Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Coffee in New York

Tuesday, I wrote about several places to eat lunch and breakfast in Manhattan, and naturally close to all of these places had some sort of coffee, some of them were even worth the money. But we also wanted to check out coffee bars that exclusively sold coffee. We wanted to buy coffee from proper enthusiasts, among other things. Did we find what we were looking for?

Read on to find out!

I believe I've said this before in this blog: I don't know a thing about coffee. And you may think: sure you do, you know what you like, what you prefer, and you're obviously interested enough to travel across Manhattan to look for good coffee.

You probably didn't think that, but if you did, you are correct. But I still don't know anything about coffee. I like coffee, I think. But I don't know how to articulate my preferences or what I'm tasting, nor am I interested enough to obtain the knowledge required to become a proper enthusiast.

Coffee for me is almost exclusively a rare cappuccino before noon. Should I require a hot beverage other times of the day, I'll drink tea. And there's a reason for this. Where I live, it's impossible to get good coffee unless you make it yourself, which in turn is expensive and time consuming. Only when I visit bigger cities do I go for a cappuccino - espresso with steamed milk. And this is obviously pathetic. How do I even dare write an article about coffee bars in New York, when I'm clearly not qualified?

Well, luckily my companion for the trip is an enthusiast. And together we set ourselves a few goals. We wanted to visit the coolest coffee places in New York, drink coffee in a "hip" urban environment and hopefully feel equally hip in the process. And most importantly we wanted to taste better coffee than we both were used to.
We had nearly ten places on our map, but in the end we only visited three of them. This was mostly due to the fact that we were satisfied with the ones we went to, but also because the distances surprised us.

Instead of a picture of the coffee place, here's some street art we found. Don't remember where though. -_-
The first place we visited was located in the Chelsea district. Cafe Grumpy, in 20th street, between 7th and 8th avenue. I don't have any pictures from this place, but it was more or less everything we wanted. It was just a coffee bar, and both the people that worked there and the clientele matched our expectations. It looked a bit like your regular coffee place, a narrow shop with a few tables and a huge coffee machine (that probably has a more specific name...). What was remarkable was that the people who worked there seemed genuinely interested in coffee, and had far more specific details on their various roasts than we are used to here, in the far reaches of the world. And the people that visited were almost exclusively locals, which I took as a good sign. I feel I recall a sign that said "No laptops", but I assume it could just as well have been "No MacBooks".

Cappuccino was amazing, and very different to what I am used to.

Another, similar place was Abraco Cafe, over in the East Village. More accurate, Abraco was located in 7th street, near 1st avenue. Equally hip and cool as Cafe Grumpy, equally , but where I suspect Grumpy was initially catering towards the local hipsters, Abraco seemed like the place any coffee enthusiast would want to be. In fact, based on the crowd that ammassed, it was apparent this was the place to be if you were even remotely interested in coffee, and we were certainly not the only ones making an effort to taste the coffee from Abraco.

The place was significantly smaller, barely room to sit inside, and only room for a handful of people on the outside. We had to settle for the improvised table on the outside, but as it was a lovely spring day with a nice view to stereotypical New York buildings, we weren't complaining at all.

Cappuccino was delicious, and certainly different to what I am used to.

Finally, the place we ended returning to, several times. Blue Bottle Coffee Company ended up being our go-to place for coffee, but I have to admit that location was an attributing factor.These guys could make great coffee, and the service was amazing. But with several other places of interest nearby, it was an even easier choice for us to return.

Located in the ground floor of the Rockefeller Center, only a few steps away from the entrance to the ice-skating rink. As you could assume, this place attracted far more tourists than the other two places we visited, but that didn't take anything away from the quality of their product. What was also pleasant was the attitude of the people who worked at Blue Bottle inside Rockefeller Center. They were extremely laid back and friendly, and were more than happy to chat about random stuff. But in addition to this, they seemed to be legitimately passionate about coffee, and I appreciate that. It was just the small things, the way they took their time with each cup, the way they took their time to find out what you actually wanted.

And again, cappuccino was great, and just that perfect amount of different to what I'm used to!

I would say we found what we were looking for. Good experiences, good coffee, good atmosphere. Looking back at it, I would have wanted to visit more of the coffee bars we had mapped out, but I'll need a reason to visit again, right?

Make sure to be around Tuesday, for the big one: Where to eat dinner in New York, including pizza!

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