The Great Coffee Tour of 2006

Yesterday was basically this barista's dream: A friend & food writer from Boston came down to research a story on espresso culture & quality in NYC, and asked little me to tag along for all the good stuff -- namely tasting and talking. We gathered ourselves together and sopped through a misty afternoon to the Big Four™: Ninth Street Espresso, Gimme! Coffee, the sparklingly new Cafe Grumpy, and our own Joe, the Art of Coffee.

Sadly, I took but a single photo during the duration of the trip, and even that is just a crappy cell phone one. Well, I can't help it! I get shy sometimes!


So let's start with the photo, chronology be damned! It's of the remains of a lovely shot pulled by one of the co-owners of Cafe Grumpy, a beautiful and brand new spot in, well, in the middle-of-nowhere Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The second stop on our list, the shop was completely worth the walk -- both from a coffee & an aesthetic POV.

While the owners admitted to having limited actual previous coffee experience, they obviously have a love and a respect for the stuff that is inspiring. They're exhausted, and rightfully so -- theirs is basically a two-man show, a husband-and-wife team working seven days a week to make ends meet for the bright and open space in which they've made their coffee home. The couple's training and beans are provided by the Victrola crew, and Larry gives the whole deal two thumbs up. Support Grumpy, y'all!


Moving on -- backwards, actually, to our first stop in NY! I know I just wrote about Ninth Street Espresso a few posts ago, but now I can actually say that I spent a bit of time there, talked to their baristi, drank an awesome macchiato and listened to the owner speak about the business -- all of which impressed me.

Really, I could get into it, but I feel like I would only be saying the same things over and over again, which are basically: awesome! consistent! solid! dedicated! smooth! bold! smart! generous! My drink was gorgeous, and so was my friend's. The place has a great feel to it, and the owner had a lot of really great things to say about being a shop owner and a buncha different aspects of his process and his goals both starting out and in the future.

Larry totally approves, gang: Ninth Street Espresso is 100% satisfying.


Later on in the day, we walked down to Gimme! Coffee, Williamsburg branch. Everyone in the biz speaks incredibly highly of these guys; the owner of Ninth Street actually said that the Gimme! crew "sets the standard" for espresso in the city and on this coast. That's a pretty heavy statement! Not to be taken lightly!

I have a lot of respect for the team and what they do, and it was my first (but definitely not last) time in the shop. A charmingly minimal little tucked-away joint with a real beaut of a machine and a no-nonsense approach to the whole biz. If there's anything I can get behind when it comes to this line of work, it's cutting out all the noise and getting straight down to the coffee.

These guys are serious about this stuff, and thank St. Drogo¹ for that.


Our last stop(s) was ol' Joe, both "my" location -- where we are having some technical problems at the moment -- and the Waverly store, which is a treat for me anyway because I never get to visit.

I don't exactly feel right really expanding on the experience we had at the store; I trust my friend to write about it honestly in his piece, and will default to that when it runs (I'll let you know).

Overall I'm sure I'm pretty biased about our work, even if I will admit to it still being a little more hit-and-miss at times than I'd like. We are trying, we have a lot of love, and we're all learning and growing both as a staff and as a fairly new company based on dedication, customer service and the highest quality espresso and coffee we can offer. I'm proud of us, and I'll be prouder to see us grow and change.


So! That's the end of this epic post about a coffee tour that stretched over, what, five hours? During which I consumed upwards of 10 macchiatos without so much as a slight twitch? That's pretty effing awesome, if you ask me.

¹ St. Drogo is the patron saint of coffee shop owners.