Blue Bottle shop and roastery on Berry, Williamsburg

Long time no see Blue Bottle!

When I stayed a couple of weeks in Williamsburg, the Blue Bottle coffee shop on Berry was my favourite, and was the place I would go especially in the week ends, to enjoy usually one espresso followed by a Latte while reading a book or a newspaper.

Since that, roughly a year ago, each time I would go to Blue Bottle shop would be the wrong timing: totally packed and a line going even out of the shop which is not the kind of things I really enjoy. That’s too bad but easily understandable: the place is really beautiful, perfectly designed and styled, two blocks from Bedford stop, ideally located now for Williamsburgers. Be aware of that, if you’re only looking for an instant of peace and quietness, you might be at  the wrong place, or be an early bird!

This last sunday I took the time and went there not to late, around 11:o0am. The line was already there, and it was already started to be pack but I decided to stay because I was really dying for an espresso, but also had to buy a french-press and I knew that they have some.

I ended not buying any french press, the one I like was not on sale, and the prices were a bit high in my opinion, but I got and enjoyed my espresso! (by the way, for people looking for some espresso gears, they do have good stuff here, and that is where I bought my pitchers, that they have in all sizes)

One thing I really like at this Coffee Shop, they try to always have on the menu two espressos, their usual Retrofit espresso blend that they pour from a La Marzocco FB80) and a single origin espresso that they pour from a very beautiful Faema Urania. It’s cool to be able to taste different espressos, and also to have the choice depending of your mood!

The bar is really nice and big, with the 2 machines, a nice selection of pastries made in house, and  also a quite long “pour over” drip bar (and I notice a large part of the clientele is ordering drip coffee there!). After the bar, you can see the roastery and also the place where they train and do cupping, very nice and large space, and in from of the bar, in the middle of shelves with coffee accessories for sale, a really remarkable installation for slow-drip coffee used for iced-coffe made of glass kettles and pipes. Honestly I never tried this and don’t even know how it works and how it taste! But surely, it contributes to the style of the place and to attract people… and it is indeed a nice thing to see!

But back to my cup! My single origin espresso was good of course and service was perfect (I must say this has always been the case). It was however not outstanding. It was beans from El Salvador. Very chocolaty, very young and green I would say. I don’t know if it comes from me or them but, though I really think it is still very good, I have the impression Blue Bottle is slightly diminishing in terms of quality, and it is definitely not anymore wowing me as it used to, and not totally on my top list!

In summary, if you are in the neighborhood, you want to go to that place to see it! If you are an early morning person, it could definitely turn into a very good spot for you for coffee to go or to stay! Forget about working there though if you need to be online, never worked well for me. Better to read a book, a newspaper or just write… And if you are unsure about where it is, if you see a big squirrel paint on a wall, that’s the place!


El Beit, on Bedford, Williamsburg

This is a coffee place I used to stop everyday when I was walking to the Bedford L train. I don’t love Bedford but this place can give you some damn good espresso shots. I am not that often there at the good time for a cup of coffee, mostly because I more usually ride my bike to the train now instead of walking,  but still, when I have the occasion, I definitely take it!

It’s not a big coffee shop, with one only but beautiful orange La Marzocco FB/80. The place has a few tables to seat in front, a biggest-to-share one in the back and it’s often a bit crowded due to the location. There is also an outdoor space in the back yard that can be nice (today was way too cold). Not great to work though (I remember having some issues with their wifi network), not as quiet as others… but good to stop for a drink and a talk. I also like their pastries and sandwiches very much, this should be said!

I think I almost never ordered milky drinks there, only espressos, mostly because I remember them as one of the place to make almost perfect espressos in Williamsburg. They pour them double-shot, almost ristretto. One of the reason I like, that I just recently discovered, might be that their coffee comes from 49th parallel roasters. Some might say it is not exactly “local roasted coffee” (e.g. as far as I know, 49th parallel are roasting only in Vancouver, Canada), these guys are definitely doing a very good job! Good to know that you can get beans from them in Williamsburg!

My espresso today was very good, once again. My only bad note comes from a change I noticed: they used to systematically serve you with a glass of sparkling water and it looks like this disappeared. I should check if Blue Bottle still does this. This is a pity as I love a small glass of sparkling water with my espresso (and doesn’t like that much a huge glass of tap water…). Espresso should always be served that way!

So definitely, I recommend El Beit, always a pleasure! And for the curious, they also opened another place, called Modca, that is a few blocks away (103 North 3rd Street, Brooklyn) that is also great, quieter, more for food or tea, and may be better to work. The original El Beit will remain the espresso spot for me!

  • El Beit,
    158 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

La Colombe in Tribeca

As I was visiting some friends in lower Tribeca yesterday, I decided to stop to give “La Colombe” a try.

A few people in Paris, including my friend Leigh, spoke to me about La Colombe. La Colombe is a coffee roaster from Philadelphia who has open a few coffee shops in their home town, in New York (Manhattan – two on Lafayette, one on Church –  the one I visited today) and I guess in a couple of other places.

La Colombe was created 17 years ago by a duo (Todd and Jean-Phillipe), one coming from Seattle the other from France, Nice. Not surprisingly the two met in Seattle in the 80s, may be a more fertile ground than Nice or Paris…

So here we go, a saturday afternoon of january, very cold, Manhattan almost empty. First of, very good note for the coffee shop in Church street. I don’t know if the other “La Colombe” shops are as nice but this place has definitely some good style. It is more of a large espresso bar than a coffee shop where I would spend a whole morning working but it is nice, cosy and feels good.

A selection of coffee is the first thing you see, and I obviously bought some. It is mostly blends but there were also a few single origins. The one I bought was “Nizza” made with beans from Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia and Honduras. Supposed to be a Medium roast, but looked already a bit on the dark side, I tried it today on my french press. Good coffee but not a lot of personnality, the girl at the counter told me it was good for french press, however on the pack it is indicated for Espresso or Stove top, so may be this was a mistake…? may be why I was not that impressed with my coffee this morning. Good balance but no strong flavor.

Also to be noted: La Colombe write a “Best before” on their bags and not a date of roast. This is slightly disturbing to me…

Of course, more than buying coffee I wanted to try an espresso. Very good service, beautiful ceramics but so big for an espresso! I asked for a double shot and the way they poor espresso is quite long as you can see… far from pooring ristretto as default shots there! But very light and balanced espresso, subtle and pleasant though not my taste. I can definitely see this as a good espresso for gastromic restaurants!

Espresso are  poored using 2 old Faema E61, very nice machines, but I realized I have never been impressed by coffee made with those… is there a relation?

Talking about Style, way nicer than the Faema, there is in the shop a beautiful La Pavoni, displayed as a piece of art, a machine that won a design contest in 1956. I hope you’ll like the pictures, I found it beautiful! Only italians can end up with such a design!

Summary: nice end-of-afternoon coffee but definitely not outstanding, I might go back if I am around, the place is really pleasant and service is good but I have not yet been conquered by the coffee side of La Colombe, not enough to buy my beans from them or to go there especially if I am further than three or four blocks.

Stumptown on 29th

Hey! I’v been lazy writing during the busy holidays period but I am back in business.

So today, I share about my other “daily coffee place”, the one that is ten meters from my office, and I must confess I am lucky with this office. This place is a coffee shop run by Stumptown Coffee Roasters. I discovered Stumptown almost four years ago in Seattle, and while it took some months, it very quickly became for me one of the top coffee roaster, with high quality, extremly constant in that respect, despite offering a very wide and changing selection of coffee, in both single origins or blends.

So, that is primarly what makes me happy there, either having an espresso shot, a machiatto, or buying my beans for home: the quality of coffee! I believe it is still the best in NYC. Please Stumptown, stick to this standard, even if you’re getting bigger and bigger!

Let’s go for the bad side of it now. First of all, it is totally over-hyped. Some people don’t pay attention, some others don’t like it. Me, it’s depending of the days. The coffee shop is part of the Ace Hotel which is cool, but also very over-hyped. The hotel host a couple of fancy boutiques and the Breslin restaurant, a very good table I must say, of course with the price that goes with it. So, this makes it a super crowded and fashionable area! The place is run by a small army of Barista, all disguised in some sort of mid century vintage clothes (you might like it or not but one thing is sure, it lacks of genuineness) and working on 2 3-headed Mistral La Marzocco. And despite the large staff and the 6 heads… there is almost always a long line going even out of the coffee shop into the hotel lobby. If you’re in the rush, forget about it!

And finally, still in the bad side, I regret that here, I am never offered an espresso when buying beans (I thought this was a tradition in the coffee industry, is that time over?). A last bad note: I had to go to the hotel’s ATM a couple of time because I was out of cash; they don’t take credit card (how a shop like this, with such an outflow, can not have its own CC machine???), so again this takes time and 2 USD transactions… add this to of course a price list that goes with the standard and this makes it an expensive coffee place, no doubt.

Summary: go for the coffee first, then go to see it and experience it and make your own opinion but I bet there are many coffee shops now in Manhattan where you would feel much more “home” than here, starting with the venerable Joe’s, even if the coffee is sometime a bit behind than Stumptown.

  • Stumptown Coffee Shop Manhattan
    18 W 29th St.
    New York, NY 10001