I am convinced all the greatest things began in Italy: the bicycle, Pizza, Dante’s The Divine Comedy, Italian Stallion, Marco Polo, the espresso machine. Did I mention Italian Stallion? The list goes on, and there’s one more reason to love Italians even more. “Caffe Sospeso” or Suspended Coffee began in Italy. The Suspended Coffee movement began a century ago in Naples. The idea is to buy a coffee for someone who may be “in need” of a coffee, but can’t afford it. That person could be homeless, a broke college student studying for exams, or even someone who has just had a bad day.
We have decided to start the suspended coffee program here at the Bru, thanks to our customer,
Gary Holdeman. He bought 12 “caffe sospesos”. Anyone can come in and ask for a suspended coffee, or if we decide someone needs one just because, then we will. Don’t worry, we won’t be using it on ourselves! So, next time you buy yourself a coffee and you’re feeling generous, why not add to the Suspended Coffee funds? Anything helps and you just might make someone’s day.
I began with Italian, so I see it best to end with Italian. And, seeing most of the Italian I know is inappropriate, I will leave you with Dante’s words. “L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.” In English? “The love that moves the sun and other stars.” His love for coffee perhaps?
I first met Strawberry Smoothie sometimes Hot Chocolate Girl before I worked here; though, I did meet her at the Bru. She knew me before I knew her. She was dating my brother. For some reason, and certainly without intention, all my brother’s relationships end after the girlfriend has met me. Strange, because I’ve liked practically every girlfriend he’s ever had, especially this one. She hugged me as soon as she saw me. I’m not much of a hugger, (my mother claims I hug like a tree; perhaps because I worked on a tree farm (?)) so I wasn’t too sure of her.
Our immediate bond began over coffee. A couple of hours later I knew of her travels, her dreams, her heartbreaks. She knew of my travels, my dreams, my heartbreak. My first impressions of her were exactly right. Strong and confident, this girl soaked up life. Her love for her family was so affirmed in her love for photography. It seemed our lives paralleled each other’s with such contrast if that makes any sense at all. Little did I know we’d end up taking road trips all over Texas; from Dallas to Austin, birthdays to New Year’s Eve, dancing the night away with Kendra the midget. With the tambourine in hand, we ended up on stage with the band (though amazing, we can’t remember their name) calling others up only for our great moment to be stolen by the security guard gesturing to get off the stage.
She’s the same age as me, yet I feel like she’s so much older. She’s a traveller like me, yet much more settled. She’s got stories to tell that make you want to be her. Her 28th birthday was spent doing 28 random acts of kindness. On Random Act #4 she came into contact with the man we shall deem Creepy Slovakian Man. He was a bald man in his late 50s and took an instant liking to her. He wanted to impress her, so he took out his pouch of tobacco. He rolled up some tobacco, popped it in his mouth, took it out, grabbed her wrist, and rubbed the tobacco on her. He then shoved her wrist under her nose to get her to smell the great “quality” of the tobacco he possessed. Creepy Slovakian Man then saw the look of disgust on her face. “WHY? WHY DO YOU LOOK LIKE THAT?” “No, no, I’m fine,” she lied, “It smells nice!” And because that went so well, he took the ring off his finger, gave it to her and told her to give it to her first-born son. Which made no sense at all. He was drunk and from Slovakia. That’s all we know. Only Strawberry Smoothie sometimes Hot Chocolate Girl ends up in these situations. Well, so do I. That’s why we get along. Oh, and funny enough, she is keeping that ring for her first born son.
Coffee and conversation go hand in hand, though it seems that alliteration is starting to become a lost art. Yes, we get people sitting down for coffee, but how many people get a to go cup because they have to leave in 15 to pick up so and so or get to work for a meeting? Especially in the States, it’s a rare breed that orders a second coffee and isn’t in a hurry to get anywhere.
As baristas, we get our fair share of chat with people. For some reason it feels wrong to not talk while pouring the espresso. That could be because I am quite the chatty one and I can hold a conversation with a tree (I have an excuse, I once worked on a tree farm). It could also be because coffee shops tend to have that laid back, gabby atmosphere. I once read you can always talk about the weather with someone because everyone has the weather in common. Which leads me to bring up the customer we’ve deemed “The Weatherman.” He’s a lovely man who orders a Caffe Latte. He comes in before the morning rush and honestly; the only thing we have ever talked about is the weather. It’s like he’s bursting with excitement to tell me the weather report. I’m not sure what I like more, his enthusiasm or my secret (well, not anymore) nickname for him.
We get many interesting characters come into The Bru, many locals, some not so local. Between rushes, before work, after work, all the baristas end up talking about these characters and their stories. We have customers that have told us their life stories, and some have told us things we wish they hadn’t. Some of you I see every day, make your coffee, yet I know nothing about. Some, I know much more than you think. So, with that, I have decided to write your stories in this blog. I won’t use your names; I will only name you by your drink order. I will only tell stories with happy endings. It is highly possible I will make up a story about you just to amuse myself. Let’s be honest, most of these stories will be fabricated. So with that, I will give you a glimpse of a few customers that tread in…
Strawberry Smoothie, sometimes Hot Chocolate Girl… Miss social is the reason our plant on the display fridge is alive. She is the only one that waters it.
Regular Brewed Coffee for here Man… He comes in and sits at the same table every day. He sits drinking his coffee and calls it his “thinking time.” He has no distractions, no phone, no books, nothing.
Lotta Vanilla Lady… Most days you offer her some cookies and she says, “Sure!” She brings her son a S’mores Steamer and her daughter a Caramel Cappuccino with extra foam even when they’re being “teenagers.” She says they like it when we write notes on their coffee cups, so we tell them “Good morning, get out of bed!”
Their stories? Next week…
Yes, we have started to grow some herbs in the our back patio. But they are little pots. Surely we need to plant more to make it useful for our culinary excursions. However, the simple step of cultivating a pot at a time has created good change. We have since launched, “The Courtyard”, our backyard seating area, a space that has inspired many a great conversations.
And we continue to plant our gardens.
Last month, we started to brainstorm with one of our Barista, Chenell Bowers, on how we can help with a project she is involved in the Philippines called the “The Garden Herbs” project. Imagine our gardening hands reaching across the globe? We began to get excited. “The Garden Herbs” project is a preschool wellness initiative with a focus on feeding undernourished and malnourished children in Peña Blanca, Cagayan Valley, Philippines. There are now close to 100 children involved in the daily feeding component of the program. To feed the children until the end of the year, we need $4,000. Close to half of this has already been raised.
So we said to ourselves, isn’t this just like our garden project in Guymon, “The Courtyard”? Starting with small pots, we can hopefully create a garden that can feed all.
And we will build our garden. And build bridges between various gardens.
We will soon offer some heirloom rice from the Philippines with proceed from sales benefitting “The Garden Herbs” project. We will also launch our Arroz Caldo (Filipino chicken and rice soup) sometime in August utilizing this heirloom rice.
Can’t wait to see what our garden will look like next year!