06 November 2018

New York Speciality Coffee Update — Autumn 2018

After my conference in DC ended, I took the Amtrak to New York. I spent a couple of days working in my company's Lower Manhattan office and then had a three-day weekend to enjoy the city, taking some tips from my own NYC long weekend guide. I was staying in the Financial District again for the first two nights and I had the chance to visit quite a few coffee shops in the area — some new to me, and others that I included in my 2017 FiDi coffee guide. Then, I moved up to the Lower East Side and my coffee shop visits covered a wider area, although nothing north of Union Square this time. Although it's not exactly breaking news that there is a strong Australian influence on the New York speciality coffee scene, I did find myself visiting more Aussie-style shops than usual this trip; this was entirely coincidental.

Scroll down to find out which coffee spots I discovered (and if you need more NYC speciality coffee guidance, my guide may help),

Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Portland-based Stumptown is one of my favourite US roasters and their Greenwich Village flagship store has long been one of my favourite New York coffee shops. I found out about their new Brooklyn cafe, located inside the former Cobble Hill firehouse, thanks to Lora of Third Wave Coffee Tours.

I stopped by one morning mid-way through my Manhattan Bridge / Brooklyn Bridge run. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the coffee shop is. From the stunning, hand-painted La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine to the sleek dark wood of the coffee bar and panelling, and the verdant front courtyard, every detail has been carefully thought out. I enjoyed perching at the marble high tables opposite the counter but through the arch at the back is another room with more tables and chairs.

The coffee was top notch too. I enjoyed a beautifully made cortado brewed using the Hair Bender espresso, which paired very nicely with a coconut and almond doughnut. If you're heading on to Brooklyn Bridge to walk back to Manhattan, it's just a short jaunt up Court Street to Cadman Plaza.

212b Pacific Street nr Court St, Cobble Hill, and other locations. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Oslo Coffee Roasters
With two locations in Williamsburg and one on the Upper East Side, Oslo Coffee Roasters has been on my list for some time. And indeed, the roaster has been in operation for 15 years so I'm late to this party. The small Bedford Avenue branch is at the southern end of Williamsburg's main drag, not far from the Williamsburg Bridge. I walked over from the Lower East Side, but if you're heading there by subway, do bear in mind the upcoming disruptions to the L train.

On a Saturday morning, the store was busy and I was lucky to find a spot to sit and read the New York Times while I waited for my coffee. The espresso shots are pulled with skill on the San Marco Leva lever espresso machine, and served with a smile. I ordered a cortado, which was smooth and well-balanced.

328 Bedford Avenue nr S. 2nd St, Williamsburg, and other locationsWebsite. Twitter. Instagram.

Financial District
Black Fox Coffee (revisit)
Although there were many of new-to-me coffee shops on my FiDi to-do list, I had to return to one of my all-time favourites, Black Fox Coffee. Luckily, it's only a 10-minute walk from my office, in the ground floor of a smart development on Pine Street. I arrived during the pre-work rush but the spacious cafe meant I still found a spot to perch at one of the wooden high tables opposite the counter.

As usual, single-origin coffees were available from an all-star list of North American roasters. I opted for an Ethiopian Guji coffee from Portland-based Heart Roasters, which was available as a 'small-batch brew'. I initially thought the barista meant it was a small-batch roast but it was a batch brew but made in a smaller quantity. The resulting coffee was delicious, with juicy peach and lychee notes. As the weather was indicating that fall had arrived, I thought it was only right to have an apple cider bundt cake for breakfast; an excellent choice. One day, I'll get to Black Fox early enough to try a more substantial breakfast!

70 Pine Street bet. Pearl & William St. Website. Instagram.

Boundless Plains Espresso
Another post-run, pre-work coffee stop was Boundless Plains Espresso, a beautiful, Aussie-style cafe located close to Trinity Church and the 9/11 Memorial. They serve coffee roasted by Parlor Coffee, as well as all-day eats.

After chatting with the friendly barista, I took a seat at the back, where there are several small tables set up. The minimalist décor presented a pleasant contrast with the streets outside, hectic during the morning rush. The coffee itself — my usual cortado — was excellent, and I also took a croissant to go. If you're in the market for something more substantial, there are various sandwiches and all-day eats available.

19 Rector Street nr Washington St. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Cafe Grumpy (revisit)
I've been to the Financial District branch fo Cafe Grumpy several times now — it helps that the hotel I usually stay in for work is just a couple of doors down Stone Street. I love the décor, which combines white marble with pops of blue and orange, and strong geometric designs. The staff are also usually very friendly, even with there's a long queue.

Although they serve pourover coffees, I was running late for a meeting and so ordered a single-origin Kenyan espresso instead. I like espresso but rarely order it unless I'm convinced it will be brewed well, and that's pretty much a sure thing at Cafe Grumpy. This particular espresso, which I enjoyed in the geometric alcove, was fruity and delicious.

 20 Stone Street nr Broad St. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Hole in the Wall
My colleagues — knowing my tastes exceptionally well — took me to lunch one day at Aussie eatery Hole in the Wall. The small cafe is very pretty inside but as the sun was shining, we decided to take one of the tables in the courtyard out front. The flat white, served in a cheerful yellow cup, was great. They use coffee from Denver-based roaster NOVO, which I don't think I've tried before.

The all-day menu combines classic brunch dishes with more creative menu items. My friend had the fall salad, which was huge and looked delicious. I went classic with the brekky role: smoked bacon, folded eggs, home fries and kimchi mayo in a brioche bun.

15 Cliff Street bet. John & Fulton St. Website. Instagram.

Proof Coffee Roasters
The tiniest New York coffee shop I visited this trip — and perhaps the tiniest coffee shop I've ever visited in NYC — Proof Coffee Roasters' Nassau street location is based in the heart of the Financial District. It's standing room only inside — and even then, there's only room for two customers plus the barista — but the coffee is excellent. I had a cortado to go, which lasted long enough to get me to the next coffee shop on my list.

65 Nassau Street nr John St. Website. Instagram.

For more Financial District speciality coffee spots, check out my FiDi coffee guide.

Lower East Side
Good Thanks
I discovered this Aussie cafe, which happened to be a few doors down from my Lower East Side hotel, thanks to the Acme & Co Instagram, a regular source of speciality coffee inspiration. I arrived early on Saturday morning and managed to nab the last table — and what a table it was with its beautiful marble surface. The rest of the décor is cosy, and the staff very welcoming. But try as I might, I couldn't stop myself from answering, "good thanks," when the server asked how I was.

As we were in Aussie territory, I figured I might get away with ordering a piccolo but I was asked to choose between cortado and macchiato. I went for the former, and it was fantastic, which very good latte art. I discovered later that the coffee was roasted by Proud Mary, a roaster I visited in Melbourne and which has recently opened up a cafe in Portland, Oregon. The dark blue Acme cups were rather gorgeous too.

I could have eaten most of the dishes on the breakfast/brunch menu, but ended up opting for the smashed avocado toast — and what a fine avo toast specimen it was too!

131 Orchard Street nr Rivington St. Website. Instagram.

West Village
I'm beginning to feel like a broken record, but Merriweather, in the West Village, is another Aussie-inspired coffee shop. The inspiration is specific in this case: the cafe is named for a beach in the founder's hometown. With its cheerful pops of green, from the espresso machine to the neon sign on the wall, it was a lovely place to sit on a sunny afternoon.

The coffee came from two US roasters — Counter Culture and Tandem from Portland, Maine. I had a Guatemalan Bella Vista coffee brewed as a pourover, which had lovely blackberry and honey notes. There was a laid-back vibe on the Friday afternoon I visited and had I not already eaten lunch, I'd have found much to enjoy on the all-day food menu.

428 Hudson Street nr Leroy St. Website. Instagram.

East Village
The Lazy Llama
I was sad to hear when Bluebird Coffee Shop on East 1st Street closed its doors a year or two ago. I liked the petite but perfectly formed cafe so much that its macchiato was even my social media avatar for a long time. Like a phoenix — or a camelid, at any rate — rising from the ashes, however, The Lazy Llama has filled the Bluebird-shaped void. There's still very little room inside the cosy coffee shop — there are three small tables (now adorned with llama-themed cushions), and a few more seats at the window and outside.

There were single-origin coffees from several roasters available, as espresso and hand-brewed filter coffee. I had an Ethiopian Duromina roasted by Stumptown and brewed as a pourover, which had peach and vanilla flavour notes. The coffee was really good — and after my recent trip to Peru, I'll admit that the llamas were also a draw.

72 E. 1st Street nr First Ave. FacebookInstagram.

Saltwater Coffee
I came close to visiting Saltwater in April when I ate at Motorino, the pizzeria right next door, but didn't quite have time. I couldn't let the Australian coffee shop evade me a second time, and stopped by for a cortado on Saturday afternoon. A big part of the appeal was the chance to try some coffee from The Little Marionette, the Sydney-based roaster I loved so much during my visit last year.

The coffee didn't disappoint — the latte art was impressive on my cortado and the coffee well-balanced and smooth. And yes, that is another example of Acme's classy dark blue crockery. There's plenty of foliage in the small, slim coffee shop too, and a few seating options, including the small tables by the window and the bench out on the pavement.

345 E. 12th Street bet 2nd & 1st Ave. Website. Instagram.

For more New York speciality coffee recommendations, please see my guide; I've also included below an updated version of my New York speciality coffee map:

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