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Harlem’s Chipped Cup Owners Discuss Opening, Coffee ‘Geeking’

The owners of a new coffee shop in a Starbucks-dominated area of Harlem recently opened up to the Village Voice about the experience of opening an independent coffee shop, coffee geeking and learning customers’ tastes.

Karen Cantor and Andrew Ding opened Chipped Cup coffee house several weeks ago in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood. The name was originally going to reflect the location, but the duo deviated from that plan. Kantor explains:

We’d always wanted to have our own thing in the neighborhood where we lived.
Originally we were going to call the place Hamilton Coffee because it’s Hamilton Heights, but then we thought, “That’s so boring.” Why is it that everywhere in Harlem is named Harlem something and then the type of place it is? The process for finding a name took a while and we talked with family and friends about ideas. The name Chipped Cup was inspired by some of the art I like, primarily Edward Gorey who’s the author of these sort of macabre adult illustration books. I wanted the same vibe of being cute but not too cute and a little off. Andrew and I were talking about names and he actually was the one who eventually blurted out the Chipped Cup. We threw in coffee and victuals, to the title, so that people knew we weren’t an antique store or something.

Cantor also discussed bucking the “weird corporate lifestyle” offered by Starbucks, which is the shop’s only specialty coffee competitor in the neighborhood:

I’ve always been an avid coffee drinker but I wasn’t quite the geek that I am now. There is definitely a whole subculture of coffee geeks who are very serious about the preparation and enjoyment of coffee. It’s a part of this whole third wave of coffee where it’s not just this caffeine delivery system or where, at Starbucks, you’re paying for this weird corporate lifestyle. It’s about actually enjoying the coffee and identifying the different tasting notes and flavor profiles of a coffee farm, for example, in Honduras versus one in Guatemala.

The full interview: Part 1, Part 2

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