02 November 2016

The NYC Caffeine Chronicles: 2016 Brooklyn Update

I've spent a lot of time in Brooklyn over the years, but with the exception of the original Café Grumpy and Williamsburg Toby's Estate, I haven't made many inroads into the borough's speciality coffee scene. I'm not quite sure why — possibly because by the time I make it over (or under) the river, it's often cocktail hour — but on my most recent trip, I started to make amends and spent half a day visiting four coffee bars. There were a couple more on my list but neither time nor my caffeine intake (I'd made the rookie error of drinking three coffees back in Manhattan) were on my side.

Devociòn (Williamsburg)

As with many visitors to New York, Williamsburg is the Brooklyn neighbourhood with which I am most familiar, so I'll start with the two cafés I visited there, although chronologically speaking, Williamsburg was at the end of my self-guided walking tour. I had heard many good things about the NYC branch of Colombian roaster Devociòn and I'm pleased to say that the rumours were true!

On a cold but sunny autumn afternoon, the large central sitting area was bathed in light from the giant skylight and there was a bustling, vibrant atmosphere. The décor is rustic — comfy leather sofas, brick walls and cheerful pops of bright yellow, from the cups to the wall art and parasols. The coffee menu was extensive, with three varieties of coffee served as a pourover (plus a 'special edition'), as well as the usual espresso-based drinks and several cold drinks served on tap (sparkling cascara, for instance). Although I really wanted to try a pourover, I had just had two filter coffees in Bushwick, and so stuck to a cortado, which was strong and smooth. The barista apologised for not having a glass to serve it in, but I rather liked my sunny yellow cup. Devociòn also serves some great-looking sandwiches, and although it's busy, there are plenty of seats so you should find a spot to sit.

Devociòn is located at 69 Grand Ave nr Wyithe. Twitter. Instagram.

Sweatshop (Williamsburg)

A Sydney-based coffee-loving friend of mine recommended Sweatshop, which is just a few blocks east of Devociòn, a couple of years ago and I've been wanting to visit the espresso bar/lifestyle store/creative space ever since. The first thing to note is that: there is a place called The Sweatshop in Bushwick (just down the block from City of Saints, in fact) that also describes itself as a creative studio of sorts — it is, however, a music recording studio/rehearsal space and they don't serve coffee!

As soon as I saw the, "Don't look for love, look for coffee," sign outside, I knew I had come to the right place. Inside, Sweatshop is small with just a couple of small, mirrored tables and a larger communal table, with more seating out front. The interiors are minimalist: a sleek black La Marzocco sits on a black counter; the menu — which is in Australian — is also monochrome and the Acme cups are slate grey. After so many cortados, which, in the US sense of the word, tend to be a little too long for my taste, it was nice to have the option to order a shorter piccolo. From the menu, I also learned some new Aussie coffee terminology: esky (iced coffee), sparky (espresso tonic) and magic (flat white). If you need more guidance, there is a handy chart in the bathroom (or you could just ask!).

The coffee is from Counter Culture and piccolo was excellent: one of the best espresso-based drinks I had on this trip, with great latte art and a smooth but flavoursome taste. You can also order a doughnut (I had a lavender-vanilla one, which was delicious), "brekkie biscuits" or "jaffles", if you are so inclined. You can also shop from the small but well-curated selection of lifestyle goods on sale — most of which are similarly monochrome. Sweatshop is based in the heart of Williamsburg so there is really no excuse not to stop by if you're in the neighbourhood.

Sweatshop is located at 232 Metropolitan Ave bet. Bedford & Driggs. Twitter. Instagram.

City of Saints Roastery (Bushwick)

It's about a two-mile walk from Williamsburg to Bushwick, where the other coffee spots on my tour are located. If you don't fancy walking, it's a short ride on the L subway line, but I prefer to explore new neighbourhoods on foot. I didn't have time to stop for coffee at the City of Saints Roastery, which is in an industrial area in the north of Bushwick, but I happened to pass it on my walk so I peeked inside. I had already had a pourover at City of Saints' Manhattan coffee bar and bought a bag of beans, so it was nice to see where the roasting magic happens. There aren't very many other points of interest nearby (save the aforementioned music studio The Sweatshop) — in some ways, it reminded me of some of the arches of my own London neighbourhood, Bermondsey.

City of Saints' roastery is located at 297 Meserole St bet. Waterbury & Bogart. Twitter. Instagram.

Update: Unfortunately, Supercrown closed its doors for the last time in late 2017.
Supercrown Coffee Roasters (Bushwick)

I visited many coffee bars and cafés on my most recent trip to New York, but Supercrown in Bushwick might well be my favourite new discovery. As soon as I saw the coffee bar set-up on their Instagram — royal blue espresso machine and hot pink grinders — I knew that it was my kind of place and indeed, they seem to like vibrant colours as much as I do.

Supercrown's coffee bar is large and spacious, although only has a few high tables (with super-comfy, velvet-covered stools) for drinking in. The café is very bright, thanks in part to the stark white walls, accented with wooden furniture. The roaster — also bright pink — occupies a large open space at the back. Meanwhile, the colourful retail bags of coffee beans sit like a rainbow on the shelves near the door.

The pourover menu at Supercrown is particularly extensive: there were seven coffee varieties available and in the end, I went with the barista's recommendation of a Ruarai coffee from Kenya (Ruarai is obviously producing some great coffee at the moment, as I also had a Ruarai variety at City of Saints). The coffee tasted fantastic, the slightly sharp fruity notes contrasting nicely with the subtler sweeter flavours. On the tray, the barista placed a card containing information about the coffee, which is *great* for bloggers like me, who otherwise end up taking endless photos of menus and bags of means or scribble down notes. The orangey-yellow beans pictured above are the Ruarai.

If I didn't have two more coffee bars on my list for the afternoon, I would have liked to try the Ruarai as a single-origin espresso or to try the one and one (a split double-shot: one espresso and one mac). Supercrown is also famous for its coffee milkshakes and the maple lattes are also supposed to be good, but neither is really my thing. The breakfast sandwiches, however, sounded great. With its relaxed ambience, knowledgeable baristas and great coffee, Supercrown is well worth the journey — even if that journey is all the way from London!

Supercrown is located at 8 Wilson Ave nr Noll. Twitter. Instagram.

Walter's Coffee Roastery (Bushwick)

When a Breaking Bad-themed coffee shop named Walter's Coffee Roastery opened in Istanbul last year, followed more recently by a second location in Bushwick, Brooklyn, I thought the premise was great. However, I also assumed that it sounded very gimmicky and that the coffee wouldn't be any good. As soon as I arrived at the Brooklyn café, though, my skepticism began to fall away: Walter's would be a great coffee spot even without the Breaking Bad connection.

Like Devociòn, Walter's is decorated with pops of bright yellow, which contrasts nicely with the clean — dare I say sterile? — walls. The menu is probably the most gimmicky thing there — a periodic table of coffee — but I loved it; what a wonderful idea. They had run out of the Japanese cold brew — more was brewing, so I went for a fruity Kenyan coffee, brewed through the Chemex.

The coffee took a little while to cool — perhaps I just noticed this because I was on a tight schedule — but was very flavoursome and full-bodied. As my surname begins with 'W', I also had designs on the mug, which didn't seem to be for sale, but I took only photos. The café itself is large and spacious with a few seats at the front, next to the coffee bar, and tables of various size in the larger back room and patio. The crowd was a mix of MacBook-toting locals and tourists, and the diverse menu at Walter's was clearly very carefully selected to please both crowds. But the staff clearly take great pride in the quality of their coffees, which they roast themselves, and they are knowledgeable and friendly whether you're a speciality coffee connoisseur or a Walter White fan.

Walter's is located at 65 Irving Ave @ Starr. Twitter. Instagram.

You can also find out which Manhattan coffee bars I visited last month and read almost a decade of my New York coffee posts here.

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