Americans have had a long love affair with coffee. Americans average about nine pounds ofcoffee beans a year per person. If a pound can make 40, 6-ounce cups, that comes to around 20 gallons.
A quick tally of coffee shops around Belmont's Cushing Square adds up to at least two local businesses and two national chains. All seem to be doing well, as places to enjoy coffee, food, friends and community.
Israel Fridman, a Belmont resident for over two decades, learned to appreciate coffee in his native Mexico City. He remembers growing up in his neighborhood with coffee and chocolate roasting shops, which filled streets with aromas he has long associated with an enjoyment of friends sharing good drink and food.
A chemical engineer, Fridman later studied how some molecules brought together in optimal amounts and conditions improve our lives, for example, when he bakes bread. He can give an NFL-styled play-by-play analysis of how yeast, sugar, salt, flour, water and heat help create the delicious outcome.
Fridman is better known for passion in making a great cup of coffee – the right beans, the right roasting,the right temperature and brewing duration. Several times, he played with the idea of opening his own coffee shop. A few years ago, Fridman asked other coffee-shop owners for the best coffee roaster in the Belmont area. The answer was Jaime van Schyndel at barismo in Arlington.
When they met, van Schyndel explained that he traveled to Central America to test coffee beans at farms – cupping is the method of drinking in small batches to grade the quality of the beans – and then orderquantities of them to be shipped here for roasting. The coffee is “direct-traded” with growers in Central America, eliminating the middle men, usually part of the supply chain, and is thus able to offer betterprices to the farmers. When the burlap bags of beans arrive, van Schyndel roasts the coffee on thepremises, always fresh for his retail and commercial customers.
With van Schyndel, Fridman had found a partner for the kind of coffee shop, whose customers appreciate fine coffee, prepared not in vats and pots, but cup by cup, a personal touch.
Opening a place where coffee rules
On April 3, van Schyndel and Fridman are opening a premier coffee bar for coffee and espresso lovers, with an onsite bakery, at 364 Broadway, in the heart of Cambridge, called dwelltime.
In military life, “dwell time” means time between deployments, with family at home, a rest from action. In the world of coffee, it refers to time coffee spends brewing before it flows into the cup, a pause during which the coffee in effect becomes itself.
Van Schyndel and Fridman envision their bar – 25 feet of copper-covered counter, with stools and foot rests, along with tables and chairs, to seat 49 – as a place for the public to dwell, that is, pause and enjoy their beverages, before re-engaging in the challenges of their lives.
Any new business, especially one like coffee, faces the challenge of competition. National brands seem to pop up on every street corner or shopping center. The owners believe that the location on Broadway in Cambridge is a cohesive neighborhood of grad students, academics, professionals and non-
professionals, who will appreciate a specialty coffee shop.
As for national chains, van Schyndel notes that Starbucks coffee is roasted in Seattle and shipped to the stores across the country a week later. The coffee bar dwell time will have fresher coffee and amuch smaller “carbon footprint,” says van Schyndel, as the roasters are co-located with the bar and other shops in the Boston area, as well as supermarkets.
In addition to the standard espresso brewing method, the brewing is done also cup by cup, with flannel rather than paper used to filter the grounds (paper can add unwanted flavors).
One example of personal philosophy is the purchase of milk. van Schyndel and Fridman buy theirs froma dairy in Lee, believing its Jersey cows produce the best tasting produce. Attention to such detail, they believe, will make their business valuable totheir customers and profitable for them.
dwelltime is open seven days a week:
• Monday to Friday: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• Saturday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The bakery will serve lunch from noon to 3 p.m., and pastries and snacks, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; The bar will have a Wi-Fi connection, of course. Opening day was Saturday, April 7.