The number one question I get on a coffee tour: what’s your favorite coffee in New York?
But nobody once to hear a depends answer. Sometimes I’ll say, depends on the neighborhood. After all, New York City isn’t really one city as much as it is a collection of small towns, people’s neighborhoods.
I like to find out what neighborhood people live or work in and give them a recommendation from there.
But, again, no one likes a depends answer.
So… here is my other answer. This is a list of shops that I will go to as a destination. Not shops that I’ll hit when I happen to be in the neighborhood, but coffee shops that if you said to me, let’s go get some great coffee and kill some time, I’d go there.
Disclaimer: Of course, this is a personal list. I’m not saying these shops have met any kind objective best coffee shop in the world criteria–of course, there is no such criteria anyway. But, you should know: for a shop to make this list, it must be within 30 minutes travel of my apartment, serve third wave coffee recently and locally roasted, and employ some friendly folk who aren’t too snobby about coffee, but know what they are doing.
Okay, now the list…
#1 Cafe Integral, Nolita
Cafe Integral is located down a cute street in a cute neighborhood, but inside, they are quite serious. They roast out in Queens by the Navy Yards. They make their own plant milks. Cesar Vega, the owner/roaster, is basically a coffee legend who knows every single valley of coffee farms in Nicaragua. He’s one of the only people you’ll meet whose done it all: farming, picking, processing, importing, roasting, brewing. His fingerprint is on everything and that is a very good thing.
My pick: Horchata cappuccino . Trust me. They make every stich of it right there-rice milk, etc..
#2 East One, 23rd Street, Flatiron
Right down the street from the Flatiron Building, you’ll find a lot of coffee shops (you could do a tour within three blocks with Variety, Coffee Project NY, Joe Coffee HQ), but East One keeps me coming back. First, they have a kick a$$ roaster named Selina who I interviewed for the site. Next, they have some edgy coffee. This isn’t your mama’s first wave coffee. The only flavor crystals in here are the result of talent, hustle and skill. While they do have a great location with a restaurant in Brooklyn, that’s too far of a commute for me and this space has LOTS of windows and a fair amount of seating.
My pick: Whatever they are batch brewing. Ask what it is. Read the tasting notes on the bag. Sit back and ponder the limitations of your palate.
#3 Coffee Project NY, East Village
Coffee Project NY has another amazing all-female roaster/owner team leading them. All locations are great: they roast out in Long Island City, so if you’re out that way, go there–its a regular spot on the coffee tours.
But, usually, I’m over at their East Village location. It’s small, but mighty. Their coffee blends are satisfyingly balanced, but always layered with some other interesting note–marzipan? Their single origins demonstrate how complex just one coffee from one place can be.
Pick: Cortado with Oatmilk.
Runners-up: Variety Coffee Roasters, Black Fox, Felix Coffee Roasters…
Local Chains that can be counted on: Joe Coffee, Cafe Grumpy, Partners…
Or, you can just sign up for a coffee tour and I’ll gush on there.