Seattle ruined me. The self-proclaimed coffee capital of the world had led me to believe that nothing would compare to the cafe experiences I savored during my time living in the Great Northwest. How could I ever possibly come back to Rochester—my true home—and expect it to live up to the craft and mastery of Seattle cafes such as Victrola, or Seattle Coffee Works? But upon my return, I came back to a city with a thriving coffee culture all of it’s own.
Initially, I left Rochester to gain perspective of the world around me. As a lover of coffee, video games, gloomy weather, and the show Twin Peaks, I set off for what appeared to be the most appropriate city for me: Seattle. During my time there, I was enlightened to some of the most amazing coffee I had ever had—and no, it wasn’t Starbucks. Every cafe I went to gave me more than just hip atmosphere, but a carefully crafted and beautiful tasting cup of coffee; I felt enlightened, as though I had been lied to my whole life as to what coffee really was. But despite my new found love affair for coffee, I had grown to miss Rochester and it’s tightly knit and quirky community, and to my reluctant surprise, I wanted back. I was, however, left with puzzlement as to how Rochester would fulfill my much newly desired caffeine fix.
After a considerable amount of recommendations to go to Joe Bean Coffee Roasters, I walked in frail and gaunt with coffee deprivation. Behind the counter was barista, and all around beverage connoisseur, Ryan Lewis, who fixed me up a pour over of their Burundi. Upon my first sip, my soul had suddenly slithered back into my body. It tasted like more than just muddy water, but it actually tasted like what I had learned coffee was like in Seattle.
Lewis then informed me that during my time away, a number of local coffee shops have emerged, that not only offer a cool atmosphere to get your philosophical jibber jabber out, but more importantly, hone in on perfecting an almost science-like craft behind brewing and roasting coffee. Like it or not, the days of “dark” and “light” roasts are seemingly on their way out, now with a stronger focus on flavors and notes that are naturally brought out of the bean during the roasting process.
Cafes such as Pour Coffee Parlor, Fuego, and Joe Bean Coffee Roasters (a frequent mention as one of the top cafes in America), have collectively reshaped how coffee is perceived in Rochester, while creating a community all of it’s own.
Even more enlightening is the open support each new coffee house gives one to another, acknowledging that they aren’t competition, but acknowledges they’re all in the same boat of trying to educate a modern audience about what can be done with the coffee bean. Which is stark contrast when compared to Seattle’s tooth and nail cafe competition, all of which are fighting to be the next big Seattle known coffee shop. That isn’t to say there’s a sense of community in Seattle, but there’s something about Rochester’s smaller population, that makes this “wave” feel more cooperative. Each cafe here offers something different from the other—may it be an atmosphere, a craft, or philosophy as to how or why they do what they do—they all hold their own identities. And of course, where would Hart’s be in all of this without properly representing our cities local roasters?
To further embrace Rochester’s newly founded coffee culture, the Hart’s cafe has a coffee of the month, giving more of an opportunity to share this golden-black magic in a cup with our city inhabitants. Each month the cafe will have a different coffee by a different local roaster, all of which, can be found on store shelves.
Reflecting on my hindsight, Seattle and Rochester are alike in many ways: both have, more often than not, rainy weather, a passionate music scene, and now, the majority of our city inhabitants maneuver day to day on craft coffee pumping through their veins. But Rochester has something that Seattle does not, and that’s a community and willingness to support and grow as neighboring businesses, a pillar in what helps Hart’s stand in this city. In Seattle, there are dozens of coffee houses on each street, each one fighting to be the next Starbucks, to be the next Stumptown. Here, we want to grow together.
We can all rest easy at night—even caffeine induced—comfortably knowing that Rochester isn’t only doing it’s part in setting a trend in upstate New York, but keeping up with a standard and educating our ever-growing city about coffee.