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March 23, 2010

The $13 cup of joe

coffee cupYou know your city has arrived when somebody can charge $13 for a cup of coffee.

That day comes for Baltimore Saturday, when Spro in Hampden (Hampden!) starts offering 12-ounce servings of Aida's Grand Reserve for $13.

That's more than a buck an ounce for the basic cup of coffee, not some sort of tutti-frutti, tarted up, frappachino iteration.

"It's really a fantastic kind of coffee," said Spro owner Jay Caragay. "It's very juicy, fruity, good mouth feel, medium bodied."

And you can only get it at Spro's Hampden location, which opened on The Avenue (851 W. 36th) last weekend. Spro in the Towson Library will not serve it. 

Aida Grand Reserve, grown in El Salvador by a woman named Aida Batlle, makes Jamaican Blue Mountain look like el cheapo supermarket brew. But don't be put off by the price. Spro offers 10 other beans. Those start at $2.50 per cup.

That leaves some money for pastries. Srpo sell treats from the bakery across the street, Puffs & Pastries.


Chicago Tribune photo

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 3:55 PM | | Comments (42)


I live in Hampden and I've never heard of Spro. And I've walked that block every day since the weather has been nicer. I believe you that it's there. But they could do a better job of getting the word out.

Hampden is my hometown. I wish this new coffeehouse much success.

I, too live in Hampden. The store's been on a soft open for a week or two- where Chelle Paperie used to be.
There have been a few articles about it in the press. I'm curious to see how it does, being right down the street from beloved institution Common Ground. The product is definitely different, and if the hours are later that could be good. I was hoping for more than one or two tables though.

Some of you may know Jay Caragay better as Dining@Large commenter JayC.

So now that EL is gone, Jay C.'s got the balls to try to get positive press?

Borrowing someone's laptop to submit today's exciting Midnt Sun column on Phil Collins, a gypsy curse and my gruesome death.... (my computer has been in limbo for three weeks).

Oh look, the weather forecast said it would be a cold day in Hell. Did someone say Jay's name three times today?

Wasn't he one of the sour pusses that have been so (delightfully and noticeablyo) absent the last 8 weeks or so?

I never thought I would see the day where you could by a $13 cup of coffee in Hampden, hon.

I'm in the neighborhood and I haven't been yet but I heard that they don't let you put your own milk / cream into the coffee? You know, like at Dunkin Donuts?

Anyone know if this is true?

For that kind of price, the coffee beans in question should be "passed" through the digestive system of pandas.

Cute pandas. Extra cute pandas.

or at least pet a panda

Oh, thanks a heap, Imry, you picked a heckuva time to show up.

A post about Jay C on Dining@Large. It is like the Visigoths inside the walls of Rome.

Cheers to Jay for raising the bar on coffee in Baltimore! As far as his blog comments, a well thought out, insightful post carries weight for me whether I agree with it or not. Most often, I do. I cannot wait to try the Aida's!


Although I stand by my earlier statements, shouldn't the fact that Jay C. has a $13 cup of coffee be the big enough joke?

Yes, this is coming from a Zeke's nerd who ponied up for the Civit brew.

A post about Jay C on Dining@Large. It is like the Visigoths inside the walls of Rome.

I, for one, welcome our new age of non-science, lack of reason, and lice.

Yes, this is coming from a Zeke's nerd who ponied up for the Civit brew.

I see your kopi luwak and raise you traditionally harvested argan oil.

WineGeek, Jay C.'s prior D@L posts hardly qualified as "well thought out" or "insightful", since they consisted mostly of personal attacks on EL. Whether his holier-than-thou attitude will induce the good people of Hampden to patronize his coffee shop remains to be seen.

I live in Hampden, and I'm very happy to have a Real coffee shop to nudge me awake after a long nights binge. Had a cappuccino that was perfectly made in a nice quaint setting with professional service .
It's like walking into a chemistry lab for coffee, lots of cool, little contraptions and gizmos brewing the joe and I think coffee lovers will want to find this place.

Don't understand the animosity on this board, but I feel its nice to have options available, and if someone wants to spend some money on an esoteric and hard to find item, then they have a right. Don't knock it til you try it, right.

Don't understand the animosity on this board, but I feel its nice to have options available, and if someone wants to spend some money on an esoteric and hard to find item, then they have a right.

Well, it's only because the proprietor's primary, if not only, interaction with this community has been filled with vitriol and condescension on his part.

Positivity is nice and all, and some healthy competition isn't a bad thing, but it's something else entirely to try and promote one's own enterprise primarily by denigrating everyone else's.

I happen to know from reading Jay's blog that he has personally invited Liz Large to visit Spro and enjoy a coffee as his way of wishing her well in her retirement. And perhaps burying the hatchet.


she doesn't like to be called "Liz" either!

And this is also the same blog where he claims to have had something to do with her leaving.

Would you take up that offer for coffee? I sure as hell wouldn't.

Jay C: Puppetmaster of Time. Impressive.

Elizabeth and I used to chat about whether or not we'd go to this coffee spot. Retired or not, I don't see her stopping by Spro. And for the record, Jay C.'s hateful comments had nothing to do with Elizabeth's retirement. That said, I'll say no more about Spro or Jay C.

I once had Kopi Luwak at an Indonesian restaurant (well I split the 10 dollar coffee with others).

It was good, there was no bitterness, however it was hard to let go of the fact that the coffee was brewed from beans eaten and pooped out by a civet.

Spro sounds like the kind of place I want somebody to buy me a gift certificate for, so I don't feel guilty about lavishly spending on a cup of coffee.

I was about to make a City Hall gift card joke, but thought better of it. LV.


I was actually at city hall a couple of weeks ago with some students to help plan the national youth violence prevention week. We were discussing incentives to attract students to the various events and one of our kids suggested gift cards, to which an adult at the table responded, "uhh we don't do that anymore." They had a good sense of humor about it.

...most of the brewed coffees are $2.50 each, some are $3, and they are all very very good... The baristas usually dose the cream and sugar because the coffee is of extremely high quality and it's encouraged that the customers taste it first and then can ask for more, in an attempt to preserve the drink that has been made for them.

I realize it's prejudicial - but I'm already preemptively sensing for preferring my coffee with at least a little dairy and sweetening.

I'm just enough of an addict, and enough of a jerk to prefer it the other way around.

Would be hard to beat Jamaican Blue mountain in my estimation and a $13.00 cup of coffee does not a great business make. Hoopla or not.

Awesome sustainable coffees being served!. Starting with Aida's Grand Reserve..
Congratulations to Spro, Jay and staff!

Who cares if anyone ever buys a $13 cup of coffee? It's marketing genius. Look at all the buzz here for a place owned by someone who tried to assassinate Elizabeth Large. The message is: Well if they have the most expensive coffee, they must have the best coffee.

I have another link on the blog to this, but for convenience... there's more info on Spro and the experience.

The space is pretty. My iced coffee was $3.50, $4.00 with a tip. It was of medium size. They have to put the cream in it for you because their coffee is so special and you are too stupid to do it right. My coffee was weak and therefore tasted like a glass of milk. I drank it and realized that I'd had the taste experience before, recently at the dunkin donuts near my work that uses way too much ice and milk. I felt sad and wanted my four bucks back.

My quandary regarding spro: I normally LOVE that dude's coffee but think there should be some repercussions if one is as relentlessly nasty online as he is. It's not just here but on coffee message boards as well. Jay was always nice to me in person, and I told everyone I knew about his shop when it was on York Rd. But I stopped feeling comfortable when I saw him after reading his multiple rotten and narcissistic attacks on other people online.

So I guess after my lame and expensive coffee outing I no longer have to feel tempted by the coffee but annoyed by its source. Or at least I won't unless I try again and get served some coffee with a taste.

I guess I'm a lesser being without the descerning palate of those who would pay $13 for a cup of coffee. Which is good for me, because I don't have to feel like a sucker for buying it.

Aria, As a coffee professional myself who follows the industry scene I've certainly read posts by Jay that were outright controversial. The thing that comes to mind is that regardless of how he might come off, he's well respected in the industry BECAUSE of his straightforward and sometimes brash/rude approach.

In the end, I think it comes down to how good the cup is and how well you're treated when you visit his shops. In my experience, it's the toughest people who tend to produce the best experiences. Gordon Ramsay comes to mind.

I'd be willing to defer to your argument if Jay's contributions (content, regardless of tone) were substantive.

The key difference is that Gordon Ramsay at least has something to say.

Jay's arguments, at least on this blog, have largely been junior-league debate team failure. Straw men, ad hominems, appeals to authority. The usual intartube pabulum.

It's not so much his attacks on EL (among others), it's that they amount to not a whole lot more than attacks on others' credibility. Which is bad argumentation to say the least. When it's as personal as he makes it - that's how flame wars erupt.

I have no doubts about his qualifications (well, for coffee, at least), but I fear that your comparison to Ramsay is off-target, at best. His interactions with the Sandbox have been closer to Anthony Bourdain's particular cult of personality, than anything else.

To top it all off - you make it sound like this is the only industry or field where a maverick personality is, by itself, a virtue. Perhaps you missed our last election?

Has anyone heard of Homeland Organic Coffee? I think they are at the Owings Mills Farmer's Market.

Maybe you have, you shilly boy, because your name is linked to your Homeland Security Coffee Site. In an age of terrorism and Big Brother, why on earth did you pick that scary name? To make us feel comfortable and safe? I'll buy from people who don't make mean (we know who) or misleading posts.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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