Congregation Coffee Roasters

A mug of the Gelana Abaya Ethiopian single-origin batch-brew in an alligator mug at Congregation Coffee Roasters in Algiers Point, New Orleans.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 quiet, residential streets of Algiers Point do not look the mostly likely place for...
  • ... New Orleans' best-kept speciality coffee secret, but there, on a corner, stands...
  • ... Congregation Coffee Roasters!
  • A pair of tables flank the door on the corner...
  • ... while there's another table along Seguin Street...
  • ... where you'll also find the secret side door to Congregation.
  • However, back to the main threshold. Let's go in, shall we?
  • This view greets you: the counter's dead ahead, Congregation stretching out before you.
  • Turning around, the door as seen from the inside, flanked by a pair of windows.
  • Each of the bay windows has its own table, stools and bench inset in the window.
  • This is the one to the right of the door.
  • The tables inside mirror the tables outside, by the way.
  • There's a small retail selection next to the table, with t-shirts below...
  • ... and coffee and other bits and pieces above.
  • With apologies for the blurry photo, there's a small bar along the right-hand side...
  • ... which gives access to the second door, where you get this view of Congregation.
  • The rest of the seating is off to the left, beyond the counter.
  • Two long, eight-person tables occupy the centre of the space, with a bar against the wall.
  • The bar runs the length of the far wall, with a short extension along the front wall.
  • The tables, meanwhile, run all the way to the back of the store...
  • ... where you'll find an open kitchen...
  • ... and the heart of the whole operation, the 12 kg Probat roaster.
  • One of the best things about Congregation is the open island counter.
  • If you sit on the far side, you are behind the counter, with an unimpeded view.
  • You also get a good view of the door if you want to know who is coming and going.
  • There's lots of natural light, plenty of light-fittings and, essential for New Orleans...
  • ... ceiling fans!
  • I should have done a little video rather than have taken a picture.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • There's also some lovely coloured glass above the windows.
  • I'm not sure who these three alligators are, but they appear on all the merchandising.
  • Nice calendar.
  • The counter greets you as you enter.
  • There's a small retail selection here. If I had arrived earlier, there would have been cake.
  • The weekend food specials are chalked on the counter-top.
  • The coffee and drinks menu hangs high above the counter.
  • From the till at the front of the counter, you get a great view of the espresso machine...
  • ... so naturally I watched a few espresso shots extracting.
  • It also helps that Congregation uses glasses for its espresso shots...
  • ... so you can really see the crema develop.
  • I started with the single-origin espresso, an Ethiopian Ardi.
  • Such a gorgeous-looking crema.
  • I followed that with lunch: pickled greens on toast, which was excellent.
  • I washed it all down with the batch-brew, another Ethiopian single-origin.
  • The mugs (with our friends, the alligators) are green, by the way.
  • This colour, in fact.
  • This is the coffee, by the way, an Ethiopian Gelana Abaya...
  • ... a washed coffee from the Yirgacheffe region.
  • I was so impressed that I swapped a copy of my book for a bag of the coffee!
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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 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
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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