Captured over the summer from The High Line, this photo is one of my favorites. I love the surrealist nature of the billboard, which itself seems surreal against the the muted brown tones of the city, the grays of the clouds. And those floating fingers are just endlessly interesting.
It’s a warm, breezy afternoon in summer and my grandpa and I are strolling along New York City’s High Line park.
We’ve walked about 15 blocks when we come across some vendors selling art and a few scattered food carts. One is Blue Bottle Coffee, a California-based organic coffee brand that also has a few shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn. You probably shouldn’t judge a coffee shop by its barista, but the guy behind the cart has that scruffy, indie look that makes me think he takes his coffee seriously.
“Let’s try it out,” Papa says. “I’ve heard it’s good.”
Of course, I’m not going to object. It smells amazing. I wonder though, realistically, how anyone has time for Blue Bottle.
There is no line when Papa and I order our Three Africans Blend drip coffees, but it takes almost five minutes to make them. Not exactly conducive to New Yorkers on the move, but I guess when you’re strolling on the High Line you’re supposed to be relaxed.
With our coffee slowly dripping through the filter, it’s awkward not to make small talk. The barista starts telling us how the Blue Bottle brand has a “cult-like” following in San Francisco, but is just beginning to catch on in New York City.
“In San Francisco,” he says, “Where people only have to be at work at ten, ten-ish, they’ll wait on line forever for a cup. It’s different here.”
Honestly, I can’t imagine people having the patience for that in New York. After all, a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee, even if it’s a really really good cup of coffee.
But we have plenty of time today, and by this point I’m pretty sold by the scent of the coffee grounds, picked up and swirled around by the High Line breeze.
We finally get our coffee and sit down at a little table in the sun near 15th street. It’s about 75 degrees — if it were any warmer drinking hot coffee might not be enjoyable, but it’s perfect in this weather.
Papa takes a sip first.
“It almost tastes like beer it’s so good,” he says says, smiling.
I start laughing. My Irish grandfather loves his beer. I actually know what he means though — the coffee is so thick and rich-tasting, it’s almost filling.
I take a sip.
“Wow, this is good.”
Now I have to rationalize the high price.
“Starbucks lattes are like $3.75,” I say. “I mean, $2.90 for a cup? It’s still not as bad as being a latte person.”
We talk and talk about how delicious this coffee is. One of the best things about loving coffee is talking about how great your cup of coffee is with another coffee-lover who is genuinely enjoying his or her cup.
“I think this is one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had,” Papa says.
“Really?! The best you’ve ever had?”
“Well, not the best, but close.”
Papa has never been a gourmet coffee drinker, preferring a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts black or the dark roast from Wawa. His all-time favorite — a 7-Eleven blend — was tragically discontinued a few years ago, and he’s been searching for a replacement ever since. He would never willingly step foot in a Starbucks; he thinks their coffee has too much of a burnt taste, which I agree with even though I buy it all the time.
Needless to say, I’m pretty happy about his newfound love for the trendy Blue Bottle.
We continue walking along the High Line, savoring our Three Africans Blend for the next 15 minutes until the coffee’s the same temperature as the outside air. It still tastes good.
That night I arrive home to an email from Papa, informing me of Blue Bottle’s dangerous new Rockefeller Center location.
“How can any one be able to save money working near a Blue Bottle coffee kiosk?” he writes. “There ought to be a law against this type of temptation.”