I spent last week exploring New Orleans’ small but vibrant speciality coffee scene. Most of the places were known to me from my previous trip, but there was one standout that came as a pleasant surprise. When I was last in New Orleans in early 2018, I noted that there was very little speciality coffee being roasted locally. Back then, Cherry Espresso Bar had just got going and was on the verge of opening Cherry Coffee Roasters, but that was about it. Or so I thought.
What I hadn’t realised was that just across the Mississippi in Algiers Point, Congregation Coffee Roasters was cooking up something special and just about to celebrate its first birthday, having opened in March 2017. On this trip, Congregation was recommended to me by both Mammoth Espresso and Revelator Coffee, so I took the short ferry ride across the river one Sunday afternoon to see what I could find.
My reward was a lovely coffee shop, serving some fantastic coffee on both espresso and batch-brew, all roasted on the 12 kg Probat at the back of the store. There’s a great selection of cakes, plus, at weekends, a concise brunch menu available until three o’clock.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The Canal Street ferry across the Mississippi is worth taking in its own right. It crosses back and forth all day long, charging just $2 per trip. When you get to the other side, you’ll find that Algiers Point, a grid of quiet, residential streets, is a world away from the tourist bustle of New Orleans. Even better, just one block back from the ferry terminal, on the corner of Pelican Avenue and Seguin Street, is Congregation Coffee Roasters, occupying the ground floor of a two-storey wooden house.
Long and thin, Congregation is perhaps three times as deep as it is wide, the narrow side facing Pelican Avenue and the bulk of the store running back along Seguin Street. The door, meanwhile, not wishing to take sides, stands on the corner at 45°, flanked by round, two-person tables, with a third table along the pavement by a second door on Seguin Street.
Congregation occupies a single, open space, with a wonderfully high ceiling. The roaster, in action three times a week, is at the back, along with an open kitchen, while the coffee shop is at the front. There’s an open island counter on the right, with the seating around the edges.
Bay windows flank the door, each with an inset bench seat, a round table and a handful of low stools. A narrow gap along the right-hand side between counter and wall leads between espresso machine and retail shelves to the second door at the back, Meanwhile there’s a narrow, three-person bar just beyond the retail shelves.
To the left of the counter a pair of long, thin eight-person tables run end-to-end, stopping just short of the roaster, seating provided by high stools. Alternatively, a long, L-shaped bar lined with 12 more stools runs a short way along the front wall, then all the way down the left-hand wall, ending at a record deck just before the roaster.
The counter greets you as you enter, the till on a corner section at 45° so that it faces the door. There’s a blend (Gallop) and single-origin (an Ethiopian Ardi during my visit) on espresso, with another blend (Highwalk) and single-origin (another Ethiopian, this time a Gelana Abaya) on batch-brew. The blends are seasonal, while the single-origins change every couple of weeks.
I began with the single-origin espresso an excellent Ethiopian Ardi. Served in a classic white tulip cup, with a glass of sparkling water on the side, it was smooth and well-balanced, but with bags of flavour and plenty of fruity notes.
Next, I sampled the concise brunch menu, choosing the pickled greens on toast, a single slice of toast, piled high with pickled greens, all topped with a soft-boiled egg. I’m relieved that I waited until after my espresso, because while my lunch was excellent, the tangy pickles really saturated my taste buds and would have ruined the espresso.
I followed this up with a mug of the single-origin batch-brew, the Gelana Abaya providing a fruity first hit, but then turning into a very smooth coffee thereafter, the sweetness and floral notes really coming through as it cooled. I was so impressed that I swapped a copy of my book, The Philosophy of Coffee, for a bag of the Gelana Abaya.
I also tried a sample of a Kenyan single-origin, which was next in rotation on batch-brew. This was a very different coffee, but no less gorgeous, with a very typical Kenyan profile, bursting with blackcurrant. In closing, I’d like to say thanks to my baristas, Coco, who I’d previously met at Mammoth Espresso, and Emily, who made me all my coffee.
|240 PELICAN AVENUE • ALGIERS POINT • NEW ORLEANS • LA 70114 • USA|
|www.congregationcoffee.com||+1 504 265 0194|
|Monday||07:00 – 17:00||Roaster||Congregation (espresso + batch-brew)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Bar; Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 17:00||Food||Cakes, Brunch (weekend only)|
|Thursday||07:00 – 17:00||Service||Counter (coffee), Order at Counter (food)|
|Friday||07:00 – 17:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||07:00 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||07:00 – 17:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||7th April 2019|
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