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Thread: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

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    Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    The times are a-changing: ask around, look hard and you can find good coffee.

    The Big Apple shines. But a good coffee is hard to find, writes Jacqui Taffel.

    New York, New York. Every time I come here Im astounded - by the energy, the architecture, the shopping, the nightlife, the people ... and how hard it is to find a decent cup of coffee.

    How can a sophisticated city that prides itself on being a global trendsetter be so far behind in the coffee stakes? Why are New Yorkers still content to slurp down oceans of tasteless, hot brown liquid, sloshed from bulbous glass jugs and giant silver flasks?

    Some blame Starbucks, which has spread across the world like coffee lantana (one Australian living in New York calls the US chain "the cane toad of coffee shops - if cane toads cost $3.47").

    But the Starbucks-as-scapegoat theory doesnt stick. The coffee in New York has always been awful, at least since I started coming here 20 years ago. Starbucks arrived in NYC in 1994, having opened in 1971 in Seattle, where by all accounts good coffee is still widely available.

    No one seems to have an explanation, including Mike Ferguson of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Statistically, he says, people from the north-east "are more likely to buy coffee in a donut shop or convenience store than a coffeehouse". In other words, they just dont know any better.

    Im neither a caffeine addict nor the kind of snob who enjoys debating perfect crema consistency but I hit rock bottom recently with a "cappuccino" at an East Village cafe. It had cinnamon on top - ugh! - and delving below the froth I found the hot liquid was white.

    "Um, this doesnt seem to have any coffee in it," I said to the waiter.

    "Is that the cappuccino?" he asked, as if to say, "Yep, thats how we serve em here."

    And so began my quest to find the best coffee in New York. As I canvas locals, Australian expats, industry bodies and online coffee forums, certain names are repeated, mantra-like. Rubys. Joe. Jacks. Does good coffee come only on a first-name basis?

    But others emerge. Cafe Gitane. The Soy Luck Club. Cafe Angelique. The Mud Truck. It seems there is hope, and it isnt all centred on Greenwich Village, Soho and Nolita (though these areas are the most coffee-friendly in Manhattan). Brooklyn throws up some names too, in particular Gimme Coffee in Williamsburg.

    My quest begins at Rubys, Australian-owned and full of familiar accents, customers and staff alike. This is the only place, say expats, to find a "proper" flat white, which is not a recognised coffee term in the US (only ask for one if you want to create a diversion). The closest in New York tends to be a cafe latte, a cross between our latte and a flat white. It is not to be confused with a cafe au lait, which is so-called "fresh-brewed" coffee, ie, the dispenser stuff, with lots of milk in it. For my quest, I order lattes.

    At Rubys the flat white is made by a young blonde who looks straight out of Bondi; turns out shes three years out of Bondi (former waitress at Skinny Dip). The coffee is Segafredo. And, by gum, it tastes like real coffee. Not the best flat white Ive ever had but compared with New Yorks average dross, lovely. (For the homesick, Rubys also has Vegemite toast and burgers named after beaches including Bells, Bronte and Blueys.)


    Next stop is Joe, subtitled "the art of coffee". When owner Jonathan Rubinstein, a former talent agent, opened the store two years ago. "I had only met two Australians in my life before I opened this shop, now I meet 50 every day," he says.

    His tiny cafe is packed, smells like coffee beans and I finally see some barista technique here, with a fern-shaped rosetta poured into the authentic crema. Though a bit milky, this latte definitely qualifies as a decent coffee.

    Moving on. After a 15-minute wait on the footpath outside Cafe Gitane, full of Soho trendsetters, I am seated at a table sandwiched between more Australian accents. Theres no latte on the menu; Im not sure what a cafe creme looks like; so I order a cappuccino. It comes in a smallish Lavazza cup with no cocoa (or cinnamon) on top and tastes just like coffee, a short, strong blast. The baked eggs with smoked salmon and potatoes are good too.

    These top three recommendations havent disappointed but none has delivered my ideal coffee - smooth rather than strong.

    I try lesser-known places. An Australian photographer points me to Panino Giusto, a small, rustic West Village cafe/bakery, where the latte is generously sized and strong but the baked goods are better.

    My local cafe, Doma, also in the West Village, is always packed, but I realise thats due to the free wireless internet access.

    The Mud Truck, a big orange heap that parks near Starbucks at Astor Place and Wall Street, is a great counterculture concept with groovy staff,

    T-shirts and take-away cups, but the coffee just aint happening.

    Last stop is Brooklyn. At Park Slope, Gorilla Coffee has a huge red roaster in the corner. The latte is not bad but slightly bitter for my taste and has too much froth. So I take the G-train to Williamsburg and Gimme Coffee, a funky space off the beaten track that you smell before you see.

    This latte is well worth the trip, rich and smooth. The barista knows his customers so well he starts making their order before they get through the door. He also recommends the coffee at St Helen Cafe, closer to Williamsburgs trendy heart of Bedford Street, and hes not wrong.

    Yet as is often the way with quests, I find my favourite coffee when Im not really looking. After wandering the Chelsea gallery district on a Saturday afternoon, I am attracted by the lush display of French baked goodies at La Bergamote. Hmm, baba au rhum or mousse framboise?

    Coffee-wise, it doesnt look promising - the room doesnt smell of fresh beans and the staff dont look like refugees from Seattle. But there it is, for $2.65, a latte that makes my taste buds beg for more. There is good coffee in New York; you just have to know where to find it.

  2. #2
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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    hmm....deja vu??? Sounds just like Melbourne to me :(

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    If you think Melbourne is bad, try Sydney.

    Worse still, try Tasmania. Even McDonalds has better coffee than (almost) any place in Tassie. Perth aint much better.

    Ron

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    good topic,


    I live in new york 5 months of the year, *ever since 1998,

    yes most coffee is crap. * Strangly NY thinks they have pretty good coffee. *Most companies have drip filter coffee in the tea rooms. * The first time I bought back Cafe lattes for everyone in the office in 1998, * the staff said , *wow, *the good stuff,,,, like it was a big event.

    Deli;s etc serve rubbish, mostly drip. *dont bother, * * * starbucks, *and Im against chains. * but make an exception here has opened their eyes to espresso, so I reqard them as a good thing there.

    But remember, *america still dont have video phones and aussie has had them for 2 years, and the first time I pulled my mobile out in 1998, they were amazed at how small it was as they were *very Motorola loyal, and used to big phones.

    I was surprissed technology wise how far behind they were in certain areas.

    saying that in other areas america is great. * satellite radio in your car, *fantastic, *yet aussie still trials this. *and its a long way off.

    Espresso machines are on the whole lots cheaper. *depending on brand. *I am trying to get and elektra in aussie, * it sells for $6300. * * * * * *In America it sells for $4000.00

    Isomac millenium in the UNITED STATES * sells for $1300 aussie, * * * in australia $2200.00



    And writing /cashing, *cheques is still the norm. * in america.....

    go to little italy, in new york, * *etc, good coffee can be found, but like anywhere it has to be found via trial and error.

    not bashing america as I love it, * as aussie has lots of bad coffee places, * but at least most places in the city have espresso machines, * america still owned by drip coffee.




    Thats my rave.


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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    Welcome to CS Marc.

    america still owned by drip coffee.
    I heard today (from a customer) that he is about to send another 20-40,000 dripolator machines into the USA from China.

    It still seems like a growing market over there and although the espresso has a following I doubt anyone is sending 40,000 machines into the US at one time.


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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    When I was in NY in May the people I spoke to were astounded that espresso was the norm here. When I told them about McCafes they wouldnt believe me and they also couldnt get over the fact that the only place to buy drip was at *$s or Maccas. I did manage to find good coffee in NY with a bit of web research first. LA was another matter - I drank coke there.

    mycle.

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    thanks for the welcome andy..



    40,000 drips to the america. i totally understand.

    280 million people, 80 or so million househoulds, they nearly all have a drip machine.

    plus cosumer goods are very cheap so every few years people throw out these cheaper units, and with China prices happening here its going the same way for us.

    my friend imports cordless kettles, very nice, good looking. buys them for $6.00 sells for 9.99

    same as sunbeam. which retails for 29.99

    China is looking to produce a few of the pro home version stainless espresso machines , so it will be interesting in the next few years to see the market there.

    the market is enormous. every new chain from the United States here starts off with a drip machine in the cafe etc but it is never used.

    Borders books cafes etc, they set up a very expensive kitchen, top of the range drip machines, plus an espresso machine. guess what, no one ordered any drip coffee, so the machines, (new) are turned off and hardly used a few years later. same for a few other US based chains. Mcdonalds is a good example. they are slowly replacing the drip machines with mcCafes.

    NY is funny, drip is the norm.

    LA espresso is around, but once again you must search good stuff out.

    go country though and its very rare.

    a booming market for espresso home/commercial machines is taking place.

    good if you have a coffee machine business.

    cheers

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    I cant speak for elsewhere in the country but in this area espresso is a booming business with even small resturants installing machines and a coffee shop seemingly on every other corner. The problem is with the exception of a few lucky shots they all serve at best a mediocre cup.

    Sad to say but I gave up on getting a great cuppa some time back at anyplace other than right here at home. :-/ Several of my friends have cursed me for ruining their ability to enjoy coffee with their meals as it now all tastes like dog-dodoo to them. ;D

    While coffee has undergone a revolution here in the states in the last 25 or so years, that revolution has been mainly in the area of brewed coffee. Only relatively recently has espresso exploded onto the American Consciousness where it is still very much seen as a Yuppie and Alternative Crowd thing. Most likely because of its strong association with the Beatnik counter-culture in the 50s and 60s. This is the only history of espresso here in the US that most people are aware of. Mainly because of the entertainment industry.

    With a few small local exceptions the US has no history of the corner coffee house. Up until 10 or maybe 15 years ago most Americans had never tasted an espresso in any form and had in fact probably never even seen an espresso machine outside of the movies.

    We can thank computers and the internet for the sudden explosion of interest in espresso here. The computer industry exploded almost over-night and created a whole new working class with large disposable incomes during its boom years. A class of people who drank lots of coffee during their all-night coding and gaming sessions and who were fresh out of, or even still in, that Alternative Crowd who was aware of espressos existence and now suddenly could afford it on a regular basis instead of just as an occassional treat. BOOM, the coffee house craze is born.

    Speaking of the McCafes, the first two in the US opened not too long ago to test the markets reaction to them.

    Java "Hhhhmmm...Espresso!" phile

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    Okay... A rant from a Tasmanian.

    No good coffee? Are you kidding me? Did you look?

    Sals at Salamanca, Timeless Way on Hunter Street, Oomph Coffee in Battery Point, Breadd on Murray Street , T42 at the Wharf, Food Store in South Hobart, even Hudsons is better than Maccas. And thats just in the central CBD!!!!!

    Ive only been here 5 months and thats what Ive found SO FAR.

    Cheers,
    Amy

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    Hey Amy,

    Do you know of any good espresso places on Philly? Ill be there in a couple of weeks for a day or two and it would be nice to know of some awesome coffee there.

    Java "Doing far too much driving of late!" phile

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    Dunno about the coffee, but you must have a cheesesteak. Thats one thing Phillys famous for.

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    Quote Originally Posted by nunu link=1118309202/0#10 date=1123478285
    Dunno about the coffee, but you must have a cheesesteak. Thats one thing Phillys famous for.

    Yeah but I hate green peppers! :-X

    Im also not sure how long Ill be there for. My daughter is moving to Philly and Ill be hauling all her stuff out there at the end of the month here. Depending on driving conditions and whether the van cooperates by not breaking down I may be able to spend a couple of days there before I have to head on back home.

    One of the things Id *really love to do would be to go visit the USS Constitution where its docked in Baltimore. Of course Id also love to go visit the various Smithsonian museums, but that would take a month or more! ;D

    Java "So many interests, so little time." phile

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    Im not a big fan of capsicums either. Something about not standing downwind :-/

    Have to say I havent had a decent cheesesteak in about 4+ years.

    I dont think theres much of a coffee scene in Philly, but I havent been there in over 10 yrs.

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    Mmmmm, Tasmania...Sals in Salamanca Place.... the best risotto anywhere. *The "big breakfast" next door at the Salamanca Parthenon is very good too--bacon, eggs, toast and coffee. The boardwalk at the Launceston waterfront is a great spot for coffee too. Disappointed in the Wrest Point Casino cappuccinos --- at $3.60, I think. Should be subsidised for the money they rake in.

    But getting back to the USA -- or what I know of the culture through television. Apart from on the show, Frasier, I cant recall anyone ordering or having a cappuccino or espresso. Go back further to the old westerns. The cowboys and sheriffs office always had some dirty brew on the boil on a stove or campfire. You can imagine what THAT mustve tasted like.

    A little closer to home in Australia (Melbourne, that is), the cafe culture is a fairly recent development. I saw the first table and chairs on the footpath outside Collins and Bourke Streets cafes about 12 years ago.

    I thought it looked so artificial outdoor coffees would never take off. I was very wrong.

    For now, at least, in this early part of the century, the cafe culture is a wonderful thing to have happened ---just pity the centrepiece of it all, the coffee, isnt consistently good everywhere.

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    In the 90s most of the coffee culture in the Pacific Northwest as I remember it was mainly flavoured mochas and lattes. Nothing like an egg nog latte in the dead of winter to warm you up. Back then, I wasnt much of an espresso drinker. Nowadays, however, I prefer espressos, because you can get a feel for the subtle differences in beans, without covering it up with milk or flavoured syrups.

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    Most of the espresso coffee culture here in the US is indeed milk based drinks. A straight espresso is a rare order in these parts.

    Lots and LOTS of places with espresso machines however besides the coffee houses/cafes in this part of the country. Around here theyre a common sight even in small resturants. Unfortunately it seems the quality of their training isnt as good as their equipment. Which could explain the lack of straight up espresso orders. :P

    All of which fits with the business practice of spending big bucks on equipment and then hiring a minimum wage lackey to run it to keep costs down that seems to prevail at far to many companies.

    In the case of the usage of espresso machines this is exacerbated by the sellers of the machines who tell their clients/potential clients such things as "The amount of tamping pressure you use really doesnt matter with todays machines. In fact you dont have to tamp the coffee at all!". Yup, thats an actual quote of a comment made to me by a salesperson at the local branch office of one of the biggest and best known espresso machines in the world. It was part of their sales pitch to prospective customers! With users being told stuff like that from the manufacturer its no wonder theres no real understanding of the art of espresso at the retail level.

    Its all about making the almightly buck. If knowledge or real training gets in the way of that its conveniently passed over and ignored. :(

    Ive gotten to the point that with the quality of the drinks I make at home being so high and the price so low I just cant see paying three or even five dollars or more for what experience has taught me will most likely be at best a mediocre drink if its a latte or cappuccino and lets not even go into the straight up espresso realm! I couldnt even tell you the last time I ordered a straight up espresso someplace, and the only time I order a latte or cappuccino is when Im on the road and have run out of what Ive brought with from home.

    Ive gotten so bad that I cant even drink most resturants brewed coffee anymore. If its a new resturant for me Ill almost always order coffee in the hopes of getting a drinkable cup as its cheap enough that its worth the risk but in the vast majority of cases the cup will then sit there untouched after the first sip.

    The *only resturant that Ill regularly order coffee at is a small coop type cafe opened over 30 years ago by a group of Hippies and still run by the alternative crowd that Ive been eating at now for over a quarter of a century. They use fresh high quality beans that are ground immediately prior to being brewed and as a result both their brewed and cold processed coffee is top notch. Unfortunately even there the knowledge and training in the art of espresso is not present. Maybe some day when Im there and theyre not busy Ill give them a crash course in it. :D

    Java "Homemade is best!" phile

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    Re: Coffee in New York (from SMH June 7)

    My old hometown has the dubious honour of seemingly having a coffee cart of some sort on every corner. It was not uncommon to walk more than a block from work and pass 3 cafe/coffee stands.

    I daresay that this was no more than 5 years ago. I shudder to think what its like now. I have to go home sometime in the next few years...Ive been away far too long. :-[



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