As soon I knew that I’d be living in Park Slope for two months this summer, I told myself that I’d have to do a Brooklyn-centric NYC coffee crawl. I never anticipated the speed and distance with which I’d crawl, and thus had to abandon the chronology of the blog. (If you’re into temporal linearity check out the When Coffee Speaks Instagram.)
Anyway, I started the crawl at Gorilla, which, by virtue of being at the top of Park Slope and at the beginning of the summer (when I had the luxurious illusions of energy and time) got its own post.
I revisited my friends at Coffee Mob, which is also the subject its own post (because I was still being stubborn about thinking I would have time to crawl and write and magazine write and teach summer school and waitress and enjoy running/seeing concerts in the park and reconnect with people I haven’t seen since last summer and find a “permanent” apartment).
In spite of all that other stuff, I kept crawling through Park Slop, stopping next at Venticinque, a Counter Culture account.
I didn’t even need to see the sticker on the door to know that it was a CC café. Sometimes I feel like Counter Culture is like the vain kid who will only sit next to pretty girls in the cafeteria; every single one of their accounts is gorgeous, so I can’t help but wonder if they target their wholesale customers for the aesthetic of the spaces they inhabit. I think it’s the inverse; cafes who get aesthetics are drawn to Counter Culture, who also gets aesthetics.
Cases in point: Counter Culture’s Broome St training center and Happy Bones café a few doors down. You don’t need to be a part-time coffee blogger to get the connection. Venticinque is the Park Slope iteration of the same tempered, sweeping glamour. The glam is sometimes sharply angled and sometimes smoothly curved, but Counter Culture cafes always come with uncluttered lines and an intentional understatedness that has less to do with their coffee (which is not understated) and more to do with the evolution of their branding.
CC’s coffees are excellent, their portfolio is wide, and their founders are some of the OG cowboys of the specialty coffee “movement.” I love their new Ikea-esque coffee identity packaging (it’s like sticker tags on the back of city stop signs. A duochromatic boom.) And I loved the way Venticinque displayed the black/white/color unnatural pop palette in their wood grain shop space.
I like Venti because they do CC the Brooklyn way; good looking with a dose of chill. No lines, no Manhattan stress. I stopped in on a hot day and they were not serving cold brew, and I had a delightfully simple “regular” iced coffee. By July I was already over saturated with the velvety syrupy assault rifle cold brew too quickly becomes. I asked the barista what kind of coffee they used to make the iced, and sh pulled bag out from under counter and let me take a picture. No pretention. And no one of the six customers clicking away on their Macs glared bc I was talking in their sacred typing space. I love Brooklyn.
I crawled across the country this summer, taking a weekend trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a wedding. I went straight from the airport (via two very easy-to-use public buses) to Madcap Coffee Roasters, which in a lot of ways feels like the Counter Culture of the Midwest. Their café is also gorgeous and their coffee also has Ikea-ly human identities. Read the full Madcap story.
I came back to Brooklyn and continued crawling down Prospect Park’s 5th Ave. I went into Kos Kaffe out of the curiosity of the crawl, and found so much more than I could have hoped for.
Not only do they roast coffee in house on a Diedrich in the middle of the café, they had bags full of beans from Boquete, and a potted coffee tree growing away, happy as a tropical plant could be in NYC.
This is why you crawl, because you never know what cool things you’ll find.
I crawled out to Red Hook, which is hands-down my favorite neighborhood in Brooklyn. It smells like the ocean, is filled with industrial spaces where people are actually being industrious making interesting things, and seems to exude the calm wisdom of places on the edge, places that have survived the ebb and flow of commerce, politics, and disaster.
Every time I ride the B61 to get there, I have a great conversation with a fellow rider. I ride lots of public transit in lots of boroughs, but the B61 is somehow always the most human. Once there, I experienced a new addition to the Red Hook coffee scene, Nobletree coffee, who launched at the beginning of the month and is set to make some cool stuff happen.
I spent many days crawling to Queens (literally crawling, because the last segment of the G train decided to take a vacation this summer) to Coffeed at LIC Landing, drinking cold brew (and then other brews) staring at Manhattan and serving burgers to a bizarre mix of tourists, longtime locals, and new residents to the pop up highrises surrounding Gantry State Park.
In between crawling around Brooklyn and Queens I also crawled to Manhattan, where I fell in love with Birch Coffee’s 27th St shop. It had lots of harried Manhattanites being impatient on all sides of me as I tried to read the coffee packages by the register, but the space is cool with a little “book nook” and a neutral chalkboardy base to the décor punctuated by dramatic lighting, which made me feel a little like I was drinking coffee on the set of Spring Awakening, which I’m completely ok with.
The baristas had no idea where the coffee was roasted (“I think somewhere in New Jersey?”) which was my best guess too, so I didn’t press and just treated myself to a dessert of an iced latte.
I crawled to the new-ish Brazilia on Broadway and Great Jones several times, once for lunch and a French press and once for pan de queijo and a cup of good old black Brazilian coffee (roasted by Nobletree at Pulley).
I continued crawling to Stumptown’s 8th St shop, where I finally participated in their public cupping. Their brew bar (at the “back” of the shop, with its own entrance on MacDougal) offers daily tastings at 2pm, offering one coffee brewed multiple ways on Tuesdays and Thursday, many coffees brewed via the same method on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and a full Q-protocol-adhering cupping on Mondays.
We cupped five coffees, Costa Rica Villalobos, Honduras Finca El Puente, Kenya Kamunyaka, Burundi Kyanza from Longmile Coffee Project, and Indonesia Bies Penantan. It is always a treat to cup a table of coffees that have already been curated for quality, and these five are completely different and fascinating to compare side by side.
I’ve also crawled to the new-ish Intelligentsia in Herald Square
(where I let out a whoop of joy when I saw Coopedota’s coffee on the shelves)
and the new-ish Think Coffee on 16th and 6th.
I had avocado toast and cold brew at Toby’s Estate Brooklyn,
savoring the smell of green coffee in jute mingling with the aromas of roasted coffee and breakfast sandwiches.
I tried my first Forty Weight coffee at the new-ish account Tip of the Tongue on the east side of Prospect Park, on a block that looks totally different than when I lived in that neighborhood two summers ago, back when the only coffee tree I’d ever seen was at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
This summer has been a truly fun reintegration back into my full time life in New York. Before and after being any kind of writer I’m a coffee drinker, and New York certainly doesn’t disappoint in any category of food or beverages. It’s always exciting to dedicate some time to seeing what the city’s food and drink makers are coming up with next. Rent asked us if we could measure a year in cups of coffee, and I’d tell Mark and Roger that it is certainly a yardstick for measuring this summer.