New York City’s cuisine has always been shaped by immigrants from afar. The Germans brought good beer; the Eastern Europeans, bagels; the Italians, Neapolitan pizza; the Japanese, sushi and ramen, and the Chinese blew the minds of adventurous nineteenth century eaters with their sweet, sour and spicy flavors.
And then there’s coffee. Coffee first landed on New York shores in the mid 1600’s. While Coffee houses began to appear immediately, tea remained the cup of choice in the colonies. It wasn’t until King George began to levy taxes on tea in the early 1770’s that angry Americans flocked in droves to the richer, more caffeinated pleasures of coffee.
So while coffee certainly isn’t new to the streets of our city, good coffee is. Good coffee – responsibly sourced, freshly roasted, and carefully brewed - first started filtering into the city in the late 80’s when small outfits like Oren’s Daily Roast, New World Coffee and Cooper’s Coffee started doing it right. Then Starbucks invaded in 1994, opening over a hundred shops in four years, and moving New Yorkers’ coffee palates in the right direction while putting most of the good coffee pioneers out of business.
In Brooklyn , the ‘Slow Coffee’ renaissance began anew in the mid-‘00’s, when spots like Oslo Coffee in Williamsburg, Gorilla Coffee in Park Slope and Café Grumpy in Greenpoint opened for business. Since then, Brooklyn’s appetite for responsibly-sourced, house-roasted, painstakingly brewed java has proved insatiable.
The past few years have seen celebrity roasters from parts west, like Stumptown (from Portland Oregon), Blue Bottle (from Oakland), and Gimme! (originally from Ithaca, NY) set up camp in Brooklyn, roasting small-batches of beans in-house and pushing the needle on the pour. They’ve joined old-school roasters like D’Amico (roasting in Carroll gardens since 1948) and Nicoletti Coffee (roasting in Dyker Heights since 1972), as well as a newer wave of home-grown Brooklyn roasters like Brooklyn Roasting Company, Brewklyn Grind and Crop to Cup.
This week, two more coffee companies threw open their doors in Williamsburg, roasting precious beans in-house and offering up the latest craze – single-cup pour-overs – as well as the general gamut of espresso-based drinks.
Toby’s Estate Coffee comes by way of Australia (very far west?), where they are “a market leader in the boutique coffee industry in Australia, with roasting facilities in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Singapore.” At their first U.S. location, on North 6th, they’ll be roasting their single origin coffees on premisis. In addition to pouring their brews, they’ll be serving breakfast, lunch, and sweets along with freshly-roasted single origin coffee and espresso. If you’re hoping to improve your own barista skills, check out their “Brew School,” opening next month.
Kitten Coffee, a gourmet roaster that had been operating out of Bed-Stuy since 2007, just opened a cafe literally around the corner from Toby’s Estate, at 197 Bedford Ave., where they’ll be pouring their supplying 100% Arabica blend espresso. Kitten opened the first Barista Training Center in New York City in 2007 and have been training city baristas ever since.
So don’t be alarmed if you start catching the sublime scent of roasting coffee beans wafting through the streets – if there isn’t a roaster in your neighborhood yet, there’s bound to be one soon.