New York Coffee Scene #1
So, you’re in the big apple for a week or so and you need a great coffee fix…. Notice the emphasis on “great” because in New York City (NYC) like all big cities, the locals tend to think they know what coffee is – after all the place is literally littered with Starbucks and other chain outlets, selling coffee, so don’t make the mistake to ask a local. In fact, New York was one of the markets Starbucks initially feared entering back in the 1980s because most New Yorkers didn’t believe in spending more than a $1 on coffee and with speciality coffee, that’s impossible.
So, first up, you could search for “New York coffee” on goggle, where there’s the www.newyorkcoffeeguide.com by Allegra, the same people who brought you the London Coffee Guide. You could trust your judgement (risky), ask on twitter or if you’re like me, you would have been following the ever changing coffee scene in New York for several years from the onset with the launch of Café Grumpy (probably the first well known artisan coffee shop in New York) and last but not least, read below. A proviso, my list is by no means exhaustive and is Manhattan biased – the coffee scene in NYC is changing very rapidly and even as I write, there might be a few new openings.
So here we go…
Drinking Coffee in Midtown Manhattan
As a lover of coffee, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t too far from my “love” and so after scanning countless maps of Manhattan, I decided that the family should stay in mid-town Manhattan within walking distance to Culture Espresso, near Times Square, Joe’s at Grand Central, Bluebottle at Rockefeller Centre and about 15 minutes’ walk from Stumptown, near the famous Flat Iron Building fanatic or what !!!
So, now where to stay ? I curiously looked at Conde Nast Traveller’s Guide to New York Hotels and discovered a hotel, ranked in the top 20 hotels in NYC that served… you guessed it, Café Grumpy coffee – DONE, that’s where we’re staying, Andaz on Fifth ( A Hyatt hotel) – ok! It looked really nice, with a great location, opposite the NY Library on the corner East 41st Street and the famous Fifth Avenue too, but it also had the promise of serving good coffee at The Shop (their cafe). So that’s where we stayed.
Using the usual gadgets, La Marzocco GB5, etc, a choice of espresso blends, different brewing processes, plus a cold drip, the coffee prepared at the Andaz coffee shop, called the Shop is done with precision and complimented with freshly baked goods, a choice of healthy and hearty breakfast, great staff and joyful baristi and is accessible to all, non-hotel guests too.
To top it all, the real bonus was that Café Grumpy’s filter blend is available free to hotel guests anytime of the day, so after a long day walking the streets of Manhattan, what better than to have a night cap with some great filter brew #coffeeheaven in NYC – I’m not affected by caffeine at night.
So where next,
Next up and closer to where we stayed was no doubt one of my favourites, Culture Espresso, located at 72 West 38th Street on the corner of the Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue). The décor is almost like a typical London coffee shop, as you enter, there are displays of gadgets on the right and right in front of you before you place your order there are delectable sandwiches and sweet bites.
I found the coffee here consistently good and loved their commitment to using Heart Coffee Roasters. If you don’t know NYC, then this is the closest great coffee spot to Times Square – so suck up the glitter and lights of Broadway at Times Square with a well prepared cup of joe (NYC speak for coffee) in your hand.
OK! So rushing off to the glamour part, Rockefeller Centre, there’s the famed (at least by coffee connoisseurs) Blue Bottle branch, slightly north of Times Square but on your right. I must confess I never visited this branch but I visited their Chelsea branch, see below.
Drinking Coffee in Chelsea NYC
Well! of course you’ve got to go to Café Grumpy, at their first shop in Soho, corner 7th Avenue and 21st Street. I had a mini-lunch there, focaccia and lemon madeleine (I always read about these on twitter) with an espresso macchiato.
My sister bought me my lunch as well as a bag of Heartbreak Espresso (delicious).
Take a 10 minute stroll to Chelsea Market on the corner of ninth and tenth avenue and 15th and 16th Streets – located in the old National Biscuit Company factory, on Saturdays it celebrates food, with lots of stalls inside selling delicacies from cute cupcakes to lobsters. Inside however, is the aptly named Ninth Street Espresso, who have now embarked on the journey to roasting their own beans – their focus is more on a darker blend, at least that’s what I was told when I visited in 2013.
The head barista was really friendly and when I told him who I was (pleasantly surprised that a barista in NYC knows about me) he gave me a bag of their espresso blend. So, head down there for great food but finish off with coffee from Ninth Street Espresso.
Literally around the corner is Blue Bottle’s other shop – I got a bit lost surprisingly, but it’s easier to find it if you use the front entrance of Chelsea Market, veering to your right, past the Apple Store on West 15th Street (you see, it’s next door). Ah, finally, I get to visit Blue Bottle after all these years.
It’s not very big and they have a coffee menu thing going on, showcasing the beans, so choose the one you want or ask them for which coffee goes best with which brewing style. Great! Nothing else to add.
Drinking Coffee in Soho
Not that far from Chelsea and near the flatiron building, in between 7th and 6th Avenues on West 21st Street is a haven for coffee pros, Joe Pro Shop and Headquarters. I stopped by there on a Saturday afternoon, dashing off from the wife and kids for my “coffeefix – it was quite quiet with the pros in the back conducting a barista or tasting school so that meant I had lots of time to “talk coffee” with the head barista there. Usually they show case different blends from different roasters not only from America but Europe too. Again, just ask for what goes best with what and let your palate delight in this coffee haven in NYC. I tried two coffees, one with milk and another just….
So this is what I missed:
Stumptown at Ace hotel on corner of Broadway and W 28th Street
Intelligentsia (iconic) at 180 10th Avenue
Gimme Coffee on 228 Mott Street in Nolita /Little Italy Neighbourhood
Prodigy Coffee on 33 Carmine Street in the West Village Neighbourhood