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Hope Springs Eternal

March 27, 2014

What’s a long endless winter without a little bit of death and despair?

Earlier this week I heard the tragic news that Caffe Vero will be closing shortly. When they opened their doors a few years back, this was the first and only place to find a reliably decent shot of espresso. All of their shots were double ristrettos, and they knew how to properly texture milk with an abundance of microfoam.

Sure, they made drinks to their own standards. That meant those looking for a traditional macchiato or cappuccino might be put out by the volume of microfoam. But they had all the right components, and their macchiato never failed to put a smile on my face. That’s no easy task.

Since then, other shops have opened to answer the call of espresso lovers in the Capital Region. Tierra makes a mean cortado and the Lucas Confectionery is putting their classic machine to good use pulling shots of Blue Bottle beans.

But with Vero’s closing, there are a few great opportunities for those willing to seize on them.

I’ve been asked why I think Vero didn’t make it. Instead of speculating on the ins and outs of a business that I don’t have any first hand knowledge about, I thought I would share an embarrassing story starring yours truly.

In theory, someone like me was Vero’s ideal customer. Someone from the suburbs who cares deeply about coffee, respects what they do, and is willing to drive out of their way for a cup of the stuff. And it’s true. I did.

But on multiple occasions I circled the surrounding blocks, couldn’t find parking, threw up my hands and drove to Tierra or Uncommon Grounds.

It’s not that I’m opposed to parking a few blocks away and walking. I’m not one of those skittish suburbanites who are afraid of the neighborhood. I would even happily pay a meter if I could find one that’s available.

There is still only so much time I’m willing to commit to the enterprise. It’s espresso. The idea is that it’s supposed to be relatively quick. And more often than not, I would find myself with a fixed amount of time which would be plenty to park, walk, order, drink and get back to my life. But it doesn’t take that many trips around the block before the clock is no longer in your favor.

Of course, the more times a trip to Vero flamed out, the more likely I would be to go somewhere else should another opportunity for coffee arise. One or two dedicated 10-minute parking spots for Vero customers only, either on the corner or across the street, would have paid dividends.

Later hours could have helped too. But there is no use crying over spilled microfoam.

Now I’m most concerned with two things:
1) They have one of the nicest espresso machines in Albany
2) They have a trained staff that knows how to use it well

If these things can find a home within the region’s burgeoning coffee culture, then we haven’t actually lost Caffe Vero. Rather, its spirit can spread to either established shops looking to improve their espresso program, or to those newer ventures that are serious about what they do and want to be equally serious about the espresso they serve.

This would be a great time for me to be in Albany so I could knock on doors and try to bring people together in person.

The Hudson River Coffee House has in house talent, but could certainly use a better machine (at least the last time I checked). Uncommon Grounds has decent equipment, but could really benefit from people who care enough to make every drink with precision and an eye to a higher standard. Bread & Honey was suggested as a new venture that could benefit from picking up the machine and staff into their operation. And that’s just for starters.

At the end of the day, machines come and machines go. Let’s not lose these people, people.

Maybe the Capital Region Coffee Collective can find some way to bring these baristas under their banner. Either helping them find shifts at their shops or helping to sell their skills to secure similar spots elsewhere.

And if there is anything I can do from here, any connections I can make, any people I can introduce, any contacts that you need, please don’t hesitate to ask.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Josh K. permalink
    March 27, 2014 10:39 am

    Well said.

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