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Hudson Valley Coffeehouses

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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).

 

» Get the entire list of fine Valley cafés here

“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.

monkey joeBean 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.”

» Get the entire list of fine Valley cafés here
 

mudd puddle michelle walshMudd Puddle co-owner Michelle Walsh with some house-made treats

Tucked away on Main Street in New Paltz, the Water Street Market is a walk-through collection of shops, galleries, and eateries. Here you’ll find Mudd Puddle Coffee Roasters and Café, an intimate java joint with an upbeat vibe and a wall-sized blackboard listing various coffee concoctions, cocoas, and other indulgences. (Pumpkin pie chai latte with espresso, anyone?) Michelle Walsh, who co-owns the shop with her husband James, says she roasts the coffee on the premises. “About 90 percent of our coffees are fair trade and organic,” she explains, “the most popular being the Dancing Goat, which is a nutty medium roast sold by the cup or pound.”

They also offer about 40 different loose leaf teas. Favored flavors include hibiscus; hot cinnamon black tea; and the Get Better Blend, a house-made mix of peppermint, cloves, honey, lemon, and other herbs.

Sited alongside the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, the café caters to a variety of guests exploring all the outdoor activities that New Paltz has to offer. “Since we’re located on the midpoint of the rail trail, it makes us a good stopping point for hikers, bikers, and other weekend tourists,” Walsh says. “But during the week we get a lot of locals and families.”

Seating inside is limited; there’s one large table, a quiet corner nook stuffed with comfy chairs, and an adjoining room that holds a few smaller tables. A petite platform is set up there, too, for poetry readings, which take place the third Saturday of each month (the next one is March 19), and the occasional open mic night. In warmer weather, outdoor seating on the back deck and in front of the shop gives customers the chance to take in live rock, folk, or jazz from the nearby courtyard.

mudd puddle coffeeBrew from the Mudd Puddle in New Paltz

Menu options run the gamut from the usual coffeehouse staples to wraps and sweet or savory crêpes in the morning (for a truly indulgent wake-me-up, try the Nutella crêpes with the signature Mudd Puddle beverage, a mocha with caramel and vanilla flavors) and panini with soups or fresh salads during lunch. “James makes all the food on the premises; sandwiches are pressed here, he makes all the dressings and sauces, and he does some really good soups — vegetarian chili, beef stew, and others,” Walsh says. “I think people like the fact that they see us working together. One or both of us is always here. One of our biggest assets is our customer service. People see that our staff is genuinely friendly — not fake — and love to stop by to chitchat.”

» Get the entire list of fine Valley cafés here
 

2 alices coffeeMore than just caffeine: Musicians play to an enthusiastic crowd at 2 Alices

Photographs courtesy of 2 Alices

For those casual nights when you just want your chai, but your significant other’s craving a good beer, 2 Alices Coffee Lounge in Cornwall-on-Hudson serves up an assortment of coffees and teas, and also offers a selection of wines and beer. “And our coffee is perfect,” boasts owner Mikey Jackson. “It’s all organic and fair trade, served just after being roasted. Our lattes are extraordinary, too.” What makes Jackson so confident in his coffees? “All our baristas go through a training program; we make everything from scratch, not through machines like some chains. Even our chai is made on the premises.”

By day, this funky little roadside café attracts a steady crowd, from regulars to Wi-Fi hunters lounging with laptops and lattes. “A lot of people use the space as their office — they’re here every day, basically working from home. But we get teens studying for school, senior citizens meeting with friends, and we even set up a toy area for moms who can’t leave their young kids at home,” Jackson says. “At night, it’s a great alternative for people who don’t want to go to the bar. They can have a calm night with a glass of wine. It’s not really a loud scene, except on music nights.”

2 alices

Live bands set up two or three times a month, but the real crowd pleaser is Thursday night trivia. “It’s standing room only,” Jackson says. “People usually get here an hour early to get a table. They really get into it; it gets intense.”

» Get the entire list of fine Valley cafés here
 

ralph's pretty good cafeRalph Janetti, owner of Ralph’s Pretty Good Café in Chatham, samples his product

Photograph by Jennifer May

2 Alices also displays works by local artists (and yes, they’re for sale), just one more way to tie into the community. Ralph’s Pretty Good Café in Chatham does the same. “Our café’s layout isn’t designed to handle live music or poetry, but we do showcase a different local artist on our walls every month,” says owner Ralph Janetti. His place is just as its name suggests: a laid-back, no-nonsense place to hang out with a cup of the good stuff. “We’re your basic, non-fancy coffeehouse; no vanilla-caramel-triple-zuma-zuma lattes,” Janetti quips. “We sell cappuccinos and lattes, but nothing too over-the-top. People who come here know they’re going to get a good cup of coffee and a good bite to eat — even though the name only says ‘pretty good.’ ”

ralph's pretty good cafe coffeeBrew from Ralph’s Pretty Good Café in Chatham

The café brews coffee using beans from the Barrington Coffee Roasting Company (which is based in the Berkshires), and offers a variety of homemade eats. Customer favorites include the Sloppy Jose quesadilla and the adult grilled cheese: thick sourdough bread, mozzarella, tomato — “it’s a sandwich, but it tastes kind of like a pizza,” Janetti says. They also carry locally made Jane’s Ice Cream.

The interior is best described as casually comfortable. With about 24 seats, plus a children’s area, it draws a varied crowd. “We get a good cross-section of the community. Basically, coffee drinkers who like good coffee come here,” Janetti claims. “A repairman working on one of our machines once said that, by industry standards, we were using too much coffee per brew. I said, ‘Well, that’s what people like. That’s why they come here — we don’t skimp.’ ”

» Get the entire list of fine Valley cafés here
 

crafted kup coffeeAn artful design from Poughkeepsie’s Crafted Kup

Photograph courtesy of Crafted Kup

Which coffee shop do local residents like best? Readers of this magazine gave that honor to Poughkeepsie’s Crafted Kup, which they voted had the Best Cup of Coffee/Latte in the Valley last year.

The shop, located within walking distance to Vassar College, has all the fixings of the typical college-town coffeehouse — minus the flocks of students crowding out the locals. “We have a good mix here,” notes owner Ken Craft. “The college students make up only about 25-30 percent of our crowd. Everyone else ranges from children to people in their 70s and 80s.”

The Crafted Kup’s beverage menu includes fresh, locally roasted JB Peel coffees. The organic Woodstock blend — a mix of South and Central American beans — is like the town itself: bold, full of flavor, and just plain groovy. “Next to regular coffee, our lattes are the most popular drink — especially chai,” Craft notes. Foamy cappuccinos, creamy cocoas, and natural fruit smoothies are also available. Cupcakes by the Groovy Baker (of Dutchess County) fill a glass case along with bagels and other pastries from Formisano Bakery in Saugerties, Bread Alone Bakery (based in Boiceville), and Wild Hive Farm Bakery in Clinton Corners.

The laid-back space has a come-and-stay-awhile atmosphere: overstuffed chairs surround a table full of books and magazines, a nearby shelf holds board games, and various smaller tables line the opposite wall. “It’s very upbeat here during the daytime,” Craft says. “We have a lot of regulars who come in for lively conversation. As the day progresses, more people settle in with computers, but it picks back up again later. It’s just a really nice place to be: great food, great coffee, good soup, and good people.”

Who could ask for anything more?

» Get the entire list of fine Valley cafés here

Did you know…

  • Coffee is the second most popular globally traded commodity, just after petroleum.
  • Coffee has its own official holidays in Costa Rica (September 12), Ireland (September 19), and Japan (October 1).
  • When it’s in full bloom, a coffee tree is covered with about 30,000 white flowers, which develop into fruit the next day. Coffee trees can flower up to eight times per year.
  • In 2001, Brazil produced a scented stamp promoting its coffee industry. The scent lasted up to five years.
  • When shopping for scented candles or perfume, taking a whiff of coffee beans in between sniffs will allow you to smell each scent more clearly.
  • There are about 1,200 different chemical components to coffee, many of which help to make up its distinct flavor.
  • Plants love coffee, too: Keep snails and slugs out of your garden by sprinkling used coffee grounds around the base of your plants. Feed yellowed houseplants a mixture of coffee grounds, sugar, and water to help revive them.
» Get the entire list of fine Valley cafés here

 

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