(((COFFEE HUGS))) - Why I Hate Loving Abraço Espresso
I’m a glutton for a good cup of coffee, but I do not have a coffee routine. Sometimes I drink coffee in the morning, sometimes I don’t. I love a perfect double espresso after a good meal or a cup of strong drip coffee with a slice of pie. I particularly enjoy a cappuccino for breakfast with a flaky croissant or other slightly sweet or savory pastry. To the delight of discerning New Yorkers, the coffee craze has finally made it to the east coast, with the availability of far superior coffee roasters Intelligentsia (Chicago, IL), Stumptown (Portland, OR), and Counter Culture (Durham, NC) relegating the unavoidable Starbucks chain on par with McDonald’s. It was love at first sip for me when I had my first cup of coffee at Ninth Street Espresso, a purveyor of the Intelligentsia brand with a location in Chelsea Market and two shops within spitting distance of each other in the East Village, almost as if to mock the ubiquity of Starbucks at the local level.
But the coffee aficionados won’t stop raving about Abraço Espresso (86 E. 7th St between 1st & 2nd Aves, 212-388-9731), and the line out the door most mornings supports the accolades. Quirky, homegrown, and sort of sweet, just like their baked offerings, the duo that own and operate Abraço serve up their coffee with a smile and know many of their regulars by their first names. Oddly, the first time I ventured over to the postage stamp sized coffee mecca, there was no line at all. In fact there was no coffee available as I had missed the 4pm closing time by just over five minutes. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated by highly regarded coffee that stopped flowing just at the point in the afternoon that my eyelids begin falling from fatigue. Those looking for a Monday morning pick-me-up will be similarly thwarted as the shop is completely shut down all day on Mondays. It is almost a relief when a public holiday falls on a Monday, because the unavailability of Abraço has no impact on our workday, but recently, on the day after Columbus Day, just to keep things consistent, the owners chose to observe the holiday by closing on the following Tuesday. This way, the regulars can begin their week with the same frustration that they have come to expect and masochistically enjoy at some level by making this their coffee shop of choice.
“Abraço” is Portuguese for “Hug,” which is what you are forced to do with fellow patrons once you finally make your way inside the diminutive space to order your coffee. Hug one patron as you reach for the sugar and another as you reach for a spoon atop the espresso machine, and if you choose to “stay,” you will end up in an unavoidable embrace with the people sitting among you on either of the available six inch wide ledges, one on the inside and one on the outside. I equate ordering coffee at Abraço with hugging your rich Grandmother who gets on your nerves. She’s nice enough and she cares about you, but as much as you can’t wait to get away from her, you will inherit her fortune someday, and you know that the payoff is worth that fleeting sensation of misery! The bottom line is that Abraço makes delicious coffee. I even like their ‘little eggie’ sandwiches which feature a hardboiled egg on a tiny home baked roll with some kind of cheese and savory topping that changes daily. Despite the many nuisances associated with the experience, The Glutton has chosen to embrace Abraço, provided that it isn’t Monday or before 8am or after 4pm or any of the other times that I really need coffee. Luckily, I do not rely on Abraço, but instead I have become resigned to enjoying it on its own terms. Besides, I don’t live in the East Village, but in glorious Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I can get my coffee at Blue Bottle, another place I truly hate myself for loving…but that’s another story.