Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND A SMALL CITY AN HOUR SOUTH of Boston, Providence, R.I., has long been home to new thinkers hell-bent on changing the world, both on a metropolitan level as well as a coffee one. Roger Williams, founder of Providence, and later Rhode Island, left Boston in 1636: He was driven out for his religious dissention and founded the fi rst colonial state government that was separate from the church. Today, a segment of Rhode Islanders continue the tradition of boundary push- ing via the specialty-coffee scene. On a national and international coffee level, Providence has built a name for itself with the emergence of the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Coffee Conference, or MANE as it was lovingly called from its inception in 2006 to its fi nal year, 2017. Founded by Gerra Harrigan, then with New Harvest Coffee Roasters and now of InterAmerican Coffee, and New Harvest's owner, Rik Kleinfeldt, MANE grew from a regional educational and community-building event, to one of the can't-miss coffee events of the year, with a sold-out attendance in the hundreds, and attendees hailing from North and Central America and Europe. Like MANE itself, Providence is small but mighty when it comes to coffee. For a city of just 180,000 residents, it brims with cafés and roasteries. Each neighborhood has a distinct character, from Federal Hill's hard-line, old-school Italian feel, to Fox Point's off-beat yet fami- ly friendly main street, Wickenden. The cafés along the way each have their own mantras that illustrate their vibe. To get a sense of Providence's café scene, I spent a week exploring the neighborhoods, interviewing owners and roasters, and, of course, enjoying the incredible drinks I was served around the city. W H I T E E L E C T R I C My fi rst stop was White Electric, a coffee shop on the West End with a spunky fl air that both welcomes and impresses. I sat with owner/ manager Tom Toupin beneath the curls of light shining from the wood- en serif letters "W" and "E" illuminated on the wall. Tom actually made these letters himself—a hobby, he explained, that grew into a cash-fl ow opportunity in the early days of the café to supplement the burgeoning coffee business. He would soak the wood in water before bending it carefully and fi rmly into the shape he desired. The slow, patient molding of these iconic letters makes a good metaphor for Tom's attitude toward coffee. Coming from a fi ve-star restaurant in Newport where coffee was "a second- or third-tier item," Tom became invested in learning about and making great coffee while running the restaurant. Soon, he was prepared to leave the restaurant business for a solely coffee-related pursuit, and started looking around for his own café. Tom purchased White Electric, which has occupied its current location in the West End since 2000. Opposite page, at top: In the East Providence neighborhood of Riverside, Borealis Coff ee operates out of an old train depot. Alaska native and owner Brian Dwiggins roasts in the back of the shop, while his loyal clientele of locals enjoys the comfortable and charming atmosphere on the retail side. Below: Baristas Kristian Vario and Lee Scheff ey at Seven Stars Bakery work together to dial in a coff ee. Opened in 2001, Seven Stars now has three retail bakeries and cafés throughout the city, and one in neighboring Pawtucket. This page: A Providence-based arts organization called the Avenue Concept is dedicated to nurturing and supporting public art ecosystems in the city by working with commissioned artists. Baltimore- based muralist Gaia, in collaboration with the Tomaquag Museum, created this piece, "Still Here," to pay tribute to the indigenous heritage and peoples of Providence. It depicts Lynsea Montanari, a member of the Narraganse tribe and educator at the museum, holding a picture of Princess Red Wing, a Narraganse elder who founded the Tomaquag Museum 60 years ago. The mural is meant to stand in stark contrast to the brick buildings surrounding it. 37 www.baristamagazine.com

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