray near 51st and Harvard. They featured jazz music, and seating started out as pillows on the coffee shop's floor before moving tables and chairs in. The Rubiot closed sometime in the '70's.
Since then coffee shops have come and gone, but they all seem to have one thing on common -- it's never just about the coffee. Although the coffee's always good, with each shop specializing in their own blend, brew and specialty drinks, people who frequent coffee shops do so mostly because of the music, the art, the open mic nights and the camaraderie.
It's hard to find a coffee house in Tulsa whose walls aren't lined with local artists work for sale and display, that isn't hosting and open mic night or poetry slam or that isn't providing a stage to a budding or veteran musician. Shades of Brown on Brookside list Coffee & Art in its name and serves as a sort of mini-gallery for local artists' work. Saffron, 11th and Harvard, also displays and sells local art as well as hosting an open mic night every Thursday.
Nordaggio's Coffee at 81st and Lewis displays and sells a different kind of art -- replicas of famous artwork painted with espresso and coffee beans. They're also hosts to live original music.
The Gypsy Coffeehouse, downtown at 303 N. Cincinnati, is probably more famous for its regular Tuesday open mic night than its coffee. They also host local original musicians throughout the week.
Gypsy's owner Bradley Garcia said The Gypsy is a place anyone can come and be welcome, regardless of age, sex, race or sexual preference.
"We've always tried to create a place where people can express themselves without censorship or the fear of condemnation," said Garcia.
For this reason, many local musicians will perform their newest work at Gypsy before taking it to any other venue. And both the Libertarian and Democratic Parties use the Gypsy as their meeting place.
And the Gypsy reserves a spot for customers to leave their mark, too. Certain wall space is open for patrons to leave a poem, a drawing, a thought or a name.
Another new development in coffee house culture is WiFi internet service, something many local coffee shops provide to their patrons for free (provided you buy a drink or snack). Nordaggio's even has a couple of computers available for use by paying customers. This provides people with even more opportunities to do business and socialize in their local café, albeit Online.
Hungry? You're likely to find more than just a couple of muffins if you're craving a snack to go with your latte. Many of Tulsa's popular coffee houses double as a deli, offering a variety of sandwiches and salads. Saffron, Gypsy and Cosmo all offer food menus featuring appetizers, sandwiches and desserts. Nordaggios serves a variety of gelatos, a thick, creamy Italian ice cream.
With so many choices when it comes to food, beverage and entertainment, it's no wonder the coffee house concept has remained so popular throughout the years. They're perhaps more popular than pubs and bars because they're accessible to just about anyone. When you enter your local coffee house, you're likely to meet people you never would otherwise, and you'll find you're able to be more open, creative and outspoken that you could be just about anywhere else.
Coffee Shop Talk
Can't figure out what to order? Here's a lexicon to understanding and answering the barista (person making your coffee).
Blend -- Mix of two or more varietals of coffee
Breve -- Espresso mixed with half and half
Café Americano -- Espresso and hot water
Café Latte -- Espresso and steamed milk, with a small amount of foam on top
Café Mocha -- Espresso, steamed milk and chocolate syrup
Cappuccino -- Espresso with half steamed milk, half foam (The stuff you get out of the machines at the gas station isn't really cappuccino. Sorry to disappoint some of you.)
Doppio -- Double shot of espresso
Espresso -- Brewing method that extracts the heart of the bean to produce a thick, rich shot of extra-strong coffee
Froth or Foam -- Milk made thick and foamy by aerating it with steam
Macchiato -- Espresso with a small amount of steamed milk or foam on top
Solo -- Single shot of espresso
Coffee Shop Listing
Don't know where to go for the best cup of brew or live entertainment? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Café Cubana, 1328 E. 15th St., 584-2233
Coffee Bank, 905 W. Kenosha, 251-1312
Coffee Grinder, 5233 S. Sheridan, 622-2449
Cosmo Café, 68th & Memorial, 459-0497
DoubleShot Coffee Company, 1730 S. Boston, 599-7700
Espresso By the Book, 4417 S. Mingo Rd., 764-9532
Espresso Milano, 1340 E. 15th St., 592-1993
Eurobean Coffee & Bistro, 8315 E. 111th St., 369-8453
Gypsy Coffee House, 303 N. Cincinnati, 295-2181
Java Dave's, 6239 E. 15th St., 836-7317 (There are more locations to choose from. Here's one.)
Kaffe Bona, 81st & Memorial, 249-4926
Mecca Coffee Company, 1143 E. 33rd Pl.,749-3509
Nordaggio's Coffee, 8156 S. Lewis, 296-5288
Shades of Brown Coffee & Art, 3302 S. Peoria, 747-3000
Sumatra Coffee Shop, 4244 S. Peoria, 742-4849
Starbucks, 1832 Utica Sq., 744-8195 (There are others. One on almost every corner. You'll find it.)
Tulsa Sips Coffee Co., 1307-A S. Peoria, 744-5056
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