New York Stories: The Worst $5.34 Espresso I Ever Had
Really, you’re just kind of wandering down the street. There’s an informality of motion one can bluster with in New York, this kind of hip-swinging bipedal who-cares strut that occurs for most of us only when there are no pressing deadlines, no tasks or destinations in mind other than to enjoy one of those picturesque city-casual afternoon constitutionals. Say you had to go to the West Village for something, a concert perhaps, getting on and off at the Spring Street subway stop and walking…and now you have an hour or so to kill before meeting up with your friend back in Brooklyn, and so there you are, wandering through the heart of SoHo and the shopping canyons of Spring Street, gawking and surely being gawked at (in the grand cyclical tradition of urban gawking) as you observe the literally jaw-dropping amount of sheer chic commerce around you, co-mingling with crowds of gift bag mad touristas and fashion drones, cigarette smoking boutique break-takers, 15 girls from Jersey waiting in line outside the Dior store (part of “Lydia’s Sex And The City Bachelorette Weekend!”, according to their matching t-shirts), gazillionaire German uber-tourists with small, blonde, histrionically weeping children, lovely female mirages in jesuschristyellow pumps and beetleshell black sunglasses, gaunt and angular model men in the plainest of plain white cottons, Sabrett’s slingers, Japanese teenagers, skateboarding tweens, chihuahuas, pugs, and other poseable microdogs, construction crews, and shops shops shops, SoHo shops like cave paintings on the canyon walls of Spring Street. The whole thing is a real circus maximus, and there you are, just kind of wandering through …
…until you stumble upon a cafe like no other, gleaming there in the sun, unassuming from the outside, but inside, an outer space trans-galactic Pod Palace fit for a sheik, replete with doormen, bodyguards, a tie-clad fleet of immaculate and regimented servers, high butt-sculpting leather bar seats positioned amongst elaborate flowers on an even more elaborate curving bar, and metal pods of freeze-dried coffee in every imaginable hue. Welcome to the “Nespresso Club” on Mercer and Prince Street in SoHo, where an iced cappuccino is $6.50 before tax and tip, and the aluminum Nespresso pod is worshiped as more than just a coffee delivery device: it is an objet d’art.
To clarify, in no way do we mean that $6.50 is too much to pay for a coffee. Indeed, many people far more learned than this website have stated again and again that gradual price increases are an unavoidable part of making the specialty coffee industry sustainable. It’s just so strange to have it happen here, in the Pod Palace, where you’re invited to buy a “grand cru box” of aluminum capsules at $115 a pop, to go along with Nespresso’s proprietary aluminum freeze-dried extractor machine that guarantees a “perfect shot every time”. It looks like the toaster from Elroy Jetson’s dorm room. The Pod Palace is a Jetson’s Toaster Palace too, come to think of it, with hundreds of these devices gleaming and glinting on display with every visual glance of the eye, even as you wind your way up the Pod Palace’s dizzying curved staircase.
Your espresso will cost you $4.34 (and you tip a dollar), making it $5.34 total. The shot tastes simultaneously too cold (the crema) and too hot (everything past the second sip). To put it in the popular parlance, this espresso has notes of freeze dried mass produced mystery pre-grind and a long smooth finish of marvel. It tastes exactly like what it is, which is really pretty expensive espresso made from an aluminum container, served in lovely cupware accompanied by a single, tiny, pre-packed sugar tubelette. The aluminum cups lock in the flavor! There’s a countless rainbow of origins to choose from! Have yours with a macaroon, or any other pastry from their Romanovian assortment of petite pasissieres, montelimars, flans, cakes, cups, raspberry delights, joy-joys, upside down red velvet mousses, whoopie pies, biscotti delights, torts, tarts, and great teetering tiramisus.
The bodyguard at the door nods as you leave. It’s the worst $5.34 espresso you’ve ever had, at this bewilderingly opulent Pod Palace, and yet…past the hulking doorman, out into the throng crush of the beautiful SoHo masses, there’s a question worth asking…is it any stranger than the scene outside?