Very much like my relationship with Rochester, my relationship with coffee is complicated. I didn’t always like coffee, or find much use for it.
Over the past few years, however, I’ve grown to appreciate the taste, and the burst of focus that comes from it. Coffee also provides me with an opportunity to discover new places while getting shit done. Port City Java in Wilmington, Kaffitár in Reykjavik.
God, there really isn’t anything better than cozying up with your laptop in a cramped corner of Joule or Cafe de los Muertos in downtown Raleigh. I’ve done some of my best work in coffee shops, hence, the need to find one ASAP during my time in Rochester.
My parents don’t like coffee much, and neither do my siblings. A good old-fashioned Google Maps stalking also proved useless, but not for the reason one may think. Turns out, Rochester has an abundance of unique little coffee shops.
Who knew? Not me, certainly. But luckily, after exposing my location on Instagram, I got a text from my old friend Joe demanding to know if I was in Rochester. As I always do when I come here, I neglected to tell anyone about it.
“Um, yes?” I replied.
We made plans to hang, but I also solicited some recommendations from him.
“Tell me where to get coffee to tide me over,” I begged via text. He responded with a few different options, including one called Joe Bean Coffee. He had never been to the location, but said he had the coffee before, and it was very good.
It was a little further than desired, but an article I read on Hart’s Local Grocer’s site provided further encouragement. The coffee scene in Rochester was described as a community, rather than a competitive space. All the enthusiasts with a common goal: to show the versatility of the coffee bean. Finally, the coffee at Joe Bean’s was depicted as rivaling Seattle’s. Rich, vibrant notes with definition beyond just light and dark.
I took off the next morning for downtown Rochester.
I arrived at Joe Bean’s, which is actually a bit awkwardly located in a building. The awkwardness immediately faded when I walked in. Peppy, upbeat music, smiling baristas, and a cool, slightly dark ambiance.
The bar reminded me a little of the bar at Kex in Reykjavik. I examined the menu, which was clipped to a wooden clipboard. It may have well been in Swedish. Foreign coffee names like El Salvador Divisadero and East Timor Ermera headlined, with flavors like soft orange peel, red currant and walnut dancing across the page.
I requested the Rwanda Gitesi, intrigued by the notes of wildflower and blackberry jam. I situated myself near the window, overlooking University Ave. After a few minutes, the barista brought it over a large glass pot, along with a little mug.
The next three hours were spent writing. Uninterrupted, I ticked away on my laptop, occasionally refilling my petite cup. The coffee was perfectly drinkable and immaculate. I liked it for the same reasons I love good vodka. No bitterness, no bite – only smooth, strong sips.
I didn’t realize how much time had passed until the coffee was gone. I felt the way one would feel after a few strong martinis, but instead of drunk, just way too caffeinated.
“Can I cash out?” I stammer a little, settling my bill that was only about $4.
I drove home, under the influence of the bold, dark heat, trip and essay ideas bouncing around in my head. Then, quiet appreciation about how once again, Rochester had surprised me. Like Joe Bean declares, it had “pushed the boundaries” of what it could do.