09 April 2015

The NYC Caffeine Chronicles: April 2015 Update

As I was staying in Midtown on my recent trip to New York, I didn't get the chance to visit as many new coffee bars as I had hoped. Near to our hotel — the Shoreham on 55th Street — there are a few options, all of which I've been to before. My favourite is Little Collins, an Aussie import on Lexington, which serves a mean pourover and a damn good breakfast. The Colombian pourover I tried was really good, and although I still haven't tried the avo smash, the PBJ with coconut was very tasty.

I had hoped to go to the 55th Street branch of Gregorys Coffee (the mini-chain that looks like Starbucks but has a brew bar to rival any good independent coffee shop), but they are closed at the weekend, so my other back-ups were the Ninth Street Espresso in the Lombardy Hotel (pictured below) and the Blue Bottle nestled deep in the bowels of the Rockefeller Center, both just a few blocks away.

I also visited new branches of a couple of other favourites — the Upper East Side branch of Joe (the first espresso bar I discovered in Manhattan, way back in 2007), which provided a morale-boosting pourover, a chocolate-chip cookie and a wee bit of respite on a long walk. Meanwhile, in Williamsburg, we happened upon the original branch of of Toby's Estate. The roastery is on the Williamsburg site and on a Saturday brunchtime, the cafe was heaving. We barely found enough room to perch amid the sea of MacBooks. Still, the coffee was worth the wait: my Bolivian Amor De Dios pourover was great, and it was fun to people-watch in the buzzing cafe.

Chicago-based coffee roastery Intelligentsia has had a location in the High Line Hotel for a while, but they've opened a second New York branch in the unlikeliest of locations: inside the Urban Outfitters on Herald Square. You step outside the chaos of Macy's shoppers and tourists on 35th Street into a calm, chilled-out place to refresh and recaffeinate. The coffee bar wasn't too busy when I stopped by, but the stools that overlook the store do seem to attract lingerers so you may need to wait a while to get a seat.

I tried a Zirikana coffee from Rwanda ($4.50), which was quite fruity, and just what I wanted on a sunny afternoon. As well as espresso-based drinks from the shiny new La Marzocco, Intelligentsia serves a big selection of teas, cold brew coffee and something intriguing called a Sugar Glider — an espresso drink served with sugar, mandarin orange and maple syrup — which I noticed too late. If you are in the relative coffee desert of Herald Square, definitely stop by Intelligentsia (or Culture Espresso, perhaps).

Finally, for something completely different, I went to Hi-Collar, a Japanese coffee bar in the East Village. There are only ten or so seats at the shiny, brass bar in the zen-like cafe, and I had to wait a while to get a seat (I had obviously arrived during the afternoon-cake-time rush). While I waited, I perused the extensive menu. You choose your brew method — they offer pourover, Aeropress and siphon techniques — and then you pick your beans from a long list, including some single-origins.

As I rarely get to drink siphon-brewed coffee and as it seemed in keeping with the elegant surroundings, I went for the Misty Valley beans from 1000 Faces, brewed with a siphon ($6.80 — prices vary depending on your bean and method). While I waited for my coffee to drip, I tried to brush up on my rusty Japanese — I think it needs more work. The coffee was great, and although Hi-Collar isn't the place to go if you're in need of a swift caffeine hit, it is a beautiful shrine to the preparation of excellent coffee and certainly half a world away from most of the other coffee bars in the city.

Ninth Street Espresso. 109 East 56th Street nr Park (Midtown East). Website. TwitterOther locations.
Gregorys Coffee. 551 Madison Avenue nr 55th St (enter on 55th St; Midtown East). Website. Twitter. Other locations.
Blue Bottle Coffee. 1 Rockefeller Center Concourse Level, Suite D (Midtown). Website. Twitter. Other locations.
Toby's Estate. 125 North 6th nr Berry (Williamsburg). WebsiteTwitterOther locations.
Intelligentsia. 1333 Broadway nr 35th Street (Herald Square). Website. TwitterOther locations.
Hi-Collar. 214 East 10th St bet 1st & 2nd Ave (East Village). Website.


  1. What a lovely collection of coffee shops! I've added them all to my (very long) list for the next time I'm in NYC. Shows the breadth of the New York coffee scene that I was there a month before you and didn't visit a single one of these! The closest I got was walking past Toby's Estate late one evening :-)

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks! I always try to visit a few new ones to add to my repertoire each trip, and I had wanted to go to Bluestone Lane after your review, but ran out of time. In the past seven or eight years, the choice has become so much better. Joe and Jack's Stir Brew used to be among the only options.