Patrick just forwarded me this hilarious link :
HOW ADDICTED TO COFFEE ARE YOU?
and do the test yourself.
I score 79%. I don't know if that's any good or bad or whatever. I do only know it's a fun thing. Thanks Patrick and what was your score?
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Patrick just forwarded me this hilarious link :
Pouring your first Rosetta
Over the past several months, Ben Bicknell from the WA Barista Academy has delved into the differences between home espresso machines, preparing your espresso shots and milk texturing but whether you’re a budding home enthusiast or a veteran barista, everybody wants to try Latte Art! The Rosetta, a fern or leaf shaped pattern, is the most well known and often the most difficult design to master. This month Ben explains the process step by step, so you can try it at home.
So you’re getting consistently good shots of espresso and you’ve mastered your milk steaming with silky consistency. But all your challenges are not surmounted! Increasingly in cafes around Australia, patterns and designs are flowing onto the surfaces of coffees — while everyone around you is happily enjoying the filigreed designs, your frustration builds as you get no closer to achieving more that what your friends and family fondly refer to as your ‘abstract phase’. Well it’s time for that to change — below are some tips and pointers for getting you closer to giving birth to your first Rosetta.
My first prefacing statement would be that without a good set of shots as the base for your coffee, there’s no way you’re going to be able to achieve great latte art, let alone a good tasting coffee: so get those shots right! Remember: once your face gets close enough for the first sip, no-one can see the latte art anyway!
Secondly, you really need to have mastered your milk texturing before attempting your Rosetta. If your milk is lumpy, airy, too foamy, not foamy enough or not folded together thoroughly, you’re going to have all kinds of problems as you try to pour.
Another important factor is the spout on your milk jug (something that you generally only learn after purchasing 37 different milk jugs to find — the right one). Make sure that your milk jug has a clearly defined spout — check out our Incasa Milk Jugs we’ve got in stock: one of the reasons we chose these jugs is that they’re great for latte art. A spout with no point or one that has a big lip at the edge will disperse your milk widely, restricting you from any fine detail.
Alright — you know what you’re aiming for and you’ve prepared your shots. For the Rosetta, you want to steam your milk as if for a flat white — much thicker than this and there will be no definition to your design. Once you’ve steamed your milk (check out last month’s Café in your Kitchen — Part II article if you’re not sure about this), you’re ready to roll!
Begin pouring straight into the center, keeping the jug low to the cup. Begin with quite a slow pour to help stabilise the crema in the cup. Once you’re around 1/3 of the way up the cup, move the jug so you’re pouring towards the back and start slightly shaking or ‘jiggling’ the jug side to side to throw the foam forward. Once the foam has marked the surface of the crema, continue that same shaking or swaying motion while moving the pour backwards through the cup. Upon reaching the front of the cup, pour in a straight line toward the back of the cup, through the lines you’ve previously created. Your swaying motion will create the leaves of the Rosetta with the final pull through creating the stem.
Alright … that’s a step by step walk through but check out the cool time lapse photos of the process! Firstly there is the close-up version so you can see the coffee in the cup.And secondly from a bit further away so you can see the hand movement.
Click here for the amazing pics from Ben. (and the extra tips at the bottom of the page)
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Shall I compare thee to a regular coffee?
Thou art more lovely and more intense:
My tongue dost find other lattes too bland,
And as for the frappé, I sitteth on the fence:
Sometime too hot the capuccino can be,
And oft’ is his foamy top too large;
And every Americano, although heavenly, is the same,
The element of surprise gone, the pleasure thus marred:
But thy unique flavour shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that buzz thou owest;
Nor shall Espresso brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in caffeine thou satisfiest and in taste thou growest:
So long as the mouth can taste, or the nose can smell,
So long thou art above all coffees, and pleaseth me well.
Ode to a Starbucks' Gingerbread Latte, from Coffee Helps.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Monkey business yields coffee
Coffee connoisseurs are going ape for a rare brew that Taiwanese farmers are producing with the help of monkeys. Formosan rock monkeys have long been a scourge to coffee farmers in Taiwan's mountains because they eat the ripe berries and spit out the seeds. But now, the farmers are collecting these half-chewed seeds and roasting them to produce a coffee that is being brewed all over the island. Coffee farmer Liao Jingdong tried to roast beans which had been spat out by monkeys and discovered a unique taste, different from the original. Liao says the discarded seeds yield a sweeter coffee with a vanilla-like scent, which sells for about $56 a pound (450 grams).
Coffee-lovers unite for a cuppa at expo in Taipei95% simularity to the all famous Kopi Luwak (civet coffee) at one-fifth of the price. That should be the new Fox Dung coffee, presented here at this expo.
Pierre E. Leblache, left, founder executive of the World Alliance of Gourmet Robustas (WAGRO) and Khanh Dinh, owner of Vietnam-based QY-Coffe, display the latest innovation of lab-processed “fox dung coffee.” (Akie Ang, The China Post)
Read the whole article.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
François Knopes, fils du fameus torreficateur Knopes de Luxembourg et numéro sept au Championat Mercredi dernier a l'honneur d'avoir son melange du championat au Caffenation cette semaine si.
Merci pour le cafè, c'est vraiment excellent. Assez doux et peut-être sans risque, mais très agreable a boire!
For once an explanation in French. This blend from the Knopes Roastery in Luxemburg contains Brazil Santos, Costa Rica Terrazu and some Java and ... another latin bean i forgot. Very well roasted. Good balanced mix and very easy to work with. Congrats François with your performances at the Championship, the future is all yours.
And what to think about Bird's grafitti skills? Bloody awesome. :-)
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
D Day in Gent, Belgium for the finals of the Cupping and Barista Championships.
In the morning it was up to me for cup tasting 8 triangles.
To my surprise it was no cupping the way we're used to, but filter coffee. Then we had these deep cups with a little bit of coffee in it. ????
My tactics were picking the 'wrong' ones (in every triangle you have a pair of coffee's and one that stands out, the wrong one ; this one you have to spot) just by smelling, all 8 of them, and afterwards by tasting.
Wrong. Not if you taste directly after smelling, but i first lost 2 minutes with sniffing the coffee's. It wasn't that difficult after all. I was almost sure of 6.
Then i started slurping and tasting. At ease. Wrong. No time to loose in a cupping championship.
Last year the first round was very easy, but this year they mixed up the difficult ones from the start. And with no (competition) experience, deep cups and only 5 cl of coffee a cup
it took me 7 minutes to full fill my duty.
I have to admit i lost it completely at the end. The last two combinations i didn't taste anything anymore. So for the 7th i picked the one i selected after the smelling round. Correct. The 8th one i changed out of panic. Wrong again.
4 out of 8 after all, but too slow.
Winner was Bart from Efico. He went as a Rocket. 8 out of 8 in the finals in a blistering 2 and a half minutes!!!!
Congrats Bart, but next year i'll be back with more experience, faster and new tactics.
Then our main championship for the Barista's.
I only have this far distant photo from my pupil Bird, which symbolises his the final results. A distant 8th place.
How is it possible the (probably) best Barista finishes last in a Barista competition? Well, because..... stress, not enough practise, a different grinder on stage from back stage, he had to open the competition and most of all ... a defect 'spuma' machine/bottle so he couldn't finish his signature drink. 360 points or 200 less compared to the semi's. God damned.
Brilliant winner was Detlev Battiau. Super performance and we may be proud to have this guy representing our country for the WBC next year in Copenhagen. Soon i hope to have a good photo of him, together with points. For now only the results :
1) Detlev Battiau
3) Jeroen Lauwers
4) Myriam Bijnens
5) Patrick Hanssen
6) Michel Veneziano
7) François Knopes
8) Bert Van Wassenhove
Best Espresso : Michel
Best Cappuccino : Vicky
Best Signature Drink : Detlev
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
This practising shot is one from monday eve.
After making final judgements on the verbal lines, decorations, blend and sig drinks, these last two days is just one rehearsal after the other.
Tomorrow at Flanders Expo in Gent we have the final of our national Barista Championship.
Hard to tell who's this year's favourite although everyone think Jeroen (Lavazza) of Myriam (Rombouts) really deserve to take the title after two close finishes the last two years.
For Caffenation i won bronze last year after Jeroen and Peter (Viva Sara). A medal ; that's the main objective for my man Bird who is competing with our House Blend, German organic milk and a signature drink called 'funky'.
Good luck to all participants. And for those who are willing to experience the event ; the Cupping starts at 9.30 and the BBC at 12.30, all in the small side building of the Expo. Free entrance!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Today i read this interesting article in the C&C I about coffee beans harvesting.
In many parts of the world the need to control production costs is causing harvesting to be less and less selective. On the other hand, the quest for ever higher quality requires that cherries with different degrees of maturation be pulped separately, suggesting that quality - and profit - can only be maximized by using the right combination of harvesting and processing systems.
The dilemma is particularly obvious when it comes to certain types of coffee, such as Yellow Bourbons.
Yellow Bourbon only started to come to the attention of the specialty coffee industry after the use of pulped natural (semi-washed) post-harvest processing systems became widespread in Brazil. the immature cherry separators used in this relatively new process make it possible to separate unripe cherries from the ripe ones, which cannot be done visually with Yellow Bourbons.
The immediate impact was a greatly improved cup with features that repositioned Yellow Bourbon in the market and attracted growing demand and price premiums. New areas are now being planted with Yellow Bourbon, in contract with former years when the variety did not receive much attention and production was falling.
Increased rejection of fully washed coffees from many origins due to astringency in the cup is often a result of the phenomenon described above, in relation to red rather than yellow coffee varieties.
Astringency is caused by compounds that precipitate salivary proteins on the tongue. It may be caused by unripe or only partially ripened cherries that are pulped together with fully ripe ones. Whereas unripe cherries can be visually separated during harvesting or afterwards, cherries that are only partially ripe cannot. They are pulped together with the fully ripe cherries and impart astringency to the end product.
The problem can, however, be solved by new technology that pulps only fully ripe cherries and separates all of the other cherries, whose degree of maturation is less than optimal. Growers who have used this new technology in recent years have not only sold their coffees at premium prices, but won quality awards and competitions.
The quest for an ever higher cup quality has shown that the visual criteria used in selective picking are not necessarily sufficient tot ensure that cherries are fully ripe. This can only be ensured by criteria other than visual identification of the colour of the coffee cherry. The availability of this new technology opens up interesting possibilities for improving the quality of coffee and - potentially- reduce the cost of harvesting coffee in an era when labour is becoming increasingly expensive.
Today, harvesting systems and on- farm processing technologies have to be compatible with each other in order to maximize benefits with the least cost.
On average, a person stripping coffee harvests 3-5 times more coffee than a person selecting mostly ripe cherries. Handheld harvesters enable a picker to harvest 20 times more coffee than a person performing selective harvesting. In contrast, a large harvester on wheels can pick up to 500 times more coffee than a single person resorting to selective harvesting.
But the problem is that not all of the above-mentioned techniques can be applied in coffee producing areas where coffee trees have ripe and unripe cherries, cherries under development, flowers and flower buds at the same time on different branches or at different points of the same branch.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
These are 12 of the 16 beans picked for the Belgian Cupping Championship next week November 21st in Gent.
And I am one of the (i guess) 11 participants with the ambition to win this years title.
Another of them is Jean Lauwers, the reigning champ and top favourite.
In the first round they mix up the 16 beans (almost) randomly.
For those who had the best results, they post all the familiar tasting ones together in the second round. Examples for this year are a similar tasting Kenya vs Zambia or Costa Rica vs Guatemala. 8 triangles in total and up to us to pick the one that stands solo besides the other two that are similar. I hope it's understandable for people that are new to cupping championships. To be sure i add this photo.
When i asked current World Champion Anette Moldvaer how she became worlds best cupper ; she said it was all about good training.
Who am i not to believe her, so i threw myself into the cupping bowls and glasses the past two weeks.
It's never easy, unless there are some roasting degree differences, but i'll manage to pick the outstanding one on every occasion except for one. The combination Colombia Kachalu with the Ecuador Las Tolas Supremo was an impossibility to me. Are they that similar or did i found the borders of my talent?
Probably the second reason is the right one, and i'm deadly curious where i'll end next week as a new and parttime cupper against these pro's.
Wish me all the best. The competition at the Expo in Gent start at 9.30 and all people are welcome to enjoy the event and give support to the participants.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Jeff, Bird and myself headed towards Efico for some cupping.
We are so lucky to have this very open minded prime coffee trader nearby us.
Last Thursday we met Patrick, Laurent, Jean and Hugo in their cupping room. They were just testing new Sidamo samples. We were asked to participate.
No good, not one of them. There is a serious problem with this years' Sidamo, and so it happens some of the so-called Sidamo is ordinary Soedan.
Fortunately we only buy Harrar and Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia.
On the photo you see three freshly roasted Robusta's. Vietnam, Togo and washed India, the one we use in our Italian Roast.
The other coffee's at the table :
Colombia Kachalu fairtrade
Brazil Santos Astrid 17/18
Brazil Cerrado Dulce 17/18
Zambia Chisoba AAA
Ethiopia Sidamo 2
Ethiopia Mokka Harrar
Indonesia Sumatra Mandheling Gr 1
El Salvador Pacamara
New Guinea Bitam A
Interesting was the Pacamara. I was willing to buy me a kilo last week at Castroni, but was already over packed.
It's a bit like the poor man's Maragogype. By far not the same unique flavor, but there is potential for the espresso market i think.
Our favourites were the New Guinea and Cerrado.
It was by far the best Cerrado i ever tasted and at a great price. I surely order me some bags in the future.
So, again, thank you Efico to teach us again some wonderful coffee lessons and see you guys soon in your new offices at the Italiëlei. That's only a five minutes walk from Caffenation Hopland, so we'll meet one another more often i hope.
Artistic cup of joe brings home $5,000 prize
By CRAIG HARRIS
Tony Burlison was just out of the money in Saturday night's Coffee Fest latte art competition at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center, but the Seattle barista wasn't too upset.
"It's not really about the money," said Burlison, the head coffee roaster for Seattle's Top Pot. "It's about being a part of it, and the competition is with the world's best baristas...It's gratifying to be with the different cultures from the different cities. Coffee is the glue that brings us all together."
Coffee Fest, which began 16 years ago in Seattle as a consumer show to promote specialty coffee, added a little spice to its Millrock Free Pour Latte Art competition by boosting first prize to $5,000 from $1,000. The two-day event, which gave $1,000 to second place and $500 to third place, attracted baristas from Canada, Japan and the U.S.
And for the first time a reader board, akin to a golf tournament, displayed the results so competitors could see who had the lead throughout the evening.
The 13 finalists, from an original pool of 50, had five minutes each to create a picturesque latte and the entries included a rosette, heart or tulip that was judged on color, definition, appearance and creativity by a panel of three judges.
The winning entry came from Layla Emily Osberg who, according to the contest's commentator, drew a "pristine heart with a thin-layered line" and a "beautiful border."
Osberg, who won a similar Coffee Fest contest in Atlanta in June, said she would be treating 10 friends to a nice dinner with her prize winnings.
She also said her employer, Blenz Coffee of Vancouver, British Columbia, promised to double any winnings, and she said her company gave her a $20,000 bonus for winning the contest this summer.
The key, she said, was remaining calm.
"I don't suffer from nerves," the 29-year-old barista said. "And a good barista is a bit of a show off."
Second place went to Colter Jones of Vancouver, British Columbia, and third place went to Justin Teisl of Milwaukee, Wisc.
April Pollard, a finalist from Seattle's Espresso Vivace, said she has been doing latte art for the last 12 years, and she was pleased to make it to finals.
She compared the event to a "beautiful baby" contest, and she added that a "real barista contest" would include having 10 customers in a line, one person being a jerk, something going wrong and a person a wanting a muffin while talking on a cell phone.
"They should make it like a normal day," Pollard said.
David Heilbrunn, the event producer, said there has been three Coffee Fest shows a year around the country, but a fourth one in Hong Kong will be added in 2008. This weekend's event, which includes a trade show and another barista competition, was the 49th show overall.
He said while the latte art contest rewards baristas it's really held to encourage specialty coffee owners.
"We want to get shop owners to embrace an enhanced level of coffee. We want to keep the specialty in specialty coffee," Heilbrunn said.
On Sunday, six baristas from Washington and Oregon will compete in another contest where they will prepare and serve 12 coffee drinks within 15 minutes. The winner receives an expense-paid trip to the 2008 U.S. Barista Championship in Minneapolis.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Can you name one coffee company that has been more innovative the last decades as illy?
A couple of months ago we heard the launch of their hyperespresso capsule technique.
Today there is some more news of Illy going on board with Coca Cola for a combined drink.
I'll attach this info, but first something about the Espressamente Espresso Bar they started.
I visited that one at the Sheraton in Brussels. Poor, very poor. No atmosphere, very cold, only a couple of clients for sandwiches and a disappointing espresso.
Travelling through Umbrië Italy we drove in Gubbio and visited another Espressamente. And we liked it.
In a country were all bars look like one another this one stood out. And on top of that ; i had the best illy espresso of my life. In Antwerp or Belgium i'm not looking for some more cold-design (espresso) bars, but at some other places it could be a relieve. And way better compared to a Starbucks i think.
What is Coca Cola interested in?
After their failed launch of espresso coke, they probably think of being more successful with illy on their sides and probably they're right.
Here's the article :
and illy Announce Premium Ready-to-Drink Joint VentureMonday October 15, 4:00 am ET
Agreement Will Focus on Delivering the Highest Quality Ready-to-Drink Coffee Around the Globe
& ATLANTA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The and illycaffe SpA today announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding to form a global joint venture focused on the premium ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee segment leveraging illy's world class expertise in the art of the espresso to capture opportunities in this high growth, profitable beverage category with new brands and products.
The RTD coffee category globally is valued at just under $10 billion and has experienced several years of growth that is expected to continue. Globally (excluding
), the ready-to-drink coffee category has grown at an average rate of 10.1% over the past five years.
"illy is a proven leader with an uncompromising commitment to high-quality
and a strong history of innovation with whom we are proud to partner," said Muhtar Kent president and chief operating officer, The . "We will be able to bring our brand building and distribution expertise together with illy's premium brand reputation. This partnership demonstrates our commitment to meeting evolving consumer demands while creating additional value for our system, our customers and our shareowners."
"We are proud to partner with the top brand name in sparkling beverages to offer the illy taste to a new range of consumers as well as those who love our traditional espresso tastes to meet new consumption moments," said Andrea Illy chairman, illycaffe. "Our R&D and product know-how will join The
's industrial and distribution infrastructure to develop a high quality ready-to-drink coffee."
While the specifics on brands and distribution have not yet been finalized, both parties expect the final joint venture agreements to be signed by the end of 2007.
is the world's largest beverage company. Along with ®, recognized as the world's most valuable brand, the Company markets four of the world's top five nonalcoholic sparkling brands, including Diet Coke®, Fanta® and Sprite®, and a wide range of other beverages, including diet and light beverages, waters, juices and juice drinks, teas, coffees, energy and sports drinks. Through the world's largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the Company's beverages at a rate exceeding 1.4 billion servings each day. For more information about The , please visit our website at
, illycaffe produces and markets a unique blend of as the single brand leader in quality coffee. Over 6 million cups of illy are enjoyed every day. illy is sold in 140 countries around the world and is available in more than 50,000 of the best restaurants and coffee bars. illycaffe employs around 700 people and has a consolidated turnover of EUR 246 million.
illy buys green coffee directly from the growers of the highest quality Arabica through partnerships based on the mutual creation of value. The Trieste-based company fosters long-term collaborations with the world's best coffee growers - in www.illy.com., Central America, and - providing know-how and technology and offering above-market prices. For more information about illycaffe:
Thursday, November 8, 2007
You can easily get used of drinking coffee in Italy.
In Rome, Umbrië and Siena for holiday i've been consuming a whole lot of espresso's, with pleasure.
No, no championship shots, but decent strong full bodied espresso with sometimes a nutty, caramel or chocolate touch.
And the robusta? Only one time it struck me hard, but it's clear Romans get away from it bit by bit.
The all famous places like Tazza D'oro and Sant' Eustachio nowadays do look like tourist traps. Quality is gliding down, but it's still nice to walk through the large row of tourists at Taza D'oro, smell the fresh beans and glance at the very cheezy looking T.D. souvenirs.
Sometimes the espresso was cold (yes!) and most of the time the machines were dirty and milk texturing techniques got stuck somewhere in the last century, but still i don't see another country where you can go drinking espresso without fear for bad quality or high prices.
In Rome i liked most the Luigi Santoro bar, but a must go is also Castroni, nearby the entrance of the Vatican museum. Fresh beans, incredible interior and this staff, with the funny old fashioned work suits, who still do their job with pride.
Soon more about my Espressamente visit in Gubbio and a local micro roaster in Siena.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
No, i can't find the right template.
I decided to leave the 16:9 one. Too confusing.
Hopefully i'll manage to keep it steady soon. And meanwhile i apologize for the inconvenience.
There is a new bar in town.
Finally some movement on the espresso bar front. One week after the opening of 'Vandaag is't' (a review soon) we celebrate another one in the city of Antwerp.
Kaldi is a Dutch chain of espresso bars, specialised in coffee and tea. Not only you have the possibility of drinking these liquids, you can also buy them, plus, and finally for Antwerp, they do sell some quality home espresso machines.
After presenting myself to the very friendly bar owner i tried an espresso. Yes, they do have a Kees Van der Westen Van Mirage - 2-group, linked with a Mahlkonig K30 - La Potenza labeled. Very fine combination indeed.
Beans : Barista blend.
Taste : Hot. So hot i burned my tongue. Nevertheless i tasted some great potential. Not too strong, little bit of spices, sweet and clean finish.
Next time a 3cl espresso to bring out the spices and body and the right temperature and we have a winner.
Good luck with this courageous project. Vleminckstraat, opposite Dille and Kamille.
To give you an idea how worlds' leading 3rd wave coffee company, Intelligentsia, lives and informs their clients (photo from mralenlin) :
This past weekend we held our annual In-House Barista Competition at our Chicago Roasting Works. Seven of the best Baristas from all three of our Chicago locations as well as two of our Traning Specialists participated. It was a great showing, and in the end, Mike Phillips who represents both the Millennium Park and Broadway stores came out victorious. Congratulations to Mike and to all of the competitors.
To celebrate, enjoy some of our new offerings. We have Los Delirios, Organic Nicaragua and Los Inmortales, El Salvador on sale, Flor Azul has just arrived and is SMOKIN' hot. Celebration Blend has marked the official arrival of the Holidays here at Intelligentsia and our Rwandan Auction Lots are so close to knocking everyone's socks off. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for those gems.
Delightfully creamy, this coffee creates a smooth and attentive cup. Caramel and wild honey provide sweetness while dark chocolate, baking spice and a tinge of fresh cranberries compliment the finish. Well-balanced with a buttery mouthfeel.
Now $13.95 / pound.
Los Inmortales, El Salvador
Delightful! The aroma of black grapes and chocolate sustain through the entire drinking experience. This medium-bodied coffee has a velvety mouthfeel and juicy sweetness typified in the date-like, dark grape flavor notes. Don’t be surprised if floral and Anjou pear nuances reveal themselves in the cup.
Now $12.95 / pound.
This Week's Intelligentsia Top 5:
Los Inmortales, El Salvador
Los Delirios, Organic Nicaragua
El Cuervo, Guatemala
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Just by sheer luck i ended up at this place.
I had a couple of famous bars in my head and was ready to test at least five a day, but never expected the first one in the row would turn out to be the best.
Here at Bar Del Cappuccino, Via Arenula 50, i found the Godfather of Latte Art, Luigi Santoro.
I'm sorry i don't come up with a picture of him, but i assure you this guy knows what he does. And that's making great espressi and cappuccini.
Already in 1991 he was in Tokyo showing his skills to the world.
With his Promac machine, Mazzer grinder and Danesi beans he made me two superb espresso's and a latte art cappuccino for Isabel, the only one that week without air bubbles in the foam.
You can see at the photo the crema is still there after the first sip and the color is dark hazelnut. Very strong taste, but never too bitter or sour like most of the espresso's in Italy.
This is a must see place (Sant' Angelo neighbourhood and very close by the Ponte Garibaldi) for all coffee lovers.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Recalling the 1957 mob hit on Albert Anastasia
- BY DAVID FREEDLANDER |amNewYork
- October 25, 2007
The barista stood stock-still, her steely eyes glistening off the cool metal of the espresso machine. She grabbed the handle and there was a bang-bang! A few quick hits to the side and, faster than you can say Starbucks, a Macchiato double-shot sat steaming on the counter.
Fifty years ago today, in the same spot where that very espresso machine sits whipping nonfat mocha lattes, perhaps the most notorious mob hit in history happened.
Albert Anastasia, the powerful leader of Murder, Inc. who was believed to have personally killed 36 people, stopped into what was then a barber shop in the Park Sheraton Hotel's lobby on West 57th Street. As he dozed in the chair, two gunmen walked in and fired a barrage of lead into the crime boss.
The killers were never caught.
It is difficult today to stand on the tiled floor of the Starbucks and imagine the pool of blood where the man nicknamed the Executioner once lay. Those ghosts are all gone amid customers sipping Tazo teas and leaning over laptops, oblivious to the murder that captivated most of the country five decades ago. The hotel has since been renamed the Park Central Hotel, and back where the barber stood before the gunmen barged past him, a sign advertises the Starbucks song of the day: Dave Matthews' "Grace is Gone."
"You think people care?" says one barista, out on a smoke break and checking her cell phone, and who, as per company policy, would not give her name. "That was 50 years ago. Trust me, they just want their coffee and they want to get on their way."
Anastasia ran Murder, Inc., a group of trained contract killers who did the mob's grisly bidding, and he seemed to delight in offing rivals. He was ultimately undone by fellow bosses leery of his intentions to accrue more power for himself and by internal feuding within his own family. His killing captivated the nation and later inspired the famous massage murder scene in "The Godfather."
"It was unheard of to so brazenly kill a boss," said Selwyn Raab, author of the mob book "Five Families." "Anastasia was probably the most powerful mobster in America. He thought he was so safe that he would even go to a barber shop without his bodyguard."
The hotel's current general manager, Florencio Ferraro, laughs when asked whether guests should feel nervous about getting a haircut there.
"Absolutely not," he said. "We don't even have a barbershop in this hotel at this time."
Life on the street that Anastasia walked in his last moments continues apace. August Fischer, visiting from New Jersey with his wife, remembered coming to the city back then.
It was a different time, he said, but he had no memory of Anastasia's bloody end.
"What happened, he didn't like his coffee?"