Coffee Houses Serve an Ideal Place

Have you had your coffee today? You can either escape to the comfort of your favorite coffee house or simply dwell over a cup of brew in the privacy of your home.

Artbridge in Yerevan
Artbridge in Yerevan

But then, you would be escaping all the friends and fraternity that such places are remembered and revered. It’s the conversation and the fellowship that make brew houses what they are today.

Where coffee is served, there is grace and splendor. It’s where perfect strangers are entertained and fine hospitality is practiced.

My first cup of coffee had to be inside dad’s coffee shop as a young teen. He called it a luncheonette but it was really a coffee shop for that is where people came and lingered over a “cup of Joe.”

Some people called it “mud” and I don’t see why. It was “ground” yesterday.

My coffee habits continued all the way through high school and college, then beyond. I’m not a fanatic by any stretch. One cup a day in the morning gets me going. Should guests drop by for an evening’s soiree, I’ll join then for another. Decaf! Last thing I want is to encourage a sleepless night.

I am not one of those “coffee-holics” who enjoy a bottomless cup like some people I know whose nerves are on edge. They want their java hot, black and strong enough to walk by itself.

I’m very peculiar about my fixins’. A spot of cream and an artificial sweetener. I know what you’re thinking. Sugar is a better alternative.

But I’m a heck of a better off than that guy who approaches the counter and asks for four sugars in his cup. He may as well have a little coffee with his sugar.

Let’s face it, folks! We are living in a coffee house society. There’s one on every street corner, inside service stations and supermarkets, kiosks here and there, and they’re making a bundle. Truth remains, people don’t mind shelling out a few bucks for their favorite brew.

I’m a DD (Dunkin Donuts) sort of guy, grind my own beans, love their products. Somehow, the taste at home doesn’t match the commercial variety and I can understand why. Not enough turnover time.

I knew an organist at my church who played the keyboard with his cup in hand. Thank the good Lord he didn’t have an accident and juiced up the console. Finally, the congregation started complaining and he abandoned the habit. Our sanctuary was all the better for it.

I’ve been to Armenia twice, ready to make it a third time. Invariably, I shall end up at a place on Abovian Street called Artbridge. Perhaps you have heard about it. You can’t visit Yerevan without a stopover at this Mecca.

Here, you will not only find great Armenian coffee, but books, cards, gifts, food, music, games, and films. It’s a one-stop service center. You never know who you’ll encounter inside its premises.

The word was out one rainy afternoon that there was this Armenian-American journalist writing stories. That man—actually me—was at Artbridge interviewing all comers for good human interest stories. Amazing how fast news travels in Yerevan.

Of course, when you’ve got “town criers” like Araz Artinian on your side, they’ll be sure to get the word out. I cannot tell you the different people who turned out that day to be interviewed.

One of the best stories you would find anywhere came from a woman named Larissa. In she walked looking for a Tom Vartabedian. Her story needed to be told. The woman was a foster mom to over a dozen wayward children of the streets.

She took them in, gave them housing and food, and literally took mercenaries off the street. Another man was a noted writer looking to be discovered. A third woman brought along her intricate lacework, looking for some exposure.

By the time the rain stopped, my notepad was filled with stories that warmed the cockles of my heart. They were ultimately published in ethnic papers back home and well received.

My traveling companion, Joe Dagdigian, is an Artbridge fanatic. He’ll start his morning there and draw the evening to a close. The fact he lives a mile away and walks pays little heed.

I see coteries gathered at tables with coffee cups in hand solving the problems of the universe. I see them nursing their grinds and making a day of it. They’ll walk the malls, then gather for their liquid refreshment. Heck of a lot better than the corner tavern.

And while we’re at it, consider this thought. Sweetening one’s coffee is generally the first stirring event of the day.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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