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Tierra Coffee Roasters keeps “Café Society” alive

April 7, 2011

by Alicia Legg-Karaskiewicz

Tierra Coffee Roasters embodies all of the traditions of a “café society” with one new twist; this coffee house has an organic approach and sells fairly traded coffee.

Located next to the Madison Theatre, Tierra occupies the space formerly known as The Muddy Cup, and has a new updated look.   The renovated café is bright and clean and has new stainless steel appliances and tables.  The freshly painted walls are home to the work of local artist Sampson Contompasis.

Tierra Coffee Roasters is owned by Tierra Farms, a Valatie company that sell organic fruits, nuts and fair trade coffee.  “Fair Trade means that the farmers are paid a fair minimum price for the coffee crop,” said Darren Grout CEO of Tierra Farms.  Tierra works with TransFair, the agency that certifies the fair minimum price payable to the Farmers.  The practice of Fair Trade helps disadvantaged communities and struggling farmers in developing countries worldwide by giving them direct access to US importers.  By cutting out the middle men, the farmers are able to retain more of their profits thereby providing them with a sustainable living.

“Customers are really happy with the organic, free trade option.  Each day, someone will say something positive about it,” said Tess Musolino an associate at Tierra who recently left another coffee shop to work at Tierra.  “They are enthusiastically committed to the organic movement.”

Patrons are also responding well to the renovations.  “Customers will comment on how visually the place looks brighter and more comfortable,” Musolino said.

General manager Jay Lown is committed to cultivating that atmosphere to entice the customers.

“I want Tierra to be a place where people can come for excellent coffee and organic food while providing a space where they can enjoy all of the products we have to offer in a relaxing atmosphere,” Lown said, “and enjoy our WIFI.”

Archived article from Times Union October 14, 1988

Some 22 years ago, the Times Union featured a story on the “café society” with attention paid to this neighborhood. Lown said Tierra exemplifies the coffee house traditions by providing a welcome to local artists.  Albany Open Arts provides an open mic night every Monday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“We provide an area for people to easily share their artwork and music in centralized and fun way,” said Chase Billow of the Albany Open Arts.  “Open mic is a way for artists of all variety to perform, whether it is a poetry reading, musical performance or a comedy act – all are welcome.”

Musicians Eric Erkkinen and John Dermont embrace the open mic.  “Open mic night is a nice spot to promote.  You get to play 2-3 songs in a ‘song sprint’ and you want to play them well because your audience is full of musicians,” Erkkinen said.

“It is always a challenge to perform better.  You never have it perfected, but in the café atmosphere it is small and you can see it when you make a connection with your audience,” Dermont said.

Dermont and Erkkinen prefer to play in a coffee house environment.  “When you perform in a café you are more likely to have a listening audience,” Dermont said.  Erkkinen agreed: “It is so much more appealing than performing in smelly old bars. You can play the music you like rather than what people expect to hear.”

At Tierra, live entertainment is not confined to Mondays.  In fact, Dermont and Erkkinen return to Tierra’s stage Saturday at 8 p.m. “We have live music about four nights a week,” Lown said.

Tierra is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.  and now accepts MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and, has an ATM.

Before long, Tierra plans to expand its menu to offer gluten free goods to be baked on the premises and will also offer  vegan products.  “It is our mission to make a fantastic cup of coffee and provide excellent customer service while offering our gourmet organic products to our customers,” Grout said. -30-


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