The Realist Spotlight: Chérmelle – The Indie Coffee Connoisseur
This week, we sit down with Chérmelle, the brilliant mind behind the popular indie coffee culture blog, smdlr.com. She shares with us her picks for coffee shops in NYC and also gives us insight to how smdlr started.
Thank You. I first fell in love with coffee at home, through my parents individualized rituals. I wasn’t conscious initially that my love came from them until I actually started thinking back to my first ideas on coffee. smdlr was sparked by wanting to tell stories of my own within coffee culture. I had a desire to show more of the culture that I was consuming as one who went to a lot of coffee shops and as a journalist and writer who wanted to create something to honor these spaces. I was also looking for a way to show more of what was happening inside these spaces, to take culture itself, the diaspora of it – art, film, music, fashion and literature – and use it to make my documentation and treatment of these spaces like a historical record, a cultural revolution.
What makes a great coffee shop?
Everything. There has to be focus, intention, vision and passion from its owner. These all work congruently because they are interdependent. Lose one, you could lose your whole ‘baby’. I also believe that a great coffee shop is connected to its community, has something to say, whether that occurs in the type of ceramic it uses, or doesn’t use, whether it has an awning over its storefront or doesn’t, how it chooses its barista, what it pairs with its coffee, if it so chooses, how it uses its environment – the physical and cultural landscape of the space – and of course there has to be music.
Name a few of your favorite coffee shops in NYC.
I don’t have favorites. But, I have preferences and those preferences are based upon function. What I’m doing dictates where I’m going to go, if I want to go somewhere out of my neighborhood hideaway it might be a new spot on the coffee map, like a Strangeways, Tip of the Tongue, or the uber local Southside Coffee.
If I want to go somewhere that’s cute and charming but still has a bad boy vibe, about its coffee, meaning – they are going to make a coffee proper to proportions – a flat white as a flat white, and not a latte – I’m going to Bluebird in the East Village, Propeller in Greenpoint and Sweetleaf Long Island City.
If I want to take friends to a place that’s a place where they can people watch and see some New York culture, its going to be Toby’s Estate in Williamsburg and La Colombe in Noho.
If I want to take them somewhere historic – Abraco, Ninth Street Espresso, Blue Bottle – and this is also for people who are wide open to experiencing something new.
If its ‘I’m just getting up and I don’t want to travel and I want to enjoy the ritual of having coffee, daydreaming in the window and talking to my barista – its Deluxe Bk or Café Grumpy.
How would you describe your personal sense of style?
My personal sense of style is always in the now. It’s all about how I feel, its how my own inner spirit is communicating to me how it wants to express itself that day. Usually, it’s something thrifted or vintage, which I love, because they both tell a story. And, I’m a storyteller. My father is a big thrifter, so I owe it all to him for my wardrobe in that respect. Thrifted clothes make me feel so good, the idea that they had an owner before they came to me, allows my imagination to run at any given point. And, then I’m always adding my own story to it, each time I wear them. The idea of walking around with stories on me is just divine.
What inspires you?
Everything. I know it’s a one word answer but its true. I can be as inspired by an unused napkin, by nail color, by a refrain in a song, by a feeling inside of me pulling me to meet someone, to the sound of closing subway doors. I kind of list all that specifically inspires me, in my bio on the site. My bio is just really a composite of what I love and what I love is what inspires me.
Have you ever experienced the Quarter-Life Crisis?
No. I don’t believe in that. I believe we shed, so we can grow.
What are 5 Things You’d Tell Your 20 Y/o Self?
- Warriors aren’t worriers.
- When you get lost, you’re right where you need to be.
- When you do what you love, you don’t have to DO anything else.
- Feel stuck, start moving. The problem may be the same, but your position will have changed.
- There are three writings that must be a constant, The Bible, The Artist Way and anything by Seth Godin.
Any recommendations on what brews to try for the novice coffee drinker?
Try coffee based upon what kind of fruits you like. Coffee is like a cherry – it flowers and it blooms and then it smells like you want to wear it. So, find a scent that you like and aim to discover that flavor. Then, keep exploring from there.
Where do you see yourself and your brand in 5 years?
I see myself having evolved beyond what I could imagine. Yet, because all that I imagine is real, as the great Picasso said, in five years, I see the brand having infiltrated every aspect of coffee and culture in a wonderfully, creative way. I see the indie revolution I created, based upon people and building community, being an ambassador for culture between all people everywhere. I don’t know what that looks like exactly, which assures me that what it will look like be perfect.