Hudson Valley Coffeehouses
More than just a place to get your jolt of java, local coffeehouses offer live music, original artwork — and the chance to meet and mingle with your neighbors
Hot and steamy: Brew from Monkey Joe in Kingston
Photographs by Jennifer May
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The smell of fresh brewed coffee; the whir of cappuccino machines; a table of friends lively chatting; a college student in an oversized chair tapping away on a laptop: These are the sights and sounds people have come to expect from their local coffee shop.
Sometimes serving as a meeting spot, other times as an escape to get some work done, these independently owned cafés have become places where community bonds are formed and nurtured — and where you won’t get a snide remark if you order the size of your drink the wrong way. Here’s a look at five local coffee lounges where you can get grounded (or buzzed).
“We wanted to have a name that’s easy to remember and that didn’t sound too ostentatious,” says Gabe Cicale, who co-owns Kingston’s Monkey Joe Coffee Roasting Company with his wife Kathy Nealis. “Some people are intimidated by specialty coffee because it’s viewed as trendy, but coffee in general is really not that sophisticated. Our name came from a stuffed monkey toy my dog has; I figured monkeys are indigenous to where coffee grows, and Joe is slang for coffee. It fit together.”
Cicale originally intended to have a place that just roasted coffee to be sold by the pound, but Nealis insisted they open a café as well to help develop an identity and reputation with wholesale buyers.
Bean counters: Coffee roaster and barista Tom DeLooza roasts coffee beans at Monkey Joe
“Our concentration is on being a single-origin roast company, meaning that the coffee we roast is identified by the region it comes from, without being blended,” Cicale says. “I found that there was too much over-blending going on in the industry for the sake of making coffee more marketable, causing quality to suffer. We want to educate customers about the origins and regions, and to let them develop their own taste preferences based on that.”
Customer favorites include the African roasts Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (a highly acidic coffee with notes of fruit and wine) and the Sumatra Mandheling (which has a lower acidity and darker, heavier taste). “We offer some really nice espresso drinks, but by the cup, our regular drip-brewed coffee sells the most. Our primary drink is still the ‘cup of joe,’ ” Cicale says.
Cicale wanted the interior of the café to have the feel and look of European/Italian coffee bars. “There are no cushy sofas or Wi-Fi, although there is plenty of seating and tables. The layout was designed for people to come and go,” he says. “And, staying true to the European model, we don’t serve lunch or any other food, besides what would pair well with coffee or tea. We do sell pastries from Hudson Valley Dessert Company and Hudson Valley Gourmet.”
While maintaining their Euro style, the café still has a low-key feel. “It’s a very friendly place. We get to know our customers and engage them continuously,” Cicale says. “That’s what’s important in the community, having a place to come in and kick around some conversation about any topic. And we want people to know that if they have a question about coffee, this is where they can come to get answers.”