CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Harrambee Coffee House

Back Buzz - January 16, 1998

pumping heart Harrambee Coffee House, 1907 Second Avenue, Downtown

Why, I thought to myself recently, should I try a coffeehouse mere doors away from Caffé D'Arte, one of the best coffee roasters in Seattle? As soon as I walked through the doors of the Harrambee Coffee House I answered my own question: because Harrambee is a completely different experience -- it's an Ethiopian coffeehouse! Small and unobtrusive, the cafe is decorated with Ethiopian and African artifacts, wooden sculptures, photographs of old Seattle, and quite a few portraits of Haile Selassie. Reggae music was playing when I stopped in, and the wonderful smell of Ethiopian dishes tempted me. I'll definitely have to stop back some time for lunch.

But today my visit had one purpose: to drink a double short cappuccino. Served in a pleasantly classic cup, my cappuccino was quite a bit wetter than I normally expect. But I didn't mind, because it was more like a French coffee, or perhaps even a Middle Eastern coffee, if such were to be made with steamed milk. It was strong, smooth, sweet, and satisfying. (The fact that they use Caffé Vita beans helped a great deal, I'm sure.) Yes, this cappuccino was strong! Wonderfully, wonderfully strong! I could tell I was going to get a lot done this afternoon...

From the window tables there is a nice view of the Bon Marché parking lot, which can also be seen from Caffé D'Arte. But from Harrambee the view is from a more interesting angle, as the brightly-lit multilevel parking structure peeks out obliquely from behind the Josephinum building directly across the street. On this particular darkly cloudy afternoon the parking lot lights were almost inviting -- almost, but not quite. The diffuse dark tones of the coffee house seemed much more welcoming and calming.

Oh, yes, one last note: I really like the floor of the Harrambee Coffee House. The classical dark-green marble diamond checkerboard tiles are warm, earthy, and soothing in a museumlike way, and they impart a sophisticated yet congenial ambiance to the place -- a perfect setting in which to sip Ethiopian cappuccinos.

And there I am looking at the floor once more. It's not that I'm obsessed with floors, but perhaps I have been looking groundward a lot lately. I think it's that painful winter sun of the northern latitudes. Here in Seattle in December and January the sun merely rises in the southeast and skates in a soft arc across the southern horizon to set gently but abruptly in the southwest. That means if you happen to be walking toward the south, southeast, southwest, east, or west, the sun is always in your eyes! Seeing as how I walk almost everywhere, and what goes one way must come back the other way, I end up spending at least half my walking time squinting painfully as that southern sun scorches my photosensitive pupils. Mind you, I love all the seasons and especially the winter, but I do need to spend a good deal of the winter looking down.

Therefore I'll include just one more e-mail exchange between me and my Bay Area friend on the subject of floors:

When was the last time you bought a new broom? For me I guess it had been decades, probably back when I was going to college and my old roommate and I got our first place together. Last week I was sweeping up the back of the house -- a chore I do every three or four days right after I change the catbox -- when I noticed the broom was wet. When I took a whiff of the end of the bristles to see if I'd swept through some wet catfood, I was overcome by the stench: moldy Kitty Stew, mildewing food fossils, and an array of rotting organic material which had probably been collecting there since 1975.

So I bought a new broom this weekend, a lightweight angled household model. I was expecting a cleaner, much more pleasant sweeping experience with the new broom, but I didn't expect it to be so much FUN! The broom, with a weightless handle of sleek hollow plastic, literally jitterbugs across the floor, the plastic yellow bristles wiggling and jiggling like pert young breasts as they bounce along, laughing and snickering the dust and debris into submission. I fall in step with the pleasant jiggling sensation, feeling as if I could bounce up the walls and sweep the ceiling clean with just a few deft wiggly strokes. Should I wear my tap shoes when I sweep now? No, they're too heavy; I think I should do it barefoot, skipping along and dancing gaily, roping and riding the flying, fluttering dust bunnies...

This brings to mind a couple of perky songs from Mary Poppins:

Chim, chim-i-ney, chim-chim, chiroo,
Good luck will pile up if I sweep Kitty Stew!

...or perhaps an alternate verse of the classic:

Broom bristles rotting
with moldy catstew,
Rotting organics,
food fossils with mildew,
Cat turds that trail
from cat butts by strings
These are a few of my favorite things!

Those must have been some miracle bristles on your old broom. I had one that eroded down after several years of use outdoors, but I replaced it last year. And even though I don't sweep that often, the one-year-old broom shows some serious signs of decay.

Hmmm, "Cat turds that trail from cat butts by strings..."

...makes me think of one of those wooden pull toys, like the string that pulls the dog's front torso which is connected by a string to the dog's rear torso. Maybe we should design a new series of realistic moving toys for today's tots: the cat-turd-on-a-string pull toy, the windup vomiting puppy, the land-mine Jack-in-the-box...