Down a windy pier in Red Hook Brooklyn, past street art murals defaced with quick bubble letter tags, with the Statue of Liberty beaming out in the horizon, the smell of roasting coffee whips past warehouses and potholed dead-end streets. Here a dead end street ends in water lapping jagged shores and as it only can in New York, with people pulling their dreams into three dimensions with hard work.
These newly forming dream-realities smell like coffee at Joe Coffee which roasts out of an industrial space shared by less than a dozen roasters, the Pulley Collective. Head Dreamer and Director of Roasting for Joe Coffee, Ed Kaufmann oversees three other roasters, and a team of 4-5 production crew members. Ed’s enthusiasm for the geekery of coffee roasting is infectious. Ed’s a seeker, he’s a dreamer-doer, he’s the slightly jittery, extremely hospitable mastermind behind the roasts of Joe Coffee which has a dozen shops in New York, plus 2 in Philly. Attracted by possibility, Ed came to New York from Portland ten years ago, gained his chops at Cafe Grumpy, and then had a brief stint at Stumptown. He convinced Joe Coffee Founder Jonathan Rubinstein to be the business behind his plan to start independently roasting in New York.
Meeting Ed and the Joe Coffee operation is to catch a glimpse into the labor and the love that lurks underneath your morning caffeine fix. His obsessive tracking of roasting details, his constant cupping/comparing/tweaking for quality control and eager questioning of “how does it tastes to you?” are what New York is all about. (I’ve never met anyone so eager as Ed when discussing polysaccharides- the new sugars formed by roasting coffee.) To be a New York geek is to be completely engaged in your passions and then to look up and offer some slice of them to the busy New Yorker next to you or on top of you (depending on if it is rush hour). Joe Coffee is that kind of New York geek.
In February 2017, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group invested in Joe Coffee as an ideal match made on the common ground of hospitality. Joe Coffee, which was called Joe the Art of Coffee when I first started drinking it at their first shop in the West Village, has always been the coffee geek’s version of the girl you bring home to your mother. She makes a great impression. She’s palatable and friendly. But you know that beyond that easy first impression, she’s complex and interesting and bound to make you happy long term. Joe Coffee straddles that line between geeking out and welcoming the soon-to-be-geeks, between socially-isolating obsession with roasting/brewing detail and this-is-all-in-good-fun shoulder shrugging.
Thanks for letting me visit your roasting HQ!