Sweetleaf, Jackson Avenue

A cortado, holding its latte art to the bottom of the glass, sparkling in the sun at Sweetleaf on Jackson Avenue.In true Coffee Spot fashion, I do most things backwards. So, naturally, my first experience of Sweetleaf was the wonderful Williamsburg branch which I visited this time last year. On my return to New York, I was determined to rectify this with a visit to the original over in Queens. So, hot off the bus from Wayne, New Jersey, I jumped on the metro, crossing under the East River to emerge, in sparkling sunshine, just a few blocks from my destination

The Williamsburg branch is a lovely spot, with an amazing interior. However, the original, housed in a 19th century building and furnished with antiques imported from Paris, goes one (or perhaps two) better. I particularly liked the tin ceiling, which dates from the 1800s. There are plenty of seating options, including a laptop room to the right, comfy chairs to the left, bar-stools at the counter and the Record Room right at back, past the counter.

The coffee’s just as good as the interior, Sweetleaf roasting everything in-house and offering the Slap Shot blend (50% Peru, 50% Colombian micro lots) and decaf on espresso, plus the obligatory bulk-brew (no individual hand-pour at the moment). There’s also cake, baked on site.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The original Sweetleaf, on a sunny corrner on Jackson Avenue in Queens, New York.
  • And the view from around the corner on 11th Street. The door is to the kitchen...
  • ... while the window houses the laptop room's window-bar.
  • Sweetleaf's outside seating, both on Jackson Ave & on 11th St, looking good in the sun.
  • Stepping inside, this is the view from the door, seating to left & right, counter ahead.
  • Immediately to the right is the laptop room, with its communal table and window-bar.
  • The seating in more detail.
  • The eight-seater table has these wonderful fold-out seats.
  • The other seating up front is on the other side of the ramp up from the door.
  • Three lovely, comfy chairs, plus a two-seater sofa, are arranged in the window.
  • One of the comfy chairs...
  • ... and another one.
  • The two setaing areas, as seen from the counter, looking back towards the door.
  • Talking of the counter, the bullk of it runs down towards the back of the store.
  • The espresso machine and grinders are down here...
  • ... as are some lovely bar stools which mean you can sit at the counter if you want to.
  • If you keep going past the counter, you come to the Record Room right at the back.
  • This is a lovely, awkward, triangular-shaped room with record player & loads of records.
  • There's a bench against the left-hand wall and this table in the triangle's apex...
  • ... with another one immdiately to your left as you come in...
  • ... and a third tucked away to the right.
  • The walls are decorated wth old LP covers, with a heavy emphasis on heavy metal.
  • Time to head back into the main part of the store.
  • I'd have happily sat back there except for this sign above the door.
  • Instead I wandered back past the counter...
  • ... and planted myself here (the room to the right as you come in).
  • It's an old building and it's got some lovely features, including this clock and its lights.
  • One of the lights in more detail...
  • ... and in even more detail.
  • Another lovely lamp.
  • This fascinating portrait hangs above the comfy seating to the left as you come in.
  • Very imperious.
  • High praise!
  • I picked a bad day when it came to the retail shelves.
  • At least there was some coffee for sale!
  • When you come in, you're faced by this lovely, cake-laden counter.
  • The coffee menu, meanwhile, hangs above the counter to the left.
  • The business end of Sweetleaf: all the coffee is roasted in-house.
  • The two grinders, the Slap Shot espesso blend and the decaf.
  • Lovely cups.
  • So, to business.
  • I had a split shot: single espresso & cortado, with a glass of sparkling water, naturally.
  • My espresso on its own...
  • ... and looking moody in the sun.
  • This, meanwhile, was my cortado...
  • ... which looked even better in the sun. It positively sparkled.
  • The latte art also held all the way to the bottom of the glass!
  • I paired that lot with the king of cake, the diminutive cinnamon doughnut hole.
  • However, I needed to have one of the awesome black cups, so I had a deacf cappuccino.
  • The latte art in that was even more impressive.
  • So good, in fact, that it deserves the instagram treatment.
  • And, of course, another coffee calls for more cake: carrot cake to be precise.
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Sweetleaf, which opened in 2008 (and tripled its size in 2010 when it expanded into its current space), is on the corner of a major intersection, where 11th Street meets Jackson Avenue at the northern end of the Pulaski Bridge. The entrance is on Jackson Avenue, one small window overlooking 11th Street. There are some nice chairs (11th Street) and a bench (Jackson Avenue) outside, but it’s very noisy and busy.

Sweetleaf’s layout is strange. As you enter, to your left there’s a lovely seating area (three comfy armchairs and a two-seater sofa arranged in an n-shape in the Jackson Avenue window). Meanwhile, the counter’s ahead of you and, to your right, at a slight angle, is the laptop room with its eight-seater communal table and two-person window-bar overlooking 11th Street, which really catches the sun.

The counter runs away down the length of the room, housing espresso machine and grinders. A small ordering-point faces the door next to the cakes, which are cunningly kept in a lovely, old wood-and-glass display case. They are, in fact, the first thing you see on entering. The counter effectively forms a corridor to the back, where you collect your coffee, keeping people away from the seats at the front, but it’s a bottle-neck when busy.

There are two more seating options back here. Beyond the pickup point are three bar-stools at the counter, while, right at the back, there’s the Record Room, a tiny, triangular space with three small, round tables. Two are along a bench against the left-hand wall, one immediately to your left, the other at the triangle’s apex. The other table’s hidden in a sharp corner on the right. It’s all very cosy.

I tried the Slap Shot as a split shot: single espresso, plus a cortado, served, naturally enough, with a glass of sparkling water. Sometimes milk changes a coffee completely, or, if there’s too much milk, the coffee’s entirely lost. A cortado’s therefore a good choice (recommended by my barista) since it really lets you taste the coffee.

As an espresso, the Slap Shot was quite sharp and slightly sour. Not unpleasant, but not quite to my taste. In milk, it really retained its character, although the milk’s sweetness helped offset its sharpness. Very well made, the milk held its pattern to the bottom of the glass.

I paired this with perhaps the best thing I had when I was at Sweetleaf in Williamsburg: a cinnamon doughnut hole, which was as awesomely awesome as I remembered it!

I followed this up with a slice of the carrot cake (although a mountain might be a more accurate description of the portion size) at the behest of Sweetleaf’s owner, Rich, who popped in while I was there. I had to have something to wash it down, so went for a decaf cappuccino, partly to get one of the awesome tulip cups and partly so the barista could showcase her latte art skills (she wasn’t happy with the one she did in my cortado).

The carrot cake was an excellent recommendation; full of chewy sultanas, although it was very sweet, particularly the butter cream icing. The cappuccino didn’t have quite the same punch as the Slap Shot, but it more than held its own, the flavour coming clearly through the milk.

December 2016: Sweetleaf, Jackson Avenue was a runner-up for the 2016 Best Physical Space Award.

http://sweetleafcoffee.com +1 917-832-6726
Monday 07:00 – 19:00 Roaster Sweetleaf (espresso + bulk-brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Comfy Chairs, Bar, Counter, Benches (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 19:00 Food Cakes
Thursday 07:00 – 19:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 19:00 Payment Cards ($5 minimum) + Cash
Saturday 08:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 19:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 9th February 2016

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4 thoughts on “Sweetleaf, Jackson Avenue

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