As you may have heard, CCR is taking on the challenge of building a new roasting facility in North London. With my role as the Head of Education, I wanted to make the most of my time in NYC and keep a breast of what’s good stateside. To see the what, the how, and the who, while I was over there.
For me the New York coffee scene probably lets quantity take precedence over quality, and this creates a product that is not quite as lightly roasted as here in the UK, and there does not seem to be the density of specialty coffee shops that we have here in London. Don’t get me wrong, some of the coffee in New York was out of this world, and there are trends there that we do not yet have here in London, so it was a nice to catch up on all of this.
Service wise, the Manhattan market leans heavily on volume. The ability to service a high number of customers, and a focus on the ease of arriving, paying, receiving and leaving as promptly as possible. Venues like Toby’s Estate, Taylor St Baristas, and Joe Coffee have nailed this template, mind you, they are all locations where you’d see at least a few thousand walk past on any given day. One of the places we visited was doing a huge 35lb of coffee a day, spread evenly across espresso and cold brewed options. These operators are fast, accurate, and consistent, but on the most part not to my taste. Although we did try a few here and there, the consumer doesn’t seem to be quite as open to the lighter roast profiles we are using here in the UK. Either that, or we, as roasters have been a lot more progressive in pushing the boundaries over here and providing a product that the consumer is then open to experience. Much like my introduction to drinking single malt whisky, or an expensive bottle of wine. Once you’re educated on what you taste and why, there’s really no comparison in product or taste (and there shouldn’t be, really). Maybe that’s how it’s played out with our coffee scene. The education has been swift in promoting our final product to the end consumer.
Taps, taps, taps. Making a great iced coffee, cold brew, or cold coffee beverage? Chances are that you can make a lot of money in New York. Sprudge.com totally beat me to this in their review of the New York Coffee Festival! Taps are prolific; every major venue in Manhattan had a cold brew or maybe a cold coffee drink available on draft (even a milky one at La Colombe). To me this is a sign of their market and also their ability to sell new trends. The need for fast and efficient delivery of a product – these customers waited no longer than 20-30 seconds after ordering before they were headed for the door. Coffee wasn’t the only thing that was tapped; this had also spread to alternate drinks, like sodas, kombuchas, and even plain milk for the baristas to steam. Next step?! Encapsulate it all, put your cold coffee drink on tap, and make it mobile. Box it up, put it on wheels and take it to the streets! Win win. For me, this is where we’ll we see a push for specialty coffee. Maybe Noble Espresso should head over that way!
Coffee wasn’t the only thing that was tapped; this had also spread to alternate drinks, like sodas, kombuchas, and even plain milk for the baristas to steam.
Unlike London, the existence of roasting facilities open to the public view is not commonplace. I can imagine that the rent in Manhattan doesn’t lend itself well to holding equipment and space that will not be providing consistent cash flow. So, Brooklyn seemed to be the place for roasters to pop up, yet not all of them open to the public like we have here in the UK. A few places that got our attention were Supercrown Roasters in Bushwick, Parlor Coffee opposite the Navy Yard, a long time favourite of mine, and unique collaborative venture in Red Hook, the Pulley Collective. Pulley is a space that allows coffee companies and individuals to use the space as their own roasting floor. Many of the coffee shops we visited are roasting out of Pulley, and had really great things to say about the facility and what it allowed them to do.
The most notable venue that stood out, was Brownsville Roasters, this is the coffee department of MeyersUSA, under the guidance of Claus Meyer, co-founder of Noma. I met Omar Hossain at the festival, as he was a fellow competitor in the Coffee Masters. We were able to chat about what we each did. Omar is the Head Barista and Roaster for Brownsville, who is operating out of the Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Station. As soon as Omar mentioned ‘Noma’ and ‘food hall’ in the same breath, I was pretty sold, although it took Steve and I until our last day to check it out. What a mistake! It is what it is, a food hall, but not just any old food hall with a panini stand and a large scale lasagne operation, this was a full blown Danish food extravaganza. Being able to wander about and peruse the smørrebrød and pastry selection was great, but to have an a la carte menu whilst sitting at the bar, awesome. On top of all of this, the coffee was en pointe!
50 word reviews
Stumptown Coffee @ the Ace Hotel - 18 W 29th St, New York
A West-Coast stalwart, a New York scene old boy, nicely situated against the lobby of Ace Hotel; this place heaves. If you’re into your light roast, don’t ‘spro it, go for one of their nitro cold brew sodas. Refreshing, and a new take on cold brew served like a cocktail. Drink: The Duane Sorenson $4.50.
Voyager Coffee @ Fulton St Station – entrance via John St, Financial District, Manhattan.
Ex-pat Aussie, Aaron, is hosting the best little coffee bar in NYC (says me). The best parts of a futuristic sci-fi flick, colliding with Sweet Bloom coffee, and some sweet barista skills. Both the filter coffee and espresso were premium. Oh yeah, the fridge is packed with avocados, too. Winning. Filter: Washed Ethiopian $3.50 Espresso: Honey Process Costa Rican $3.50.
Everyman Espresso – SoHo
I’ve heard a lot about Everyman, bucking the trends found in ‘normal’ specialty coffee venues, and the goods were good! Stumbling in with jetlag in tow, ‘twas a surprise to see Candice, former Notes roaster and Q Grade instructor on counter. The ‘spro was good, cold coffee drinks, better. Drink: Panacea (espresso, lemon, ginger bitters) $5.
Anchor Coffee – Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
This quaint little shop on Throop ticks all the right boxes. An all-Japanese team make you feel right at home, and serve the best coffee for quite a few blocks. With Parlor Coffee on both ‘spro and batch, Steve and I kick started our day here. Musicians make good baristas. Filter: Colombia San Sebastian $3.40.
Supercrown Coffee – Bushwick, Brooklyn
This place is fire. Aesthetics, layout, equipment, all on lock. A popping magenta roasting area at the end of a white hallway, sets the backdrop on a techy bar complete with Poursteady. The batch filter here nearly made me cry. Also, if you like pastries, sticky buns all day long. Batch Filter: Kenya Ruarai Lot #151 $2.50.
By Simon Lewthwaite