We're hiring!

We are looking to add a part-time or full-time person to our team!

The candidate does not need to have extensive experience in coffee but is…

  • very interested in coffee/tea and always learning more about it
  • both courteous and professional with customers as well as co-workers
  • a hard worker, timely, and is able to function very early in the morning
  • excited to work for a small business which often involves taking on many different roles
  • able to work weekends
  • able to work at both of our locations

If you are interested please email us! We will get you an application and then we can talk about the next steps. 

10 Years

As we celebrate this 10 year anniversary, I am re-reading my high school graduation speech and what it means to be successful.  I wanted to share a short excerpt from this speech because I feel that sometimes we all need to look at our 18 year old self or 16 year old self or 12 year old self (whatever age we actually had wisdom beyond our years, a peek into what life is really like before we were influenced by the stresses and pressures of getting and keeping a job, a house etc.). 

“Because all of us are unique, we must determine for ourselves what will give each one of us a sense of having succeeded in life.  Most of us, at this point in our lives have chosen careers for our future.  We will be nurses, teachers, engineers, mechanics, artist, secretaries (there were secretaries in the 90’s or at least it was ok to say “secretary” in the 90’s )  and the list goes on and on.   Attaining a career in a field of our choosing which provides us with financial security is a major accomplishment in life but will not necessarily guarantee our success.  Then what is success? Success is being truly happy.

Family and friends are certainly essential to the success of any individual.  Success means having caring, supportive family members, who will love us no matter what, and will always be there for us to fall back on.  They understand our faults and put up with us.  They may not always like us, but they will always love us. 

Success is also finding true friends, friends who do not like us for our material possession or status but for what is inside of us.  True friends let us cry when we need to and make us laugh so hard that our stomach hurts.  Even if we have one friend who understands us, who will always be totally honest with us, and who knows us so well that they know what we are thinking before we speak, then we will know the meaning of success.

Success also means actively trying to live life to its fullest.  It means overcoming obstacles in our lives, such as a fear.  Success could be overcoming a fear of heights by skydiving.  Or that obstacle could also be a grudge that we are holding against some person, and success might be learning to forgive that person and accept imperfections in others. 

Our success in life also will depend on our continuing to grow and encounter new experiences.  It may mean that a person, whose only interest in life has been law, suddenly realized that he has a talent to paint.  It may mean that a woman who dropped out of high school at 16 receives her college degree when she is 40. It may also mean leaving a high paying job which has grown stale to pursue a lifelong dream of opening a ski shop in Colorado (Again, the 90’s not really any coffee shops).  Success is always striving to become a better person.  It could mean that a person who has a pessimistic outlook on life attempts to change this attitude by trying to look at the brighter side of life.  It could also be that a person who is self-centered begins to think of others by giving food to the needy or volunteering at an old age home. 

The most important aspect that allows one to be successful, though, is to not take oneself too seriously.  We need to learn to put less emphasis on being on top.  If we allow ourselves to laugh at our failures and realize that every disappointment is not necessarily a crisis, we will be happier.  If we don’t dwell on our failures, then we will open ourselves to new opportunities for success.  We need to accept that not everyone is going to like us or approve of what we do.  We need to worry less about what others think of us.  We need to accept that we are unique human beings who above all must maintain our own integrity if we want to be truly successful. 

I would like to leave you with the poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson (later found out it was Bessie Stanley ) that served as the inspiration for my speech:

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.


We are on the eve of the party of our 10th year in business!  Each year as I re-read this speech, I take away a little more of how those words are so true.  By returning to that state of mind, we have turned our business into a true success. We have had rough times, we took a chance, we weathered the 2008 recession storm, and we finally are off the “I just started a business” mac’ n cheese diet.  We seem to like to cut through the brush, dig the dirt road and not take the paved road by any stretch of the imagination.    It isn’t easy but to look at our failures, the betrayals, the crazy roadblocks, and to be on the other side of that is one step toward success.  But what truly feels like we have arrived is not that we finally feel financially secure (and in a small business what I mean by that is that you no longer wake up in a cold sweat literally sweating the bills), but that we have a team current or past who totally support one another and feel like our second family.  They look at this business as if it is their own.  They care about our customers, about us, about our children, and each other.  When we first started, I wanted to be able to pay people enough so that they felt comfortable.  They could pay their bills and have fun along the way.  I wanted them to always feel good to come to work and not afraid to come to us with a problem.  I wanted them to feel empowered and that their ideas matter. I also wanted customers who came in regularly, who we got to know through the years, who met their spouse or good friend at the shop to think of our shop as a special place for them.  I don’t know if we are 100% there, because we can imagine so much more and want to do so much more, but for now we need to sit in our success.  To walk into our shop and know that our shop brings joy to many people, ourselves included.  When we finally got to the place where the business itself was our “heart” and was running smoothly as the way we had envisioned, it, there was an ease and fun to it. 

Success is when your employees gladly offer to cover a shift for their sick teammate. It’s when they smile when we come in.  For them to feel safe that we are out to help them to make money, have a comfortable job, hopefully learn something, and definitely teach us something and we’re not out to impose our way, catch them in some mistake or teach them a lesson, then I feel like I have truly succeeded.  Success is saying hi to “Bob” in the strip over the years and having him watch my puppy and kids grow up and know that he is our friend (so please leave my homeless friends alone because if you really stare into their sweet eyes you will see we are all just the same and are just a few paychecks away from not having our comfortable lives).

We have never been the cool kids.  The press often wouldn’t help us by talking about our passion that they mistook for pretension because they were too lazy to take more than a few minutes to understand. But being cool and accepted right away doesn’t pave the way to press forward to work harder to make it on our own merit.  We truly bootstrapped our business.  There were no investors.  Not until we were open over 5 years did anyone even give us a bank loan.  Peabody, our dog, had to at one point take a mortgage out on his little fluffy bed, I think ;)  Our path, our passion, and our purpose a few years ago were confusing.  But wonderful people both employees and customers found us and kept finding us and kept finding us and for that we are so thankful. 

As Napoleon Hill said:

“The greatest achievements of men, were at first, nothing but dreams of the minds of men who knew that dreams are the seedlings of all achievements. A burning desire, to be and to do, is the starting point, from which the dreamer must take off.”

Thank you all and we look forward to even better things to come!

21st Street Coffee and Tea is Hiring

We are looking to add a part time (potentially full time) person to our team.  If you are interested please email us! We will get you an application and then we can talk about the next steps. 

The candidate does not need to have extensive experience in coffee but is…

  • very interested in coffee/tea and always learning more about it (and drinking it of course)
  • both courteous and professional with customers as well as co-workers
  • a hard worker, timely, and is able to function very early in the morning
  • excited to work for a small business which often involves taking on many different roles
  • able to work at both our locations
  • must be able to work weekends!

The Worst Coffee Competition

When trying to come up with a unique event for Pittsburgh Specialty Coffee Week, we wanted to do something that would bring the local coffee community together for a good time.

This past Spring LA's Dinosaur Coffee hosted the first (to my knowledge) World's Worst Coffee Competition

This seemed like it could be a lot of fun, where anyone with an appreciation for good coffee and a sense of humor could "compete" on a level playing field.  Anyway we're going to give it a try- we've started with their basic premise but here are some rules to make things more official:

The WORST Coffee Competition

Saturday October 24th from 5-7p at 2002 Smallman St. in the Strip District

  • The drinks will be coffee (not espresso) based but if you need to steam milk you can use the espresso machine.
  • Competitors can bring any of their own brewing gear or use ours, hot water and ice will be available.  Competitors can also use our milk and coffee if needed.
  • Competitors can use any ingredient as long as it's edible/drinkable and follows good standards of food safety (they haven't put it in their own mouth, used dirty equipment etc.)
  • It's open to the public as well as coffee pros, but will limit competition to 10 people (free to enter).  Contact us to get on the list!
  • Each competitor will be given 8 minutes to complete their drink making
  • The judging of the drink will be of the following characteristics:
    • Aroma
    • Mouthfeel
    • Flavor
    • Aftertaste
    • Performance
    • Service Vessel
    • Outfit- can be creative with a costume

Anyone in attendance whether they participate or watch can enjoy complimentary small espresso shakes or cold brew that will not be the worst ever.

On the not-worst coffee front, we're doing a customer focused event during PSCW where you can get behind the bar for some hands on experience, and some great drink specials all week. 

Get behind the coffee bar!

During Pittsburgh Specialty Coffee Week we are going to allow you, our customers, to get behind the bar and get some hands on experience making coffee.  We're going to have a 30 minute window each day from the 19th-23rd.  Space will be limited so we're asking that you sign up (FREE) by emailing us from our contact form on the website.  


Downtown: Monday 10/19 and Friday 10/23; 10:30-11a (open to 2 people per day)

Strip District: Tuesday 10/20, Wednesday 10/21, and Thursday 10/22; 10:30-11a (open to up to 3 people per day)

Drink Specials During Pittsburgh Specialty Coffee Week

As part of the upcoming Pittsburgh Specialty Coffee Week from October 19-25th, we'll be offering some drink specials at our two locations:

Strip District - Homemade Nut Milk Cortado, $4

Downtown - 5oz Sparkling Tea + Single Espresso + Single Macchiato, $4

Stop in and try them both during PSCW, but also stop in before then because you consider yourself a coffee and tea buff.

Clam Chowder

Today someone tweeted because they were angry about something that had happened at the shop  that wasn’t readily apparent.  

This is what was tweeted.

Dear @21streetcoffee, never change... because in 2-3 years when you have no more customers something better will open in your current space

So I responded saying this:

Hey there let's stop the bullying. If there is an issue, ask to talk to the owners instead of wishing chapter 11

We are a family owned business who chooses to do things a certain way. 

Growing up, if I didn’t like a restaurant, store, theater etc my parents would just say “we aren’t going back there.”  We didn’t discuss it with the neighbors or write some scathing review in the newspaper (hint: prior to 2006).  This was after my mother (the appointed family representative) pleaded her case or asked for what she wanted.  We decided only to not return if we were refused what we had hoped to get.  If we got exactly what we wanted but had to ask for it or it was presented differently my mom still felt as if she had “won.”  If in the end we didn’t want to return, I rarely heard them bashing the business it was more like “oh remember they don’t have your clam chowder, Dom...”  “Oh that’s right...”  and we carried on.

So through my replies on twitter, I learned that the person/people in the group didn’t like that we didn’t have the cream out for them and suggested trying it without.  So I explained that we do this for a few reasons

  1. In the past, the condiment area got messy, smelly, and wasn’t appealing, so we thought that we were being nice by chilling it and serving a fresh milk pitcher to each person/group of people.

  2. We decided that we would have a coffee with cream (or cream + sugar) option that would be amenable to people. It holds up well to the cream and is taste tested to make sure it has strength and flavor that our customers are looking for.

  3. For the coffees that we suggest trying/drinking black, we make a suggestion because it's delicious and we are excited for you to try it.  We don’t think that we are right or are holding out on you.  We are just letting customers know that the coffee that we suggest black, in our opinion, tastes best that way.  In most cases, people give a sip and then decide for themselves. Usually while they are tasting, we are getting the milk out so it’s at the ready. We realize that coffee that we get from Intelligentsia has a higher cost associated with it so we want to give you all of the information that we can.  (Hey, wouldn’t it stink if you bought an expensive pair of pants and they didn’t say Dry Clean on the label?)

I wasn’t trying to be right with this person.  I was just trying to explain our methodology.  I’m an engineer and I guess logical and like to explain what I’m thinking when I feel that I’m misunderstood.  So the folks continued to temper their response with slightly kinder words but wanted to be right after all and explain how they wouldn’t be back.  I feel that these discussions are too common and are downright mean.  If you don’t want to have a discussion and you aren’t planning on returning then your words are just meant to hurt!

The internet is used to attack instead of for sharing, friending, spreading good things.  If you are just there to bully, then simply zip it and don’t try to intentionally hurt someone.  I thought that the issue was greater than just our style.  We were called elitists, wished bankruptcy, and corrected on our responses when we were simply trying to explain ourselves (initially my responses were  concern that someone had made a drink wrong or overcharged them because there was such initial anger).

We all choose to run our businesses, lead our lifestyles, and do our jobs.  Its a shame that the bad moods and ill will of others is projected  or in some cases transferred to us for just being different than what was expected of us.  They said this:

@21streetcoffee  You're a coffee shop!  Provide the coffee and the creamer without us having to ask... that's annoying.

Well I ask you this, if we weren’t all unique and just a little bit different wouldn’t the world be a boring place?  

So I say, let’s all think before we fire off some angry jab at a business made up of real owners with real kids and real employees whose jobs were created and sustained by this company that you are bashing for being a little bit different.  Next time, try starting with...

@21streetcoffee Why do you do (blah blah) this way?

Or even better- ask the person on the other side of the counter, they'll be happy to explain.