Coffee Culture

1c Coffee is a culture.  When you buy a cup of Joe from a coffee shop, it is a matter of trust.  There are many expectations—that the coffee will taste good, make you warm (or cool) and wake you up.  Coffee is how I start my day.  It is an important ritual, from the smell when I walk into a coffee shop, to when I watch the steam roll off the top, to the first glorious sip.  I just don’t feel right if I don’t have my perfect cup.I’m lucky to have many choices for this experience in Cape Girardeau.  Robbie Britt, owner of Dynamite Coffee, shares my philosophy that coffee selecting, roasting and brewing is an art form, one that is dependent on craft and building a skill set.  Britt, who is originally from Scott City, has built his coffee business on quality, trust and craft.  He realizes that coffee is a “personal thing.”  He has built his business slowly over time, starting out in a coffee truck three years ago, to opening a small shop in downtown Cape Girardeau.  He worked as a barista in college and then moved to Seattle to learn more about the science and art of coffee, participating in barista competitions, making connections, and obtaining a national barista ranking.When I went to speak to Britt about his story, the small shop was bursting at the seams with customers.  This is customary, since they are only open a few mornings a week.  People were lined up to try the new features of the season, including me.  I chose the Winter White Latte, which was perfect—not too sweet, and just the right flavors. Britt doesn’t believe in masking the coffee behind too much sugar and crème.  When you order a large coffee, it does not come in a “Venti” size, but one that is just a little more than a normal cup.  The coffee had just the right balance and made me warm and fuzzy inside on this cold, gray day.  As I looked around, I felt a sense of community that I so much crave in this town that I am beginning to call my own.  The air is unpretentious, yet you know at once that Dynamite Coffee isn’t just any coffee shop.  Britt is an artist, and his form of expression is via the venerable coffee bean.  Most of the time I feel like an outsider in my new town, not being a Missouri native, but on this day I did not.  I was greeted with smiles and a warm cup of Joe.  They leave you with wanting more, not feeling like you have a bad taste in your mouth.Britt, who has another full time job, has built the business slowly because he is a perfectionist.  He and his wife Katie built the business via word of mouth, lots of long hours and by building relationships.  I can certainly relate, being a business owner myself.  He also offers a few seasonal features, which are a result of his experimenting and tasting.  And, boy, are you in for a treat.Britt’s dream is to expand the shop to feature a small selection of pastries, as well as to build relationships with people along the chain (learning from the coffee farmers) with the hopes of one day owning his own coffee farm.Down the street, also located in the ever-growing downtown, is a Cape establishment, Cup ‘n Cork.  Having recently moved to a larger space, owners Tina and Patrick Abbott are busy bees, offering a full lunch and dinner menu and wine selections, hence the “cork” in their name.  And it all began with a severed finger—Patrick’s that is.  Several years back, Patrick accidentally cut off his finger while working at a restaurant.  He took this as a sign from God that he needed to pay attention.  He decided to return to school to learn about computers to obtain what Tina referred to as a “real” job.  He had always worked in restaurants, supporting himself while going to school to be an actor the first time around.  One day after unhappily trying many different “real jobs,” Tina’s sister asked Patrick why he didn’t go into restaurant management, since those are the types of jobs he had always returned to.  Patrick took her advice, and he and Tina, an accountant by trade, decided to open Deli-Q, a restaurant in Sikeston.  They found that it was difficult to maintain a restaurant in this somewhat economically depressed town. Having $35 to their name, they decided to close their doors.Then a strange coincidence happened.  As Tina tells it, she and Patrick were standing in their living room deciding what they were going to do, when Patrick accidentally dialed Papa John’s Pizza.  Having laughed at the thought that they couldn’t afford even a pizza, it occurred to Patrick that he knew the manager at Papa John’s, and that maybe he could get a job with them.  Tina subsequently went to work for Papa John’s and Patrick worked at Schnucks—again the food theme.  To get the job at Papa John’s, Tina had to go to the DMV in Cape.  There, she stepped into Cup n’ Cork, which was opened by Barry and Kim Robinson.  Tina had told Kim that she had always wanted to be a barista.  Knowing this, Kim invited her and Patrick to come work with them at Cup ‘n Cork.  Little did they know, Kim and Barry were grooming them to take over their business as they were interested in seeking another business venture.  Tina and Patrick joined them in December that very same year, and then the business was turned over to Tina and Patrick the next March.  Cup ‘n Cork features espresso by Parengo Coffee, another coffee establishment in Sikeston; Tina and Colby, owner of Parengo, developed an exclusive house blend for Cup ‘n Cork.As I was talking to a very busy Tina, a huge group of SEMO students came in to have some coffee and treats.  A noted feature that I especially like are their gluten-free peanut butter cookies.  Finally, a coffee shop featuring gluten-free goodies so I can partake!If you are in the mood for a Thai coffee and an amazing bowl of pho (for the doubly amazing price of $6) try Pho8, a wonderful new noodle shop in Cape.  There they brew chicory coffee from the esteemed Café du Monde in New Orleans.  They drip it over sweetened condensed milk, stir it, and then pour it over ice.  Yum! I have this special treat when I need an afternoon pick-me-up and some company, as well as some delicious, healthy food.  I personally have my coffee with one of their rice bowls, also only $6!With establishments like these, it is easy to find a sense of community in a world that is becoming more and more impersonal.  Thank you to these businesses, and keep up the hard work by keeping the rest of us going.

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