This story was written by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs.
ITHACA, N.Y. — Sometimes great ideas can be born out of simple things. Take for instance the idea for a Dark Arts Coffee Tour during Ithaca’s Wizarding Weekend — it began with a meme.
Darlynne Overbaugh, creative director for Wizarding Weekend and owner of Life’s So Sweet Chocolates, saw a picture of Professor Severus Snape, a Harry Potter character, on Facebook. On the picture was the text, “Dark Arts Coffee,” and Overbaugh combined the funny image and the model of local wine tastings to create a tour of local coffee companies for the second annual Wizarding Weekend.
Four local coffee shops — Ithaca Coffee Company at Gateway Commons, Collegetown Bagels on Aurora Street and both the Cayuga Street and State Street Gimme! Coffee stores — and Concord’s Maine Squeeze juice bar will participate in the tour.
After purchasing a $5 pass book, tour-goers can leisurely explore each location and receive a free sample of a dark-arts-inspired coffee beverage from each location.
So why is it called the Dark Arts Coffee Tour? Snape, also known as The Half-Blood Prince, is a member of the Slytherin house in J.K. Rowling’s best-selling fiction novels and taught potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
“Since coffee is usually the potion of choice to get you going in the morning, the combination of the Dark Arts and Coffee makes the most sense” says Overbaugh.
There were seven different Defense Against the Dark Arts professors over the course of Rowling’s seven novels, according to fan website Harry Potter Fan Zone. Each participating tour location will be randomly assigned a professor and either create or rename a coffee brew inspired by the professor they are given.
While Overbaugh said each tour location is hoping to be assigned Snape, they will be decorating the shops and potentially adding some unnamed treats as well, regardless of which professor they end up honoring.
“They’re getting creative,” she said in a recent interview. “The samples may be traditional coffee or something you’ve never had before, I promise there will be a few surprises along the way.”
Aaron Rovitz, marketing director for the Ithaca Coffee Company, said the store is looking at several possibilities, including nitro brews, cold brews or even a punch-style drink.
“We’re looking forward to meeting lots of new Harry Potter fans in the area,” he said. “I know we have lots of Harry Potter fans in-house. We’re definitely psyched about it.”
Rovitz added that the extra planning for this year’s Wizarding Weekend gave Ithaca Coffee Company and other local businesses time to better prepare for the thousands of people expected to descend upon downtown Ithaca on Thursday, October 27 through Sunday, October 30.
Ashley McClary, assistant manager at Collegtown Bagels on Aurora Street, said she expected the event to be bigger than in 2015, and that the store may even print shirts for the event.
“I’m excited for it, and I know the staff is really excited,” McClary said.
What is most exciting about the event for Overbaugh is the exposure it will give local businesses and organizations. “It’s an opportunity to showcase what they do best in the context of the Harry Potter fandom,” she said.
“To me, that’s what excites me the most about anything related to this,” Overbaugh continued. “Yes, we’re celebrating Harry Potter, but really we’re celebrating what’s at the core and amazing about our community.”
To be part of the excitement and do the Dark Arts Coffee Tour, you must first purchase a pass available at Life’s So Sweet Chocolate in Press Bay Alley beginning October 11. The passes are good from Thursday October 27 through Sunday October 30. Passes must be presented at each location to receive the designated samples, limit one sample per location, per pass. For more information, visit WizardingWeekend.com.