20 June 2022

The NYC Caffeine Chronicles: A Brooklyn Speciality Coffee Tour

After a two-year absence, I finally returned to New York City earlier this month, for a holiday with my parents. We were originally supposed to go in May 2020, but we all know why that didn't happen. With six days in the city, I had plenty of time to visit some new and new-to-me speciality coffee shops. And three of my favourites were all in Brooklyn. 

My original plan was to visit them all in a single morning, but while walking from the subway to my first coffee stop, I came across Ursula, a New Mexican café and bakery, and couldn't resist ordering a breakfast burrito. My breakfast was delicious and well worth the 45-minute wait, but it did mean I only made it to two of the coffee spots on my list and had to return to the third the following day.


Located in the Crown Heights neighbourhood, Daughter is a café, wine bar and community space where the emphasis really is on the community — they share 10% of monthly profits with local causes and share free meals every day to individuals in need between 4 and 5 pm. That sense of community is evident as soon as you walk in when there's a very warm welcome from the baristas, even on an unseasonably grey and rainy morning.

Much of the seating is on tiered steps that run along the length of the back wall — they're comfy to sit on but have a concrete look that makes you feel as though you're sitting in front of a school or by a fountain in a local park. With warm lighting and plenty of plants, it felt very inviting. And on sunnier days, there are tables on the pavement out front.

The curved coffee bar is just opposite the door and there was a tempting selection of baked goods — I saw on their Instagram Story that they add extra glaze to the cinnamon rolls on weekends, just so you know. The coffee is from Brooklyn roaster Sey (more about them to come), with filter coffee and espresso-based drinks on offer. I ordered a cortado brewed with a single-origin Ethiopian coffee, which had lovely sweet and floral notes with a little milk. After getting a lot of use out of my KeepCup at previous coffee shops visited on the trip, it was also a pleasure to drink my coffee from a gorgeous ceramic cup.

Daughter opened just over a year ago and it's great to see it thriving. They serve natural wine and craft beer too, in case you've already passed coffee o'clock when you visit. It's a short walk from the Kingston Avenue station on the 3 subway line.

Daughter is located at 1090 St Johns Place, nr Kingston Ave. Website. Instagram.

Drip Coffee Makers

Next on my list — both alphabetically, and geographically, from south to north — is the original location of Drip Coffee Makers in Bushwick. It now has three sister locations, two others in Brooklyn (one inside Clark Street subway station in Brooklyn Heights that I'd unknowingly passed the day before) and one that happens to be in the lobby of my former company's former New York office on Varick Street in Soho.

From Daughter, I hopped on the B43 bus, which took about 20 minutes, but if you're less pressed for time you could walk it in about 45 minutes. It's also close to the Myrtle Avenue J, M and Z trains. The small café has minimalist décor with monochrome branding and espresso machine and an exposed-brick wall. There are just a couple of small tables inside, and luckily one was free for me to sit and enjoy my coffee.

I hadn't had many opportunities for excellent pourovers on my trip thus far, and I definitely came to the right place in Drip — the clue is, of course, in the name, and their motto is, "slow down and have coffee." Quite right too! (Espresso-based coffees are, of course, also available.) My first task was to choose which coffee I wanted to try from the candy-store-like shelf of coffees on offer, from roasters around the world. I was torn between two coffees from Lem Butler and Kyle Ramage's Black & White Coffee Roasters, so I ended up getting one as a pourover and buying a bag of retail beans of the other.

It probably won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows my taste in coffee to know that I went for an anaerobic natural Ethiopian coffee — as soon as the barista started brewing the coffee, I could smell how delicious it was going to be. Indeed, the floral, peach and lychee notes came through beautifully, especially as my coffee cooled. The coffee is from the Dumerso region and is produced by sisters Hirut and Mahder Birhanu.

Meanwhile, I've been enjoying the other coffee at home from Alfonso Urriola in Boquete, Panama, which was processed using the 'static cherry' technique, where the coffee ferments for 79 hours in a sealed, valved plastic tank that creates an anaerobic environment, before drying on a patio for up to 20 days. The tart cherry and 'blue raz' flavours have come through particularly well when I brewed the coffee through my Kono Meimon dripper.

Drip is located at 12 Belvidere Street, nr Broadway. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Sey Coffee

It's only a 15-minute walk north-east from Drip to Sey Coffee's Bushwick café–roastery, but I ran out of time and had to return to Sey on the L train the following day. Although it was my first visit to Sey's café, I've enjoyed their coffee a few times before, at other NYC coffee shops and, most recently, at LIFT in London's Notting Hill. But nothing can quite compare to a visit to the mothership — or mothershop, perhaps, in this case.

The café is a large and airy space with some seriously impressive skylights that allow light to stream in, especially on such a sunny day. There's plenty of seating at high and low tables and at the counter. The décor is industrial-chic, though the plants — especially the ones dangling from the skylights — add a hint of John Wyndham.

Despite the heat, I opted for a single-origin pourover, again taking the relatively rare opportunity to enjoy a hand-brewed filter coffee in a ceramic cup. There were two single origins on offer (as well as espresso-based drinks, batch brew, iced coffee and various teas), and I went for a washed Colombian La Estrella from Jhon Alexander Montoya. It was super-fruity, with sweet berry notes and a hint of jasmine. Even on a hot day, I found it very refreshing.

Sey is also big on sustainability and, in particular, traceability of the coffees it sources. They provide detailed information about the growers, farms and coffees on each package, along with transparent pricing information. As for the roastery, it's at the back, and there are retail boxes of beans available for sale. Basically, it's the kind of neighbourhood coffee spot that makes you wish you lived in this neighbourhood and could visit every day. One day maybe...

Sey Coffee is located at 18 Grattan Street, nr Bogart St. Website. TwitterInstagram.

For 80+ more of my favourite coffee shops in New York, please check out my NYC speciality coffee guide.

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