Without going into too much detail about why it’s been 2 months since my last coffee journal update I’ll just say that I’ve been busy with life and am committing now to start trying harder to post updates as often as possible….
Because I know I’d be going on vacation for the second half of the month I finished the beans I had leftover from December and then bought some from my local shop (Buunni Coffee) to hold me over until the 16th. I find their coffees to be consistently good, but not remarkable. While a bit one note their Sidama and Limu coffees are worth trying if you’re willing to make the trek up to Washington Heights or order their coffees online.
For the second half of January my wife and I went to Israel for a “baby-moon” vacation and were glad to find a micro-roaster named Cafelix. Like many American roasters they offer a variety of single origin coffees along with a full menu of espresso based drinks…Coffee-wise Israel is like many European countries where most cafes focus on espresso based drinks. So while I generally am willing to go against my coffee standards if I really need a pick-me-up, it felt great to not have to do so on the days that I was able to make it to a Cafelix (they have 2 locations, one in Jerusalem and 1 in Tel Aviv).
Once back from Israel it was time to get back to my goal of checking out as many NYC roasters as possible. So on Thursday February 4th I headed to Chelsea to check out two roasters that I had yet to visit. My first stop was Joe Coffee’s Pro Shop + HQ . Though I knew there would be a limited amount of seating due to this locations focus on classes and selling coffee equipment, I was at first taken a back by the lack of a homey café atmosphere. However, I was able to take a step back focus on the coffee and gain an appreciation for Joe Coffee’s dedication to specialty coffee education and the support of other roasters. As to be expected I ordered my usual pour-over and single origin espresso (replacement for my previous macchiato order)…For the pour-over I went with Joe’s M. Herrera (Honduras) which was a good, medium bodied, and somewhat bright tasting morning coffee, but lacked the complexity that I look for in a Central American coffee. On the other hand I ordered the guest single origin espresso of the day which was George Howell’s Borboya (Ethiopia). True to its cupping notes the espresso was full boded and full of bright acidity which added notes of grapefruit and ginger. If I hadn’t already decided to go visit Café Grumpy I would have bought a bag of this coffee to take home. Instead I bought Joe’s Baroida Estate (Papua New Guinea) beans and though I was not blown away by the resulting coffee I was glad to have tried a coffee from a country that I had yet to try a coffee from.
After a short walk I arrived at Café Grumpy’s Chelsea location and was quickly drawn in by its homey café atmosphere. Both baristas that I spoke with while choosing which coffees to order (beans-to-go, pour-over, and single origin espresso) were welcoming and seemed genuinely interested in chatting about specialty coffee. For my pour-over and beans-to-go I went with their 2 Guatemalan coffees, La Bolsa (pour-over) and Los Santos (beans-to-go). Both of which I enjoyed, but when I went there again on February 22nd I once again ordered the La Bolsa. Of note, when talking to the baristas on the 22nd I remarked that its bright acidity reminded me of the blueberry notes that I’ve come to like in coffees from Sidama, Ethiopia and was told that the previous La Bolsa harvest that they received was grown at a lower elevation and in turn not as bright and complex tasting as the one I was enjoying. I can’t be 100% certain, but I’m pretty sure that the single origin espresso that I enjoyed both times was their Gatuyaini Estate (Kenya). I liked it so much that I bought a bag of the beans to try at home. Brewed via pour over and French press it lacked the wow-factor of the espresso, but left me wondering how it would taste when roasted to a lesser degree. Lastly, as shown in the picture above the baristas at this Café Grumpy location utilize a new and innovative hands-free pour-over machine called Poursteady (click picture for more information) to not only brew consistent pour-overs, but to increase their overall efficiency. Meaning, orders are not held up by baristas having to focus their attention on brewing pour-overs in between espresso based drinks.
On February 18th I met up with a friend at Irving Farm‘s upper west side location. This was our first time meeting up for coffee after weeks of geeking out over which coffees we were enjoying at home etc.. Sadly I don’t remember which coffees I ordered for my pour over and shot of single origin espresso, but I do remember enjoying both of them. The highlights of this visit can described as “the good news and the bad news”, and in order to end off on positive note I’ll start with the bad news. As you’ve read in this and other posts on this blog I regularly buy beans to go when I go to a specialty coffee roaster’s café and prefer those beans to have bean roasted less than a week before I buy them. However, despite the large variety of coffees available for purchase at this Irving Farm location I was unable to find beans that met my roasted on date preference both times that I’ve been there. Now for the good news…After my first visit being on a Sunday morning when the line was out the door and my wife and I were lucky to find seats at a table, I was happy to be able to enjoy a quieter atmosphere this time around. Then after being unsure of what to order and opting for his usual Americano I convinced my friend to order a macchiato and he has been hooked on them ever since. To me an Americano is just diluted espresso and a specialty coffee roaster’s good quality espresso should be enjoyed in its full flavored form. In turn, when it comes to adding a “secondary liquid” (milk or water) to specialty coffee I’ve found that the macchiato strikes the perfect balance with its smooth yet bold espresso flavors.
February into March – Most recent coffee experiences
Before discussing my most recent specialty coffee experiences I’d like to first list my current Top 5 NYC specialty coffee roasters in terms of coffee quality, coffee consistency, and café atmosphere 1. Blue Bottle 2. Stumptown 3. Intelligensia 4. Café Grumpy 5. Gorilla Coffee, honorable mention: Café Vita / Madman Espresso.
Ever since I first visited Blue Bottle’s Williamsburg location I’ve never had anything less than a great cup of coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee Company. In the past couple of weeks I’ve paid the extra subway fare to get off the F train on my way to and from work twice to grab my ‘usual’ coffee order at their Dean St. location (1 block from the Bergen Street stop). Both times I ordered a pour-over of their El Salvador Aida Battle Tanzania (Natural). True to its cupping notes (posted on the cafe’s menu, couldn’t find them online) this coffee had a refreshing and bright acidity with notes of strawberry preserves and lemon. In turn, while I can’t see it as an everyday drinker, I can recommend it as a coffee that can be enjoyed throughout the year and at any hour of the day. Lastly, having had yet another wow experience with a non-African coffee I am quite optimistic about my potential for having similar experiences as long as I keep seeking them out.
Current Coffee: Yankee Prepper Coffee’s Tanzania Peaberry “Mt. Kilimanjaro”