Gimme! Coffee, Roebling Street

The Gimme! Coffee logo, taken from the awning above the shop on Roebling Street in Brooklyn.I discovered Gimme! Coffee on my first Coffee Spot visit to New York in 2013, when I visited the Mott Street branch in Manhattan. However, it took me another three years before I explored Gimme! Coffee’s Brooklyn heritage, when I visited Roebling Street in Williamsburg. Ironically, this is the newest of three New York City branches, having only opened in 2011, while the first (and other) Brooklyn branch has been around since 2003, the company itself starting in upstate New York in 2000.

Roebling Street has a simple, rectangular layout, with the door at the right, the counter at the back and a smattering of tables in the space between the two. Resisting the urge to cram too much in, it’s a quiet, friendly spot with a sense of space. There’s also some outdoor seating on the (relatively) quiet street.

Gimme! Coffee roasts all its own beans with a house-blend (Leftist), single-origin guest (Colombian) and decaf (another single-origin Colombian) on espresso. These are joined by two more single-origins on bulk-brew and third as a pour-over using the Kalita Wave. There’s also a range of teas from Metolius in Oregon and a selection of cakes and pastries if you are hungry.

January 2020: Roebling Street has closed, although I don’t know when. Unfortunately, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the remaining two NYC locations (Mott Street and Lorimer Street) have also closed for good, leaving Gimme! Coffee with no NYC presence. It will be sadly missed.

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Café Integral, American Two Shot

A single-serve Kalita Wave filter at Cafe Integral, New York City, seen from above.Café Integral is not somewhere that you easily stumble upon. I found it thanks to several recommendations, not least from my friends Heather & Tim, who I stay with in New Jersey (the recommendation was specifically from Tim, who is a semi-regular there). It’s actually across the street from one of my New York favourites, Gasoline Alley, so I must have walked past it many times before my visit. In defence of my usually infallible coffee radar, it’s tucked away inside a clothing store, American Two Shot, with only an A-board outside to let you know it’s there.

Other than its location, Café Integral’s main claim to fame is that it only serves Nicaraguan coffee, its owners, the Vega family, having close ties with several farms in the country. There are now two coffee shops in New York, and another in Chicago, which makes it a national chain. Sort of. All the coffee is sourced in Nicaragua and roasted in a facility over on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn. There’s a blend on espresso plus two single-origins, a pour-over using the Kalita Wave, with the other available on bulk-brew. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s a selection of cakes and cookies.

May 2017: I’ve just learnt that Café Integral has shut its coffee bar in American Two Shot. Thanks to Nick for the heads-up. If you are in the area, then Café Integral now has its own coffee shop around the corner at 149 Elizabeth Street.

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Café Grumpy, Lower East Side

Cafe Grumpy's grumpy face logo, hanging on the wall of the Lower East Side branch.Café Grumpy, a small, local coffee shop chain, roasts all its own beans in Brooklyn. With its no compromise attitude, it’s fast becoming one of my NYC favourites. The Lower East Side branch, on Essex Street, is the smallest and is perhaps my favourite (of those I’ve visited so far).

My go-to place for morning coffee used to be the original Pushcart Coffee on East Broadway. Just a few blocks east of my usual hotel in Chinatown, it was perfect. Then it closed and, for the last two years, I’ve been coffee-less first thing in the morning: not the ideal situation!

Embarrassingly, I only discovered Café Grumpy on my most recent trip, not realising that the Lower East Side branch had been open since 2012, some while before Pushcart closed. Just around the corner from my hotel, it’s every bit as convenient as Pushcart, so I needn’t have gone coffee-less all those mornings. What an oversight!

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Stumptown, Ace Hotel (NYC)

An espresso, seen directly from above, the brown of the crema matching that of the saucer and contrasting with the white interior of the cup. The word "Stumptown" is written in script on the top rim of the cup.Stumptown, just off the lobby of Ace Hotel in New York City, is one of NYC’s most popular coffee venues, the queues frequently extending into (and around) the lobby. I first visited in 2013, meeting up with Greg of CoffeeGuru App, but it was another three years before I returned on a “quiet” day to do a write-up.

As a coffee shop, there’s not a lot to it, although, like most Stumptown places, it’s sumptuously-appointed. In this case, a single bar runs along the window at the front, the counter running parallel to it at the back, with just enough space between them for customers to queue/wait to collect their coffee. Alternatively, you can sit in the atmospheric lobby of the Ace Hotel itself (if you can find a seat, that is). Stumptown’s Hairbender blend is on espresso, and a single-origin on bulk-brew, with both cold-brew and nitro on draft.

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Parlor Coffee

A simple blackboard with "Parlor Coffee | Serving Daily | Back of Barber-shop" written in white block capitals.Walking along Brooklyn’s Havemeyer Street, on my way from Northerly Coffee to Gimme! Coffee, something caught my eye at the street’s northern end. It looked like an old-fashioned barbershop, but a sign in the window, plus an A-board outside, proclaimed it to be the home of Parlor Coffee. A little bell rang in the back of my mind. Hadn’t my friend, Greg, of CoffeeGuru App fame, told me about somewhere in the back of a barbershop? Intrigued, I headed inside.

Persons of Interest is the name of the barbershop in question and Parlor Coffee is indeed a lovely little coffee shop, tucked away at the back in what may have been an old storeroom. There’s room enough for a one-group Kees van der Westen Speedster espresso machine (plus a single grinder), serving single-origin coffee roasted in-house by Parlor. An unexpected bonus is that your coffee comes in a proper cup!

May 2017: I have just learned that Parlor Coffee has closed its location in Persons of Interest. With thanks to Nick for the heads up. However, the roastery is still going strong and you can visit it, when it operates as the Tasting Room, every Sunday.

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Northerly Coffee (Daily Press Update)

The word "COFFEE" i white on black, over a stylised outline of a takeaway coffee cup, again in white on black.This time last year, the Coffee Spot made its first tentative steps into Brooklyn and the first place I published was the then Daily Press on Havemeyer Street, an oasis of calm at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. I was therefore rather distressed to discover later that year that it seemed to have disappeared, both from the map (well, Google Maps) and from social media. I asked around, but didn’t find out very much, so on my return last month, I was determined to track it down and see what had happened for myself.

It was with some trepidation that I walked along Havemeyer Street, but I needn’t have worried. There was what I knew as Daily Press, in the same old spot, looking remarkably similar to how it had a year before. The name had changed, to Northerly Coffee, but stepping inside, everything looked very familiarly, right down to the sleek La Marzocco Strada on the counter at the back. It was the same warm, welcoming oasis of calm that I remember. There have been changes, however, and I was fortunate enough to run into Matt, the owner, who, over coffee, filled me in on the full story.

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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.

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Brian’s Travel Spot: Philadelphia & Beyond, 2016

A cappuccino in a classic white cup, sitting on a tree-stump table in the window, half in shadow from the sunlight.Welcome to the second part of the 2016 instalment of my occasional Brian’s Travel Spot series. I’m currently in America, doing a loop (of sorts) around the east coast. I started off last week, flying into Newark, spending a couple of day in New York then heading down to Philadelphia, all of which was covered in Part I. Part II covers Philadelphia, Washington DC and a brief return to New York, while Part III deals with my return to New England and flight home.

We start with this, my third visit to Philadelphia. I first went there in 2014, at the behest of my friend Greg, who writes Coffee Guru App. I met Greg in New York in 2013, over a brief coffee at the Ace Hotel, where he told me all about the Philadelphia coffee scene.

As a result of that conversation, Greg convinced me to visit Philadelphia the following year. Initially, I was a little sceptical, suspecting home-town bias, although, in fairness, Greg knows what he’s taking about when it comes to speciality coffee. Suffice to say that it didn’t take very long for me to be converted and I’ve been back each year since then. Philly has a great, and very underrated, coffee scene (as well as being a great, and very underrated, city). You can see what I got up to as follows:

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Brian’s Travel Spot: New York & Philadelphia, 2016

My coffee travel kit on my BA flight to Newark: mini Porlex grinder, Aeropress, plus funnel, metal jug and Upper CupWelcome to the second of my occasional Brian’s Travel Spot series (or the fourth, depending on how you count them!). The first Travel Spot recounted my adventures in the summer of 2015 as I flew to New England, travelled across America by train and then spent a week in the Pacific Northwest (the whole trip took three weeks, so I split the Travel Spot into three parts, hence this might be the fourth).

Semantics apart, the aim, as in the previous Travel Spots, is to provide a record of my travels, something a little different from posting the actual Coffee Spots I visit (which always takes place after the event). This trip took me to old stomping grounds: New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, back to New York and then on to Providence and, finally, Boston. As I did in 2015, I flew with British Airways, while all the internal travel in the US was on Amtrak, the US national rail network.

I say old stomping grounds since this was (and I think I’ve counted correctly) my 13th trip to the New England/New York/DC area (and the fourth with my Coffee Spot hat on). While it will only be my third visit to the likes of Philadelphia and Providence, it’s easily 10+ for New York and Boston. The first part of my trip consisted of:

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Brooklyn Roasting Company, Flushing Avenue

One of two lovely Faema E61 espresso machines on the end of the counter at the Brooklyn Roasting Company's Flushing Avenue branch.I visited the Brooklyn Roasting Company on my first trip to Brooklyn in March 2015, calling in on the roastery/headquarters, under the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge on Jay Street. I hadn’t intended to visit another Brooklyn Roasting Company branch that day, but as I walked to Williamsburg, I went past the Flushing Avenue branch: it looked so amazing, I just had to go inside.

Occupying a spot on the corner of Washington and Flushing Avenues since 2012, it’s essentially a large rectangle, with the long side on Flushing Avenue. Even though it’s north-facing, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows on both sides, punctuated by glass doors, flood the interior with sunlight and present a visually-appealing vista from the outside. Rarely have I been so struck by a coffee shop’s external appearance.

Inside it lives up to its promise, with an espresso-based menu served by twin Faema E61s, one at either end of the large counter, which takes up the middle half of the back wall. There are two options on espresso, plus decaf, and, of course, the obligatory bulk-brew. Having got your coffee, retire to one of the window-bars or, if, you can, grab a booth and watch the world go by.

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