[Cafes of NYC] Milk and Roses

Milk and Roses feels like a love story. The romantic nuances that fill the room make the cafe all the more special. You’ll notice the roses, the baby’s breath bouquets, the antique grand piano, the handwritten menus on envelopes…

[Photos by Miji Lee & Miruh Jeon]

Milk and Roses opened about three years ago in Greenpoint, where the café scene has been developing rapidly. As it is located in a small neighborhood, Milk and Roses has close relationships with local communities and is focused on providing a place where customers can feel comfortable and enjoy each other’s company.

Although it started out as a simple Italian cafe, it has evolved along with the neighborhood. It is now a cafe by day and a wine bar/bistro by night (and also a great place for brunch!). As Lauren, the cafe manager, describes, “one thing about Milk and Roses is that it’s everchanging… there is no end in sight as to what we can do and what we want to do.” Milk and Roses is about more than just great cooffee, wine, and food. It offers people a place to gather and enjoy the local culture. The cafe hosts open mic nights, performances by pianists every Friday night, performances by local musicians, art shows, and monthly poetry readings. And, if you are in the mood for it, feel free to jam on the piano any day of the week.

The espresso is strong, but without the bitterness, and has a little bit of sweetness to it. The cafe buys their coffee from Miscela D’oro, an Italian roaster. (Espresso machine: GrandPrix DiFormula, 2 groups)

They serve fresh breakfast pastries, including Sfogliatelles and Cornettos that are shipped from Italy and baked daily at the cafe. A sfogliatelle (shown in photo below) is a phyllo pastry filled with ricotta cheese and bits of candied orange. A cornetto is an Italian croissant topped with sugar. I especially loved the sfogliatelle, with its crispy and chewy texture and sweet ricotta cheese. It was fantastic with the latte.

Latte with a Sfogliatelle

Latte & Sfogliatelle

Everything in the cafe is antique or made from reclaimed material. The cafe owner, Tommaso Mazzoni, built the cafe from top to bottom, including the beautiful wooden floor and walls. Several shelves full of the owner’s private collection of books line up an entire side of the cafe. This eclectic collection is one of the main features of the cafe’s distinct decor. Customers can feel free to read the books during their visit.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/milk.androses.7 for more info

Leave a quote while you wait for your order

Leave a quote while you wait for your order

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[Cafes of NYC] Kava Cafe

If you happen to be in the Meatpacking District, consider visitng Kava Cafe. With its sleek and detailed interior, Kava Cafe reminds you of an Italian espresso bar. You can drop in for a quick espresso or stay awhile and see what the cafe is all about. Weather permitting, you can also enjoy the spacious outdoor garden/patio area in the back of the cafe.


[Photos by Miji Lee & Miruh Jeon]

I met with the cafe’s owner John Saric to learn about the cafe in detail; he explained that Kava Cafe is all about providing customers with a great experience that involves fine coffee, excellent service, and a relaxed ambiance. I also met with the head barista, Dwight, who helped me gain insight into their coffee selection.

The drip bar offers a variety of single origin coffees. While the “Today’s Brew” from the Fetco bulk brewer rotates daily, a wider selection of single origin pour over coffees are available for those who are open to more options.

Below are some of Kava Cafe’s single origin coffees (from Ceremony Coffee Roasters):

Cerrado Gold from Brazil (farm: Daterra Estate)
-full body; mellow orange acidity; nutty and chocolatey aromatics that reminds you of a Snickers bar; caramelly sweet and chocolatey; goes well with milk

Bellavista from Colombia (farm: Bellavista)
-brown sugar and cocoa nib aromatics with carmelized pear and coconut in cup; nice balanced acidity; sweet, buttery finish

Gitesi from Rwanda (from the Gitesi Washing Station)
-sweet; hibiscus aromatics with pink lady apple, rose hips, and currants in cup; nice acidity; good as a black coffee

Buenavista from Bolivia (from the Buenavista processing station)
-nougat and chocolate malt aromatics; rum raisin and cane sugar in cup

Gitesi from Rwanda

Gitesi from Rwanda

At the espresso bar, baristas pull shots on the impressive La Marzocco Strada MP. The cafe’s espresso is a blend of beans from Brazil, Ethiopia and Honduras.

Destroyer – Espresso blend
full body; rich chocolate and high end floral notes; velvety and consistent crema; citrus acidity and vibrant citrus-toned finish

Visit http://www.Kavanyc.com for more info.

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[Cafes of NYC] O Cafe

On Friday, I visited O Café in the West Village and met with owner Fernando Aciar. Despite the heavy snow, the café was packed and it was easy to see why, with its fantastic coffee, delicious food and friendly service.

[Photos by Miji Lee & Miruh Jeon]

Before opening his café, Fernando worked as a chef in Rio, Sao Paolo, San Francisco and New York. He opened O Café to bring excellent coffee, along with great service, to his community. Moreover, he wanted to introduce high quality Brazilian coffee to New Yorkers. He exudes passion for what he does and is dedicated to building relationships with everyone he works with.

Fernando is seriously committed to maintaining an eco-friendly business. He himself designed the store and bulit the wood paneling on the walls, the tables, chairs, lamps, and pretty much everything inside the cafe (all from reclaimed wood). They use compostable cups, lids, utensils, napkins, etc. One side of the cafe presents a community wall, also built by Fernando, that provides information on where the cafe buys their ingredients.

O Café’s single origin cups are brewed to order using three different methods: Chemex for two, Hario V60 Pour Over, and Clever.

Chemex produces clean and sweet tasting coffee. The double filter they use is made of a kind of paper that retains more grinds; thus, it makes the coffee sweeter and cleaner with a light, crisp body.

Hario V60 Pour Over also produces a nice clean cup of coffee but not as clean as the chemex. The coffee is more floral with a full body.

Clever is a full immersion process that creates a cup similar to that of a V60 but with a fuller body. During this process, the coffee is set in hot water for two minutes. Because the coffee grinds are in contact with the hot water for a longer period of time, the coffee has a stronger body and a deeper character.

The taste of the cup depends a lot on the type of beans, as well has how you grind them. For instance, the coffee will taste more acidic when brewed with coarse grounds as opposed to fine ones. Also, fine grounds will give you darker, richer taste with more chocolate and sugar notes.

Coffee menu - drawings by Fernando Aciar

Coffee menu – drawings by Fernando Aciar

Some of O Cafe’s delicious beverage companions include:

Pao de queijo are Brazilian cheese balls. They are made from yucca flour and, so, are gluten free! These are great with black coffee.
Pao de mel is a Brazilian honey bread/cake. It is made with organic ingredients, including honey, walnuts, spices, and covered in dark chocolate. They are perfect with espresso.
Brigadeiros, Brazilian bonbons, are caramel candies covered with different toppings, such as pistachios and cocoa nibs. They pair great with iced coffee or espresso.
Chai raisin fig bread goes well with hot chocolate, tea, or a cortado.
Amma Chocolate, organic Brazilian chocolate, is available in the cafe in different cacao percentages. The café uses the 75% to make their hot/cold chocolate (with skim milk and NO sugar) and the house-made bahia chocolate sauce. Amma 75% is very rich, sweet, and fruity; it reminds you of the cocoa beans in the forest. And it’s healthy. This intense flavor makes a strong and delicious hot/cold chocolate.

Pao de queijo

Pao de queijo



1. You’ve worked as a chef for many years. What drew you to coffee? What persuaded you to to open a cafe?
I was cooking in my café/bistro in Rio, and I heard about baristas. I asked, “What is that?” and they said, “[a barista is] responsible for the coffee bar.” We had a café [in the bistro], and we had cappuccinos and mochas and espressos, but I didn’t know what the difference was. But, of course, there is a difference. This was like eight years ago. I went to take classes with my barista friend, [who] gave classes to me and my partner at the time in Rio, and we got completely crazy about it. We [learned about] the flavors of coffee, how this is completely different from that, etc. And we trained all our staff. From then on, there was no return. So, from there I started to improve and get better. I started to go to coffeehouses in Berkeley when I was working in San Francisco. I loved the coffee scene and coffee environment. When I moved to New York I said I would love to have a café; I would love to have Brazilian coffee. [I asked myself] why there weren’t any Brazilian coffee in the supermarkets? It was mostly all from Columbia, all from Africa, Central America, but no Brazilian. Brazil [has] a huge [coffee] market, and they drink all [their coffee] within and their good coffees don’t go outside [Brazil]. Specialty coffee in Brazil is pretty new; it has only [been] like 10 years. Even the biggest producer’s specialty coffee is very new for the outside market. So, I got very involved with that and started to travel and, then, quit my job here. I went for a year to Brazil to travel, talk to farmers, talk to the people [and] understand the process, [such as] washing and fermentation, and it was like learning wine [and] learning how to make cocoa.

We are always looking for the best coffee, the best experience, and the best service. There are many trends, there is all this new line of new coffee, and people want to do things that make them feel happy; but, I think, in the end it’s all about the experience. If you have great coffee with a great environment, you are going to be happy. If you have great coffee with a bad face and attitude, you are not going to be happy. So it’s about the whole experience.

2. Who is your roaster?
I was looking for the best roaster and found Joel Pollock of Panther Coffee. He’s a roaster and a buyer. I went to visit him in Portland and he was married to a Brazilian woman, who was a barista. At that time, I was willing to buy the coffee roasted by him from Portland, but they [had] decided to look for a place to move to and open a café. So, they opened up a coffee shop in Miami. We [actually] opened at the same time. So, he’s roasting my coffee now in Miami, and it’s [called] Panther Coffee, a very well known small roaster. Since then, we became very good friends and we are partners, in a way, that work together. I was his first account, and he’s been roasting the coffee [for my cafe] since the beginning. [When] he started to add more different coffees, I started to add more coffees here. We now have five different coffees, which rotate. We buy fresh coffee in small amounts, so [the coffee menu] changes seasonally.

I don’t go to the farms, because Joel is the buyer and roaster; we just buy from him the coffee that I want to buy. I know some farms he buys the coffees from in Brazil, but I don’t know the farms from Central America. But we support through him, through his job, all the small farmers. Our coffees are sometimes organic [and] sometimes they are not. What I care about is the treatment that the farmers get, because we mostly buy from small families. Only from Ethiopia do we buy from a co-op. Because coffee is a part of our culture and routine, I wanted to bring the best quality coffee. I know that I can get different coffees from different roasters, but I chose Panther Coffee because of the quality [of their coffee], their commitment and how they run their company. They are fantastic with their employees and with the farms. I helped them to opened their store and they helped me to open this store. They are hard workers and they love what they do, and I have the same commitment.

3. How would you describe Brazilian coffee to people that are not familiar with it?
Brazilian coffee is mellow and sweet. [As an] espresso, there are hints of orange zest and lemon zest. There is a lemony and orangey aftertaste, [as well as] a hazelnut and almond aftertaste. It has a nice body when it’s a drip cup. It is not too floral but has a beautiful sweet, mellow round body. Some new farms have very good coffee that reminds you of African coffee, but this is something new. New farms are coming and showing different products. Brazilian coffee used to be completely different, but the market requires different tastes. It’s a good base for everything. And espresso, for me, is the best.

4. What’s the story behind the name, O Cafe?
[We are] a local café with Brazilian products like coffee, acai, chocolate, coconut water, pao de mel, brigaderos, but I wanted it to be for everyone. In some ways it’s called O Café, which means “the coffee” in Portuguese, because of my café [in Rio]. When people used to ask, “where are you, Fernando, right now?” I used to say, “Oh, Im at o café. I am in my coffee shop in Rio.” So, the name came from the repetition of saying where I was all the time. It means the place and the coffee. People think it’s organic café, which is funny, [because] right now we carry a lot of organic stuff.

5. Chocolate seems to be an important part of your menu. When did you first develop an interest in chocolate/chocolate farms and how did that happen?
I had a friend and he’s one of the best pastry chefs in São Paulo, Brazil. He recommended me to visit some people who sent him samples of chocolate made in Brazil. In Brazil, [people] still buy chocolate from Valrhona or Callebaut, and it’s like why are they buying from European [companies] when they have farms in Brazil? [Many] people don’t believe in that, but this guy [my friend] believed in these people and helped them produce good quality chocolate. So, during my travels, I went to Bahia to meet somebody that was very involved in coffee farming and, also, in charge of the cupping for the Cup of Excellence; and it happened that he knew the guy from Amma [chocolate], who I am buying from now. They picked me up and drove me 3 hours and a half into the jungle. The cocoa farm is completely different from coffee farms; cocoa farms are in florestas, meaning rain forests, where you specifically need humidity in order for cocoa to grow. So, its wild, hot, and humid. You can climb the cocoa trees. When you get up there, you find these beautiful colors. The cocoa pods are pink, yellow, organge, purple, red and green. You cant believe what’s going on there. It’s just fantastic.

6. What are the weekly “laboratories” that you hold?
We only have cuppings now. The tables in the beginning were supposed to be for having labs and classes, but we became so busy that there was no way to do it. We open from 7 to 8, and 8 was too late for many people. We used to be open until 9:30. So, now we have only the public cuppings on Saturdays around 11 or noon. People can let us know and we are always going to be tasting coffee every Saturday. We are going to change the layout so we can have a table in the middle for trainings. Many customers want to be trained and they want to be more informed and know more; so we want to start doing that for our customers. This will happen before the spring.

Visit http://www.ocafeny.com for more info.

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[Cafes of NYC] Cafe Grumpy .part 2 – the roastery.

This week, I was invited to visit Café Grumpy’s current roastery in Greenpoint Brooklyn and got to take a close look at the roasting process. Liam roasts the beans for the café, and he explained all the details about the roasting process. It was an exciting and educational experience.

They use a restored Probat machine to roast their beans. This machine is popular among micro-roasteries and is available either new or restored; the difference is that the new machines come with steel drums but the refurbished ones come with cast iron drums, which many roasters prefer.

[Photos by Miji Lee & Miruh Jeon]

There are several stages to roasting:

1. Beans go through initial moisture evaporation

2. Beans begin to absorb heat

3. At a certain point, the beans undergo what’s called a “First crack”

  • This is a very important stage of the roasting process, because it influences the taste of the coffee. Cracks are temperature thresholds that roasters listen for and they are good indicators of bean temperature. The sound is similar to the popping sound of popcorn. During this time, the bean’s molecular structure breaks down and it becomes much more sensitive to heat. This is also the point in which the sugars in the beans start to caramelize and the beans become more aromatic.
  • In order to get to the first crack, the roaster cranks up the heat to full blast, going up to around 400 F. Each roaster has his/her own idea of how to develop his/her coffee. This preference affects the way roasters control heat, thus affecting when to hear that first crack. Liam said that, depending on the type of coffee, he usually waits for about 9 to 10 minutes to hear the first crack. Because different roasters have different ideas, some may wait only 8 minutes.

4. There is also a “Second Crack”

  • This is for dark roasts; it’s after the second crack that you will begin to see dark, oily beans.

5. Beans are cooled

  • When the roast is finished, you pour the beans out onto the cooling tray. Cool air comes up the tray and stops the roasting process. The spinner helps to spread out and blend the beans as they cool down.
  • It is important to pick out the defects during the cooling process. In particular, you should pick out “quakers,” which are defect beans that don’t roast properly. Too many quakers in a batch could cause the coffee to taste too peanutty – and not in a good way.

Note: Change in color and aroma are helpful indicators throughout the roasting process. So, it is important to pull out a small sample of the roasting batch to periodically check the beans’ colors and aroma (refer to photos below). Check for color transition: from green to yellow/golden to brown. As the beans become more brownish, they should smell popcorn-like and bready.

check 2

Flavor profiles and physical attributes of coffee beans affect the way they are roasted. Some such factors are:

  • Where the beans are grown and elevation of the land
  • Size and density of bean
  • Moisture content
  • Acidity levels (the more acidic a bean is the more heat it needs)

After the roasting process is finished, it is crucial to analyze and taste each batch to maintain quality control. Each morning, Liam and Sheryl, who is the café’s green buyer, do cuppings of roasts from the previous day to make sure the coffee tastes just the way they want it to. Cupping is the only real way to sense how the roast is affecting the coffee.

Café Grumpy’s Beans:

Currently, Café Grumpy blends 2 to 3 (occasionally 4) types of beans for their espresso blend. Other coffees, which are brewed by the cup, are single origin; the beans’ origins can be narrowed down to specific country, farm, and co-op. Use of single origin blends showcases the characteristics of each coffee. The beans being roasted in the photos are Guatemalan beans from Hunapu; these beans will be mixed with another type of Guatemalan beans and Honduran beans to make up the café’s espresso blend.

How long it takes to roast:

The general profile of Café Grumpy’s beans is light to medium roast. Although the time depends on whether the beans are being used for espresso or not, it generally takes Liam about 12 to 15 minutes to roast one batch. This is on the shorter end. Some roasters will go more towards 18 to 20 minutes, because they are going for a darker roast. Also, every machine has its own little quarks, and some machines tend to roast quicker than others. Also, while there is a general profile that roasters stick to, both time and temperature vary based on the coffee.

All of Café Grumpy’s coffee beans are seasonal. When they buy green coffee from a farm, they normally buy only enough to last about 3 to 4 months in order to keep their green coffee supply fresh. Although they try to keep a similar taste profile, blends change throughout the year as they get different coffees.

How many batches are roasted per day:

On a very busy day Liam may roast anywhere from 20 to 22 batches; on not so busy days, it may be as few as 12 batches. One batch starts out as 15 to 16 lbs but, as moisture evaporates and the chaff comes off, the beans end up being about 13 lbs.

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[Cafes of NYC] Cafe Grumpy .part 1.

[Photos by Miji Lee & Miruh Jeon]

If you live in New York, you are probably familiar with Café Grumpy.
Café Grumpy opened its first store in Greenpoint in 2005. One year later, it expanded into Manhattan with a second store in Chelsea. Café Grumpy continued to grow and opened up additional stores in Park Slope and the Lower East Side, which is where its bakery is located, and set up a roastery at its Greenpoint location. Café Grumpy has since become a local favorite and is well known for serving some of the best coffees in New York.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of meeting with Caroline Bell, owner of Café Grumpy. She spoke about how the café started, what specialty coffee means to Café Grumpy, the benefits of buying and roasting coffee beans, and much more.

1. How did you decide on the name Café Grumpy?
I guess when we first opened there were only a few specialty coffee shops and espresso bars, and they always kind of were a little bit condescending. So, it was a little bit kind of a joke. Like sarcastic. Whenever you want to get a good coffee you have to get an attitude with it. Sort of like a joke about that.

2. What motivated you to start your own café?
It didn’t seem like there were many shops with a focus on quality. And I was living in Greenpoint at the time and especially in that neighborhood there was definitely nothing around. So I thought I’d give it a try. I was at a turning point in my job, and my husband and I decided to try something. So we kept talking about it and decided to give it a try.

3. I know that working in a café can get exhausting. Despite it all, what keeps you going and what do you like most about it?
Well, I guess it helps that there is coffee [Laughs]. You can get coffee whenever you need it. I think once you start, even from the beginning it’s been a very tiring process. But you try to create a place where people can have jobs and you keep growing. Each neighborhood store has its own feel, people start relying on you in the morning. And everyday they commune for coffee and talk to the baristas. You try to create a place that fits everybody that works here and come here. You try to succeed so you work hard.

4. What distinguishes Café Grumpy from others? How would you describe Café Grumpy?
I think it’s a combination of everything. Its focus is on coffee and obviously we roast the coffee, but I think it’s the combination of the ambiance in each store. I think each store also has its individual personality, because in New York each neighborhood has its own special feel. I think, for me, it’s a combination of everything. People that work here also add to it. It’s the whole experience with the focus being on the coffee.

5. Do you have any plans for further expansion?
We are going to be moving our roastery that is currently in the back of our Greenpoint store. We are kind of outgrowing where it is right now, so we will be moving that within Greenpoint but to a separate, bigger space. We are always looking for opportunities but just like you said it takes a lot of work to keep going. We are also looking to keep growing while maintaining a small business type feel. We don’t have any investors or anything. We have to grow slowly and steadily not lose sight of the fact that we have to be responsible.

6. What do you look for in your baristas?
I think it’s a hard job and takes a lot of roles. It takes not only coffee making skills but also takes good personality, ability to be subtle with customers, [and ability to] read the whole feel of the space. Also, physically, you have to be on your feet all day. I think a well rounded person; someone who has other interests. Some people are just all about coffee [and] that’s great but a lot of baristas are musicians and artists and I think that helps just balance things out. They also contribute to the store; they design different things like artwork.

7. Do you see a lot of tourists in your cafes?
On the weekends, especially in Chelsea. Chelsea is probably the most tourist destination. I guess because it’s on the way to the galleries. New York is a pretty international city. Everyone is always visiting, so you are always going to get tourists. It’s fun. It’s mostly on the weekends though. Throughout the week it’s the regulars that come in. You kind of see the difference in how people are ordering.

8. Can you tell us about the artwork that was shared on the Cafe Grumpy blog?
We try to rotate the artwork. At Chelsea, Park Slope and Greenpoint we have rotating artists. Sometimes people approach me about group shows. The one right now in Chelsea is a mini group show. There’s a lot of students from SVA who will come by, and so they’ll email us and show their artwork. It seems like in Chelsea there’s a lot of people who are working on illustration. [The artwork] adds to the whole feel. Each location will have its own show [for] that month or month and a half. Usually, we have shows at all the different locations.

9. What factors do you take into consideration when buying coffee beans for the cafe?
We have a green buyer that used to be one of our baristas. She travels around, sample roastings, and we cup coffees together. We try to create relationships with producers. We’ve been working with some people every year, and each year we buy more coffee from them. [We’ve been] working with them for improvements on their farm. It’s also [about the] quality, who you can work with and build relationships with. We’ve also been focusing a lot on Central American coffees and South American coffees.

10. What about the teas?
For teas, since the beginning, we’ve been working with a company called Art of Tea. Last year we’ve started adding different companies. We do change the tea menu a little bit; sometimes we’ll have specials. We just try to have a variety to offer people. They are all loose leaf, good quality teas. I think the main focus is coffee but also a lot of people do come in for tea.

11. Can you tell us about your experience with roasting coffee beans?
We started roasting in 2009. It’s just great b/c it gives people opportunities for a career in coffee. You also get to learn more about the coffee, and you get to be more selective. You are in control of more variables. Also, it opens a whole world of traveling. You can give the customer more information because you know more about where you got the coffee. We’ve always wanted to roast, [though] it took awhile to set it up. It just seemed natural to do, especially since we have four locations. We are using so much coffee. We have four customers kind of that we are roasting for.

12. Can you talk about your experience with the Clover machines?
In Chelsea, we don’t have those machines anymore. [When] we started the Chelsea [store] in 2006, we had tested one of the clover machines. It’s just basically a single cup brewery and you can control [variables like] the temperature. When we opened Chelsea we wanted to have a menu where people can select each coffee and get it brewed by the cup – which at that point people weren’t really doing that. [The Clover Machine] was a great way to be able to do that in a fast manner. So, it was based on just wanting to offer a diverse menu. All the stores now use the Kone pour over, and we also have the Fetco brewer. You can select your coffee and we will brew it buy the cup with the Kone pour over or you can get the coffee from the Fetco brewer.

13. What Espresso machine do you use?
Synesso. We have used those from the beginning. It’s a small company in Seattle. We do all our maintenance in house and they are very approachable. You can call them if there is a problem.

14. Is La Esmeralda Special still available at Café Grumpy?
We had that a while ago. We do change our menu a lot. We don’t have that particular coffee but we’ll enter auctions and have different limited edition coffees. Like right now there is a Peaberry from Columbia that we only have a few boxes of. There’s always going to be a limited edition or selection or something a bit more special for people that are really interested in trying different coffees. Hopefully on the menu we try to do something for everyone. Like an approachable coffee to taste good in the morning, [or] put milk in it, [or] try a different taste. [We offer] different types of coffee for people who might want to explore tastes.

15. Can you tell us about specialty coffee and what it means to Café Grumpy?
Specialty coffee by definition is buying a certain grade of coffee and also type of quality. We’ve always been a specialty coffee shop, always buying good green coffee. Just be careful with the roasting, the preparation, and just take care of every drink. To me it’s more broad. Taking more care. But by definition it’s more about the certain grade of beans that you are buying.

16. Can customers buy your coffee beans elsewhere in the city?
Yeah. We have a few wholesale accounts. There’s a few specialty grocery stores in Brooklyn. We work with the Andaz hotel in midtown. And we have an online store too.

Visit http://www.cafegrumpy.com for more info.


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