NYC Roasters Speak: The King of Queens


Frank Rafaelle, Coffee King of Queens
fastoria Frank Rafaelle, Coffee King of Queens

Most NYC roasters are rooted in Brooklyn (all the ones interviewed so far in the NYC Roasters Speak series are). From the Williamsburgers to the Aussies to the New Guard, it seems like everyone is dipping their toes in the Brooklyn coffee roasting pool. But, not everyone in fact is. There are another three million people living just north and east of the three million living in Brooklyn: everyone living in Queens. Queens is the country’s most diverse county, and it has a markedly different connotative reputation and denotative reality from its outspoken and flashy neighbor.

Brooklyn is known for its sassy swagger from Bushwick to Brighton, and Queens is known for…what? Its airports? Its Indian food and Mets Citifield? A really big cemetery? Queens is definitely known for having more families and independent houses with yards than Brooklyn or Manhattan, but there’s more going on than just real estate. Because of its diversity, Queens might not have the same coalesced character that Brooklyn does, but there is still some serious borough pride here, and one of Queens’ proudest natives is determined to make the borough known for coffee, community, and some cool robotic chemistry—all at once.

COFFEED is a coffee shop located in the lobby of the building that is home to the rooftop farm Brooklyn Grange, located at the point along Queens’ Northern Boulevard that unites Astoria/Sunnyside/Long Island City. It is a coffee shop in the sense that it serves coffee, but it is much more than that in its commitment to the Queens community, where owner Frank Rafaelle grew up and again calls home.

Glowing zip tie rings reminiscent of when the zip ties became rainbow art on telephone poles in Astor Place
Glowing zip tie rings reminiscent of when the zip ties became rainbow art on telephone poles in Astor Place

Coffeed donates 10% of coffee sales (5% of food sales) to local nonprofits to fight hunger in the borough. Each of Coffeed’s four locations donates to a different non-profit. The main Northern Boulevard donates to City Growers, an organization that promotes urban agriculture and healthy lifestyles among Queens youth. The Port Washington location donates to Community Workers of America, and the CUNY Law School location donates to a student group who allocates funds to the local organizations affiliated with the group.

Of course Coffeed collaborates constantly with Brooklyn Grange, and the large café space is used to host all kinds of workshops for school students and educational connections. See article for New York the City Atlas for more on Coffeed’s commitment to sustainability.

Coffeed currently roasts its coffee—all 3,000 to 4,000 pounds a week of it—further out in the Long Islandish part of Queens, but will soon bring all roasting operations back to the mothership and roast at the Northern Boulevard location, which will soon be known under the COFFEED Lab identity. In addition to being home to the café’s roasting operations, it will be the one and only home of the PourSteady robot, a futuristic machine that automates the pour over drink preparation process. (You really should watch the YouTube video.) The lab also includes four giant cold brew drip towers that, combined with an active robot, really will make the café seem like the laboratory of some mad coffee scientist.

Drip tower on the counter in the back left
Drip tower on the counter in the back left

Rafaelle is full steam ahead, with a COFFEED location opening at LIC Landing (where the ferries dock and the cool new waterfront park space has been built) this summer and a farm-to-table bistro coming soon to 54th St between 1st and 2nd Aves.

At the moment, El Dorado Coffee Roasters in Maspeth and White Coffee in Astoria are the only coffee roasters in Queens, and they’re cranking out larger volumes with different goals (and the small new Jailhouse Coffees, who does a small volume but for grocery/retail only). Rafaelle might not be the king of Queens—yet—but he is certainly the borough’s fearless coffee gladiator, charging into an arena that has, until now, been the private ring of transplanted coffee gurus (and their warrior descendants) and staunch neighborhood turf defenders, not of sustainably minded philanthropists with a love of cool stuff like farmer relationships and robots. Different borough, different coffee reign.


more NYC Roasters Speak series:

The Williamsburgers

The Aussies

The New Guard 

The Tea & Coffee Trade Journal article that inspired the series: Roasting Revival in the City that Never Sleeps


What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s