New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, July 21, 2008


I love this kind of thing. The New York City where we can find an icon based on something so ordinary, it defies comprehension how it attained mythic status. Its very ordinariness drives it. I think it is a form of defiance - our sense of self importance is such that New Yorkers can take something completely mundane, champion it and say: "This is the definitive coffee cup. Why? Because we say so! We don't have to pander to outside fashion or fancy cups. We set the rules. And the Greek motif coffee cup is what we choose. We eschew all others."
Of course the entire process is the confluence of many factors, historical, practical and otherwise. But once something here has been established as a de facto standard, New Yorkers hold on in a tenacious manner.
The classic, Greek themed, blue and white design - the Anthora - was originally designed by Leslie Buck of the Sherri Cup Company of Kensington, Connecticut in 1967. The large number of Greek-owned coffee shops New York City seemed to be a ready target for a themed coffee cup. The name was inspired by an article about a sunken Greek ship laden with Amphora (Greek urns). Anthora is a corruption of the word, based on a misprint in an article. Greek Amphora were typically decorated with geometric designs around the neck - this concept was adapted to the upper and lower rim of the 10 ounce paper coffee cups.
There are a number of competing brands of the Greek coffee cup, but all have some variation of the original message "We are happy to serve you." The one in the photo is no. 110 by Premier Paper Manufacturing Corp. circa 1997. A set of Corinthian columns graces the front with the words "It's our pleasure to serve you" and a discus thrower on the back. The original design is now owned and manufactured by Solo Cup Company. See the link here for a gallery of Greek-motif cups.
The Greek-themed blue-and-white design is now on sale as a ceramic mug at the Museum of Modern Art. And a whole line of products like T-Shirts can be found with the Anthora image. It can also be seen in shows like NYPD Blue, where the cup lends a sense of New York City authenticity.
Some predict that the cup, with its blue collar associations, is doomed to extinction with the advent of more sophisticated cups, such as those used be Starbucks. Time will tell ...

The photograph was taken courtesy of Joe Jrs. Diner - the subject of a future story.


• Eliane • said...

Yay!! I've been waiting to see a post about this icon for such a long time. I've even researched the little cup myself in the hope of capturing it in a picture one day. But they are so elusive. Or maybe I don't like diners food enough to stumble on one. Its ceramic version is in every souvenir shop though.

naomid said...

Street/deli coffee in nyc is good coffee, no need to carry around some chain related coffee cup. Although, some stands are better than others.

Anonymous said...

And Blue again....
Blue is my favourite color.
Thanks for the story and for the

ehanson said...

Interesting story behind these iconic cups. I was wondering how the design came to be and where it came from.

These cups were in few movie scenes and they also make frequent appearances on Law & Order.

Cary Conover said...

This photo of the coffee cup played a little hand-eye coordination trick on me. While reading this post I went to take a sip of my coffee and instead of gripping the mug by its handle I inadvertently tried to pick it up as if it was one of these blue cups.

Molly said...

Randomly found your blog, I like it...and as for the cup, they use it in Philly as well, at the roach-coaches/dirtywaterdog carts/whatever you call them. Coffee that comes in these just tastes better.

Steve Rosenbach said...

Wonderful post Brian!

This brings back so many great memories of late '70s when I lived around the corner from Green Kitchen, one of the great Greek coffee shop/restaurants in NYC.

On visits to NYC, I still find great Greek cafes that I didn't know about. Skyline Cafe at 77th and Lex is one of them.

The givaway that it's a Greek cafe is usually an enormous menu that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner meals. If I'm not sure it's Greek, I'll try an "efkaristo" when I pay the bill, and I always seem to be rewarded with a smile and "parakalo!"

Fortunately, we've got some good Greek cafes in the Baltimore area as well - the premier is actually a local chain, "Double-T Diner," of genuine Greek origin and currently owned by the Korologos brothers.

BTW Brain, I'm now "following" your blog via Blogger's new "Follow" feature.

Best regards,