Viki Noe has been coming to Metropolis since we opened our doors. Her daughter, a former student at Sacred Heart Academy, was the first of our “featured artists” at the Café. Needless to say, Viki is a friendly, familiar face to us – one of our “regulars,” who we look forward to seeing. We’re happy to announce that this Thursday, 5/16, Viki will be having a book signing at the Café. It’s an important series that she’s started writing while sipping tea at the coffeehouse.
In 2006, Viki and her friend Delle were relaxing at Metropolis after dropping their daughters off at Sacred Heart. Delle was in remission from ovarian cancer at the time. Over tea, Viki told Delle that she had an idea for a book, about people grieving the death of a friend. Viki had never written a book before, but Delle was very excited by the idea and encouraged Viki to pursue the writing project. Viki promised her friend that she’d work on the project.
Delle died that November. Viki knew she wanted to keep her promise to write, but, at first, she just couldn’t do it. Then, about 4 years ago, Viki literally woke up one morning with the book all there in her mind. She went to work.
The first book in the series of six, Friend Grief and Anger: When Your Friend Dies and No One Gives a Damn, was released this last March. It is dedicated to Delle. The second book, Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends,grew from an article Viki wrote for Windy City Times about her work in the AIDS community in the late 80s/early 90s and was just recently released.
Viki feels like she’s still keeping her promise to Delle. She is continuing to research and write the remaining four books in the series. She does a lot of her work at Metropolis, despite it being out of the way, now that her daughter has graduated from Sacred Heart. For Viki, Metropolis provides a supportive community, good tea, and “killer cupcakes” from Maddiebird Bakery, all conducive to her creative process. We’re proud to be a part of that process; for us, that’s what a coffeehouse is all about.
On Thursday, Viki will be at the Cafe signing the first two books in the series. Because of the connection of Viki’s work and Metropolis, she felt that “there was no other place more appropriate” to do the signing. Stop by at 6:30 Thursday, May 16, to meet our friend Viki and pick up one of these very special books.
I recently had the pleasure of stopping into Nitecap Coffee Bar, a new spot in Pilsen serving Metropolis coffee just steps off of the 18th St. Pink Line.
Aaron Marsh, the owner, was able to take some time out from the kitchen to give me the low-down on this new community spot. Nitecap doesn’t just have great coffee in common with Metropolis; we share the values of providing a welcoming space for community building, offering quality food to compliment coffee, and a commitment to doing these things in a sustainable way.
Nitecap just soft-opened in March, offering coffee, espresso, in-house baked goods and sandwiches, and vegan options. They’ve welcomed community events from poetry slams to full-moon drum circles in the space. Being a gathering place for Pilsen residents is important to Aaron, who, himself, is a neighborhood guy.
He found himself often traveling up to Wicker Park and Bucktown search of good, locally-roasted coffee. When the opportunity to take over the 18th St. space and open a place in his own beloved neighborhood, he jumped on it, and so Nitecap Coffee Bar came into being.
The interior of the coffee bar is inviting, with ample seating, free wifi, and whimsical murals on the wall inspired by Maurice Sendak and the vintage comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland. Candies you’ll remember from childhood accompany the specialty drinks. Nitecap seeks to create an environment
evoking the whimsy of cartoons. They’ve definitely succeeded.
The pastry case is a sight to see. Delectable cupcakes are delivered from neighboring Skinnie Piggy (www.skinniepiggy.com), but almost everything else is made on-site, including the house chocolate and all the flavored syrups at the espresso bar. Vegans can rejoice that about a third of the sandwich menu and many of the sides are vegan-friendly!
Aaron’s got big plans for the future. He’d like to expand the food offerings to eventually include brunch. There are also plans to keep Nitecap open later hours and host more evening events. There is already a monthly poetry night sponsored by a woman from the community; Aaron would like to see even more guest artists and an open night for music in the space (consequently, if you’re interested him being involved organizing the open mic night, get in touch with him!). Nitecap is working toward green certification due to a commitment to sustainability. They’re already using fully bio-degradable, plant-based cleaning solutions and energy efficient lighting. That’s good not just for the neighborhood, but the whole planet.
Nitecap Coffee Bar is planning its grand opening for sometime in the near future, or just stop by next time you’re in Pilsen– they’re about good things over there!
I really didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived in Guatemala a couple weeks back. Much of the attention of the producers is primarily focused on the growing epidemic of ‘coffee leaf rust’ or simply ‘Roya’. Roya is a fungus that develops at the bottom of the coffee tree leaves and transforms the color of the leaves.
Coffee leaf rust at the El Carmen Estate
The fungus attaches itself to the bottom of the leaf and enters the plant through the stomata, blocking the exchange of gases and causing the leaves of the coffee trees to fall off shortly afterward. We all remember from biology class that without leaves, photosynthesis does not occur, and no photosynthesis means no new production. Roya fungus is always present, but producers are now dealing with an unprecedented epidemic. The causes of this epidemic are large and complex … and this may only be the tip of the iceberg.
Since the mid-80s in Guatemala, much of the coffee production has shifted from the large producer to a diversity of more small producers. The statistics I was given were that 20 years ago, 20% of the coffee producers produced roughly 80% of the coffee in Guatemala. Since then, there has been inverse shift to 80% of the coffee coming from smaller producers. I just want to go on the record saying that I do not have any concrete data for those figures, but these were numbers I got from two different exporters. So what does this mean? Much of the small producers simply do not have the resources to fight against Roya. There are copper-based fungicides and other chemicals (‘alta-diez’ and ‘alta-cien’) which help fight the rust problem; often too costly for smaller producers. I speculate that governments in Central America will start subsidizing fungicides for smaller producers.
So what’s going to happen now?
Producers simply have two choices: 1. They can take a hit from this year’s harvest (and presumably next harvest, too) and formulate a crop diversification plan. Or 2. They can plant sub-par varieties (such as Castillo, Sachimor, Catimor, etc.) and drive down the cup quality, while maintaining production numbers. With the market fluctuating like it has been, this can be a very difficult decision. I spoke with a number of our producers that have decided against planting lower quality producing coffee trees. Larger producers will (and should) start diversifying their crops. Better yielding plants, such as rubber, macadamia nuts, and sugar cane will eventually start replacing lower grown coffee. These crops can help fight against the devastation of coffee leaf rust and stabilize the ever-changing commodity market.
How does this affect our customers?
Coffee production is going to drop significantly. That is an undeniable fact. What we will end up seeing is higher prices in the form of price differentials, not so much from the commodity market. However, I don’t think we will see a significant drop in cup quality. The producers that we work with are all committed to their products; as is Metropolis. Despite the destruction caused by Roya, I’m confident that it will be an excellent season for Central American coffees!
For More Information:
For further exploration into Roya, Emma Bladyka (Science Manager of the SCAA) has written a great little piece about the history and science of the fungus.
Hey Metropolites! Here is our music schedule for the next few months. Easy rule of thumb: 2nd and 4th Wednesdays, there will be a performance! We hope you’ll come a join us support these local musicians!
Mark B. Owen
March 13, 6pm – 7pm
March 27, 6pm – 7pm
April 10, 6pm – 7pm
Open Mic Night
April 24, 6pm – 7pm
Look for details and sign up information near the end of March!
This week we asked Metropolis Cafe Art Director, Chelsea, to share some thoughts on the Cafe art program and to give us a sneak-peek on the barista art show coming to the walls of Metropolis next month!
Upon receiving the position of Art Director of the cafe, I was unsure that I was the woman for the job. Would I do the previous art director justice? Would I have the right “eye” for creating the atmosphere that our customers have grown to love? I soon realized that the work would fall into place, considering I was surrounded by some serious talent — not only in the Edgewater community, but within our very own cafe!
I knew right away that I wanted to put together a show consisting of my fellow co-workers’ various disciplines. Metropolis Cafe is home to not only talented latte artists, but also photographers, illustrators, writers, musicians, and one collage artist. I am excited to share with our customers the Cafe staff’s backgrounds in art, language, and music through this exhibition!
The Edgewater community is so diverse and special, and I consider Metropolis to be the hub that keeps us moving, growing, and continually inspired. So come see what makes your beloved baristas tick, and therefore, what makes this Cafe so unique!
The Metropolis Employee Showcase will be up from February 6th to March 10th. There will also be a night of music and readings provided by our musicians and writers, as an extension of our showcase. Be on the lookout for a date, to be announced soon!
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Sean from the Metropolis Roasterie to ask him a few questions about the new Colombia Geisha. Geisha, in general, has received a lot of press lately, so we wanted to get some more information on what all the buzz is about. Check out what Sean has to say, then stop by the Cafe for a single-brew cup of the Geisha and judge for yourself. We’d love to hear what you think about this coffee!
This past holiday season, Metropolis Coffee began offering Colombia Las Margaritas Geisha. There has been a lot of buzz about this coffee lately. What is so special about this coffee, and why is it more expensive than other coffees?
Sean: This particular Geisha was one of the first ones produced in Colombia. The folks at Granja La Esperanza closely observed the cultivar for a number of years before planting it at Las Margaritas.
The Geisha cultivar was transplanted to Central American in the 1950s and 1960s. Originating from Ethiopia (then Abyssinia), the coffee was brought over because of its resistance to coffee leaf rust (a fungus that is detrimental to coffee trees). However, the trees do not yield large quantities, so, for years, the cherries from the Geisha plants were mixed in with all the other varietals. In 2004, Hacienda La Esmeralda submitted a lot of solely Geisha into a competition where it caught judges by surprise. As a result, producers in Central and South America began planting trees in hopes of producing more of this highly desired coffee.
As far as how it tastes, Geisha is incredibly complex! The aromatics are explosive and the flavor is very distinct. Lots of floral notes and dark fruit sweetness make this coffee quite decadent.
What can the average coffee enthusiast expect out of this Geisha?
Sean: Our customers can expect the distinctive Geisha profile, but at a much lower price; something that is quite special, but isn’t going to break the bank. We want to continue offering this kind of coffee and helping our customers understand that these coffees are different, but affordable.
Why did Metropolis decide to offer a coffee like Geisha?
Sean: We wanted to offer something that is new and exciting. Obviously we stand by all our coffees — but offering a coffee like the Geisha is something that we have never done. With it, we’re starting a new program where we bring in interesting/rarer coffees so that they’re accessible to everyone. We are going to continue to offer these higher end coffees — maybe 3 or 4 a year — and sell them in more affordable 8oz bags. This gives our customers the opportunity to try new coffees that, before, might have been cost-prohibitive. We also hope that this will help our customers learn the importance of transparency with our products (the farm/estate/cultivar/region/etc.). We hope, in this way, that our customers will be able to make more informed decisions.
One more question: How would a customer be able to enjoy these coffees most? That is, how should they be brewing Geisha at home?
Sean: Single cup brewing is highly encouraged (Chemex, Clever, pour over, French press). But we also understand that not a lot of people have these types of brewing mechanisms. Single-cup brews of the Geisha are currently available at our Cafe, and we are going to be offering more brewing equipment and education in the future. I’m excited for Metropolis to grow and for our customers to grow with us!
One of our resolutions for 2013 was to get the live music program restarted. Well, it’s happening!
Thanks to the hard work of Jonathan, our music coordinator, Metropolis is proud to present the January/February schedule for live music at the Cafe. Each 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, look for a performance — it will be a great way to get you over the hump-day!
January 9, 6pm – 7pm
Jerry the Bear
January 23, 6pm – 7pm
February 13, 6pm – 7pm
February 27, 6pm – 7pm
Join us every 2nd and 4th Wednesday as we get this exciting program up and running again. If you have any questions about the monthly music program or if you are interested in performing, please contact Jonathan: email@example.com