Smallest shop visited, longest time reviewing. You’ll see why.
Part 1. October 6 2017
Terremoto, Manhattan. A small nook, tucked inside a neighborhood building. Easy to miss if it weren’t for the white “T” neon sign outside the store front. I’m going there to meet up with the guy from my first hop at Devoción.
On my way I see “Anthroposophical Society” spanning a wooden-slab. I stop. I attended a Steiner School when I was younger (Steiner was the founder of anthroposophy). People familiar with Steiner’s work tend to be environmentally conscientious. It would be good to make connections I thought.
I meet Sylvia (also my maternal grandmother’s name) who works in the bookstore. One of the society’s board of directors, Tim (and a doctor of Chinese medicine) is there too. They’re very welcoming and offer me a tour of the newly renovated space. I see all sorts of things (like veil paintings, copper rods, and transparency stars) that flood my mind with childhood memories. An immediate sense of familiarity overcomes me – a nice thing in a new city. Sylvia and Tim tell me about green spaces to visit. I share my story and interest in sustainability. At one point this prompts Sylvia to get up and pull out some reusable bags she recently purchased from Integral Yoga. She likes the look and feel of carrying her groceries in them she tells me. Tim gives me his business card with contact details – in a later email correspondence I receive an invitation to talk at the center. I say goodbye, and continue on
I arrive at Terremoto almost an hour late. I see the guy I’m meeting sitting outside, looking down at his phone. No laptop? I thought we were meeting to work. Nope. I find out that’s not what he was thinking. He’s already had a coffee. I decide not to get anything and figure out what he was wanting to do. Chelsea Market.
Before we leave, I have a quick look inside this intimate shop. A dark haired barista is behind the counter. I introduce myself and find out his name, Alp. Alp tells me the owner, Richard will be back from Colombia next week and gives me Richard’s contact details. I later set up a meeting with Richard at 2 pm the following week.
Part 2. October 9, 2017
Back at Terremoto. Alp is working. He texts Richard to let him know I’ve arrived. As I wait, I start looking around. There’s only a few people here. They all have disposable cups. The wall in front of me has a vibrant colored image of a woman gazing longingly painted on it. The life of the place is lifted by funk music playing in the background. No bathroom here, so no inspection needed. I can’t pin down the “type” that frequent here. It’s a neighborhood shop and seems to attract a range of people.
I hear Alp’s voice and switch my focus. I find out Richard has a medical emergency. Alp is calm so I’m not worried. I should come back in a few days it’s suggested. I decide to do a bit of work while I’m there, and try and complete the review as best I can.
I overhear Alp asking someone if they’d like Macadamia milk. My ears perk up. After the order is through, I confirm, “you offer macadamia nut milk?” They do. “Would you like to try some?” Alp offers. He pulls out (a paper!) cup and starts pouring before I can say anything. I want to say something, but I can’t. There’s a right time and place to say something – this isn’t it.
The milk tastes amazing. I’m told it’s really good with chai tea. I make a mental note to try that at some point. They also offer oat milk – something the shift lead from Stumptown said is becoming popular in smaller shops (we had tried to guess why – might be something to do with misconstrued? concerns over the sustainability of almond milk). I’m given a taste of that too. I double check “this isn’t regular milk, right?” Alp reassures me. He says it is best with the coffee drinks
An hour and a half passes before I decide to leave. I’ll try and work with what I have on this place for a post.
Part 3. October 11, 2017.
I’m heading to my next coffee shop in Soho. Almost mid way, I get an unusually strong craving for a macadamia chai. Mid crossing the street, I literally turn around and head in the direction of Terremoto. A tall blond-haired guy is working today. I ask if he’s Richard. Marchine is his name. Another man, smartly dressed with dark hair emerges and says, “I’m Richard.” He asks me if I’m writing for Califia – he’s expecting to meet with someone from there. I remind him of our email exchange – he seems to have a vague recollection and appears happy to talk with me. I order the macadamia chai latte that had so wittingly pulled me in. We then proceed to the benches outside.
We’re lucky we crossed paths. Richard had just popped in for a few minutes. I tell him about my impulse decision to come. He says a Spanish saying, “recibiste mi mensaje en tus pensamientos” meaning “you received my message in your thoughts” (my version of trying to remember what he said crossed with a Google translation).
I ask Richard about the efforts he makes to run a sustainable shop. He tells me they have branded KeepCups and offer a free drink with their purchase. He remembers mid explanation he needs to order more. I ask what got him into selling the cups. Requests from friends and customers.
I move to the topic of sourcing. Richard has a self-imposed 300 mile limit. He thinks this type approach should be policy for stores – it forces businesses to source locally, reducing energy and shipping costs.
From our conversation, I learn a bit of Richard’s background. He is Colombian. Farming coffee has been the family business for many years but has skipped him and his father’s generation. His family fled Colombia because of the political unrest. His uncle still lives in Colombia, managing the family farm. Richard grew up in Florida, is a creative director and photographer. He wanted an opportunity to do something with coffee which led him to opening Terremoto. He sells mostly Colombian coffee (I notice they have Sey’s coffee).
The interior of the shop is explained to me. The table tops are made of up-cycled wood beams from the Domino Sugar Refinery. The wood floor comes from the Roseland Ballroom.
One exception Richard tells me to his 300 mile rule is the wallpaper. I hadn’t paid much attention to it previously (it actually makes me think of this gold-leaf design wallpaper that used to be in my grandparent’s bathroom). I learn it comes from England, designed by a friend and printed in the same mills as the wallpaper for the royal palaces.
They use regular paper and plastic cups. They don’t do cup discounts. But, their straws are made of paper (by Aardvark) – eco-friendly, compostable, oh, and they’re gold. People apparently love them. Richard caught someone grabbing a handful once. He now keeps a watchful eye on them. I ask about their price comparison with plastic – something Lance from Sey Coffee raised as an issue. There’s no significant difference. I later email Lance to let him know about what I’ve learned.
The swag doesn’t stop with the straws. I failed earlier to notice the espresso machine, made of 24k gold Richard proudly tells me. This little guy apparently caused a lot of media hype, landing Terremoto in the pages of places like Forbes and Fortune. On the topic of the machine, I find out the grinds go to a friend he’s partnering with to make body and face soap. “You’re a serial entrepreneur” I observe. His response is a large grin.
I’m conscientious Richard has been generous with his time (we’ve been talking for almost an hour and a half) and wrap up the the conversation by expressing my gratitude. I’m so glad I acted on that whim. There’s so many little (easily missed) gems about this store, from it’s sustainable efforts (such as the 300 mile rule and the up-cycling of interior materials) to the gold espresso machine. I think they could up their game by being more conscientious about the use of disposable cups – serving more drinks in ceramic cups and using for-here glasses (not disposable plastic) when customers ask for water. They could also offer a discount for people who bring their own cup. Other than that, Terre is little moto suggest.