Looking back, I’m relatively impressed with myself. I spent only three real days in New York and managed to get to seven coffee bars. Now, coming across the country, I had heard many strong opinions about different coffee spots. In my head, I had formed different hypothesis for different coffee bars, but I kept an open mind. Ready and willing to enjoy anything…
The second full day, I managed to get to 9th St. in the Chelsea Market, Cafe Grumpy in Chelsea, and Third Rail Coffee. The Chelsea Market seems like a place where I could spend hours. With a resource like that, there is no excuse for any New York barista not to compete. I was really struggling to hold myself back from buying all kinds of little plates and wares. Just wandering gave me ideas for table settings and drink preparation.
We wandered up to the Ninth Street bar and I ordered an espresso. The espresso was solid. Very consistent to what I had tasted the night I arrived at the original store (9th & C). However, the experience was a bit lacking. The baristas seemed to have no desire to engage the customers. That topped with the way my espresso was slammed onto the saucer and sorta shoved my way, I just expected more. It’s not that anything tasted bad, but everything I had heard about New York had pinned these guys as the best. Once again, not bad, but underwhelming.
The next stop was Grumpy. This was my first stop where I knew the brewed coffee wasn’t going to be coming from an airpot or a fetco brewer… At the same time, people I had talked to had some stuff to say about how they were brewing their coffee on the Clover. I was ready to put it to the test. There were 4 available coffees. 3 that were roasted in the new Grumpy Roasting facility in Greenpoint and 1 that was from my friend, Matt Higgin’s at Coava Coffee in Portland, Or. I’ve been curious about Matt’s coffee and missed my chance to taste anything while I was last in Portland, so I chose a cup of the Coava Kenya. It was delicious! …and I mean, remarkably delicious. Sweet as ever, beautifully acidic, and well balanced for a coffee from Kenya. Being relatively familiar with brewing coffee on a Clover, I can say that the brew tasted flawless.
During my visit, Grumpy was only offering one espresso, and it was the Heartbreaker blend from Novo in Denver, Colorado. One of the baristas, Amanda, told me it’s a blend of Ethiopias and a Costa Rica. The espresso tasted very sweet and balanced. There were some lovely floral tones to the back end.
All in all, the experience was rad. Not to mention I got to see Renee who moved to New York awhile ago after spending some time at Ritual in San Francisco. Renee was one of the finalists in the Western Regional Barista Competition and may be one of the nicest people I know. It was great to see her.
Finally, we made our way to Third Rail Coffee. Third Rail is using Intelligentsia coffee. I ordered an espresso and a short americano. Both were solid. Couldn’t complain about the drinks at all. I was amazed at how much was packed into such a small space… Not in a tacky manner, either. The layout was smart. I enjoyed it. Here, we ran into Colleen from Grumpy. Pre-Grumpy, Colleen spent some serious time at Ritual. Now, she’s the green buyer for Grumpy’s new roasting adventures. We ended up talking for a solid hour… and somewhere in that, Amanda, who had served us at Grumpy in Chelsea, wandered in and we all got to catch up. It was one of those moments where the people just made everything taste a bit better.
By the end of the day, I was caffeinated and set. It was nice to be able to taste coffee at multiple places and have everything taste fairly good. Nothing was bad…. I’ll leave it at that for now, and save the last two spots for later.