So Far it's Been That Only Time in Greece, but I Hope to be Back.
In the summer of 2017 I went on a school-sponsored trip to some parts of Europe. It was awesome. I got to see many of the world's landmarks and spend a great time with friends. I got to drink some good coffee too. This is a story of the time I had one of the best experiences in a coffee shop to date.
This particular day was on the latter part of the three-week trip, we were on a Greek island excursion and on this day we visited Samos early in the morning. I'll add, the islands we visited were amazing. Beautiful scenery and great food. I truly felt like I was on the other side of the world with all of the differences I was seeing. Nonetheless, in Samos I felt a little more at home.
Early Morning Rise
We were thrown off the cruise really early in the morning, around 6 am. This was because the non-student population of the cruise headed off to Turkey, which you can see as the mountains in the background of the picture above. That's how close Samos is to Turkey. But us students didn't go to Turkey, so we were dropped off at Pythagoreio, home of Pythagoras. Remember him from Geometry? I remember being tired, and confused as to why we woke so early. We didn't have that early of rises at any other time during the trip and all the businesses were closed when we got there. We were truly there before the island woke up. Apart from that, I didn't really know what was on this island. Well that was about to change.
So I got to walking with one of my good friends exploring Pythagoreio, the part of the island we were on. It was a small place, but awesome nonetheless. We walked through the coast and saw many beaches, big houses, a lot of cats roaming around, and colorful mopeds parked outside houses. Walking around Samos didn't have that "I'm afraid of getting lost" feeling you get in a big city. The feeling in the hairs behind your neck that you'll go too far from where you're supposed to and will somehow get left behind wasn't there. We had a lot of time to spare and the island is small and friendly.
Walking down a particular street on my way back to where we were dropped off I recognized a sign on the window of a small business. It was still too early for businesses to open so I peeked through the window of the place and saw a EK 43 standing at a bar. I had this thought of "Okay I have to somehow go". I knew going there would be a treat, since I saw the EK being there as a sign the owner was into specialty coffee. So I went back with the rest of the group and waited a while until the island woke and opened for business.
After a while I went back, hoping the place had opened. In fact it had. I walked into the small deli and was greeted by the owner, a kind man named Konstantinos. I told him I recognized the Underdog sign on his window from a European Coffee Trip video and he seemed surprised that I recognized it. Konstantinos told me he's friends with people that work at Underdog and they have a partnership so he can serve the people of Samos specialty coffee. I told him I was pretty excited to be there and he started to brew a cup for me with the Clever dripper he has. He let me take a bunch of pictures of the place. It's not a huge place by any means, I estimate that around 8 people would fit inside comfortably but Konstantinos has tables and chairs set outside for his guests. That's were I sat, looking out into the street as I have pictured above. It was comfortable, the weather was nice and I was having a good time.
This is Where it Gets Good
A few minutes later Konstantinos brings out a cup of coffee and a bong-looking glass vessel with the rest of the brew. It was a really nice presentation. After, he kept coming in and out of his deli with small pastries and berries from his garden for me to try. It was great, I felt amazed at how well Konstantinos was treating me. I was the only one there, and I was this weird kid that just came in saying all these things about coffee. I tried to be chill but I was also really excited to be able to have specialty coffee at such a far away place from home.
After I was done taking my pictures and drinking my coffee I went back in the deli and payed. I asked Konstantinos what coffee he had served me and I took a bag of it with me. I told him I was excited to serve it in the shop I worked at the time. He was really surprised to learn that was in Mexico. Before I left I asked him what his favorite aspect of specialty coffee is, and his answer is the reason why this coffee shop experience stand out so much.
Konstantinos started out saying he enjoys customers coming into his deli and expecting a good product, whether that be a sandwich or a cup of coffee. But the important thing for him is the experience he is able to curate for the guest. He stopped and said it's hard for him to fully explain since his English isn't that great, although I still understood clearly. He told me he loves to be able to make his customers feel at home and turn them into friends. To him, the most important aspect of his business is the way he serves his customers and I clearly had an experience like that. With all the pastries and garden-grown berries, the welcoming of my coffee nerdiness and enthusiasm I felt like I was at home. To Konstantinos, the product he serves is good, but the way he presents his product and makes you feel like a lifelong friends is what will make his business last and makes running it fulfilling. That is indeed what he did while I was there.
I told Konstantinos that is pretty much exactly the same way I thought about specialty coffee. I was learning a lot about the Cat & Cloud model of service, and it really parallels with what Konstantinos told me. At last I told him I was really surprised and happy that people I looked up to - Cat & Cloud - and he had the same views on business. I was truly amazed at that. So we exchanged social media accounts and I left with a smile on my face.
What truly amazed me and what made the experience so special was to learn that two small businesses, on opposite sides of the world - one in California, the other in a Greek island - shared very similar views on their service model. It really caught me by surprised and I didn't expect it. I don't know if Konstantinos knew about Cat & Cloud back then before I mentioned them to him or what, but the fact that he spoke so similarly to them blew my mind. It is great to know that in the small Greek islands, businesses like Konstantino's are also really eager and happy to share specialty coffee his his customers.
Even more so, it was so awesome to be able to have this awesome experience through coffee. If it wasn't for me recognizing the coffee company's sign on his window, I would have never gone in the deli. I wouldn't have met Konstantinos. I wouldn't be writing this post about this story and I would have never experienced it in the first place. Even through a language barrier, we connected over coffee. Konstantinos tried hard to speak English but it was still rough, and I knew absolutely now Greek. This speaks to how two, and many more, people can connect and develop a friendship over something they love no matter where they're from or where they are. For us, it was coffee and I'm from Mexico and he's in Greece.