Here I sit in Harlem.
As I approached the Starbucks on 125th and 7th–Martin Luther King Jr blvd and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd– the first thing that caught my eye was the famous Apollo Theater just steps away. “How cool!” I exclaimed aloud to no one in particular.
When I first declared that I was moving to the big city and was possibly seeking a place in Harlem, because of its comparatively inexpensive ad listings, I got a lot of people saying “Be careful,” and “Are you sure?” Dismissing these as knee-jerk ignorant reactions, I knew I had to see Harlem for myself.
Most don’t need to be told that Harlem is known to be the most culturally African American neighborhood in Manhattan. From the Harlem Renaissance of the 20s and 30s to today, this remains the absolute truth. Unfortunately Harlem is also known for high poverty and crime levels. Although the general consensus seems to be that Harlem is a much cleaner and safer neighborhood than before, the stigma it earned has obviously stuck. Spanning across the island of Manhattan, Harlem is divided into West, Central, and East Harlem, each with their own cultural identities and differences (or so I’m told). 125th and 7th is Central Harlem, or just plain Harlem.
So did this little white boy enjoy his trip to the Harlem Starbucks? Yes, immensely.
Once I entered, I was greeted by Nate the Barista, offering free samples of coffee. I introduced myself to Nate and explained my “quixotic mission” to him. He filled me in on Starbucks’s Coffee Master program, where they take eager baristas such as Nate and train them to demonstrate a mastery of coffee (from brewing to tasting). He also explained that this location was most definitely the best in the city. Well let’s see.
From appearance alone, I’d describe this as a bare-bones Starbucks. It has the essentials (coffee, stools, small tables…) but that’s it. However, what it lacks in furnishings it makes up for in character. The local residents wave to each other as they come in, and many patrons are engaged in lively conversation over coffee. The genuine friendliness of the baristas and the communal nature of those around me, gave me a slight case of the warm-tinglies.
All in all, if you bring your laptop you may not find an outlet, but bring your friend and you’ll find a sense of community.
The Crowd… Jovial and social.
The Music… A tad too loud. Maybe a subtle hint for people not to linger too long?
I couldn’t give Coffee Master Nate anything less. Thanks man!
Drink of Choice:
Grande Blonde Roast w/sf Vanilla. Nate recommended it, and I figured why not give it a try. Starbucks is obviously advertising their newer-lighter roast to combat the criticism that their coffee is far over-roasted and way too strong.
Overall Starbucks Rating:
If Nate’s enthusiasm for coffee was contagious, it would be a 5.