Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gettin Crazy

So tonight I got a little trigger happy and ended up recreating our entire blog over here. This means that the page you're currently looking at will no longer be updated. Yikes. You'll have to update your bookmarks and blog readers accordingly. Sorry about that. All our archives still exist, but they're no longer categorized by date. We also seem to have lost access to most of our pictures. Obviously there's a few kinks to work out yet, but hey, everyone else is doing it so we are too.

Chelsea Treats

I took the time to wander over to West 20th Street today to say hello to the staff of Cafe Grumpy on their inaugural day of soft opening sales. While still completing some minor construction on the space (standing bar, art rail, etc) the store is definitely ready to rock. Chelsea is now home to one of the best espresso bars in the city. These guys have worked hard bringing this to fruition and a hearty congratulations is in order. If you're in the hood, do yourself a favor and go say hi.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dirty Dirty

It would be a slight understatement to say that there are big changes happening very soon. I'm nervous, a little sad, but over all very very excited.

You see, I'm moving. Not to a new apartment, in a new neighborhood. Nope. To a whole new city. In a whole new state. Atlanta, GA.

I'm sad because this means my time with Gimme! Coffee is coming to an end. Gimme!, in many ways, has been my salvation. I'll save you from the details. Except to say that it is extremely special to me and always will be.

First and foremost, I owe a huge debt to Mike White. He is responsible for inviting me into the Gimme! family and with that providing my entrance into this world of coffee. A community I am truly awed at being a part of. He decided to take a risk on the oddly quiet, intense, slightly scary kid sipping his espresso alone in the back booth. For this I will never be able to repay him.

Thank you Mike.

Enormous thanks also go out Kevin Cuddeback. He did START Gimme Coffee! after all. More important than that is the fact that he recognized my passion for coffee and did everything he could to support and foster that. Even if it meant spending ten days in Norway.

What will I do in Atlanta you ask?

Well, I'm very excited to announce that I am accepting the Customer Relations (trainer) position at the new Counter Culture Coffee training lab in downtown Atlanta.

I have a few weeks left on the bar at Gimme! Brooklyn. So, come down and say bye... or good riddance. Either way, come and see us. Oh yeah, and you can get some coffee too.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Grumpy's Groovin

Cafe Grumpy has kept us busy this week hosting two separate cuppings with industry titans Andrew Barnett and Peter Guliano respectively. Excited about the imminent grand opening of their new space Grumpy has flooded the west side of Manhattan with coffee buzz. Crowding the new space coffee fanatics from near and far gathered around to sniff slurp and spit with each other, listening in awe to stories from their numerous travels to Origin. Afterwards the crowds migrated towards the two Clovers (yes I said two) installed in the first cafe on the East Coast to offer brewed coffee strictly made to order via the Clover. No Bunn. No Fetco. No joke. Chris and Caroline worked overtime this week to host these two action packed evenings, and I for one appreciate it greatly. While simply excited to see friends put the finishing touches on their new baby, it's always great to pack a room with people who understand the trials and tribulations involved in what we all do. Add Andrew and Peter and you've got a world class coffee party. Of course warming up all the equipment in a brand new cafe is never without it's bugs and as the last few of us slowly finished wiping down counters and backflushing, Owens noticed a smell that anyone who has ever fried electrical equipment is well familiar with. Uh oh. We quickly traced it to the
right side of the Synesso and started taking it apart. While we didn't discover anything we decided to just unplug it and deal with it in the morning. The shop isn't open yet anyway, no need to leave it on all night. Hopefully it all works out for the best.

Thank you once again to Grumpy, Andrew, and Peter. This week was a special treat for the NY coffee scene.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We're Back

So, Mike and I have been a little weak with the posting lately. Sorry about that.

Mike is sick and I'm tired.

Mike has had some sort of super flu and has been all but completely out of commission for weeks.

The store has been crazy busy as of late. We had been on a pretty rapid upward trajectory anyway and then the NYT article hit. Boom. It has been crazy ever since. We have set the company wide single day sales record as well as the company wide single hour sales record.

It has been a constant battle to keep up with the flow and still maintain quality. The only way we can do it is to run a two person bar as well as a cashier. Weekends we add a fourth person to the mix, if we could squeeze them in we might even run the three person bar. Our space is pretty tight, so needless to say it becomes a hectic ebb and flow of bodies and coffee.

By the time it's all done and 8 hours on bar is over, I'm spent.

I know every one reads here and here right? Knowing that I understand this now old news but I'll recount it anyway. The very friendly Ian and Becky from The Martha Stewart Show came by with cameras in hand. They brought some very bright lights. I get really nervous in the spotlight and Mike being sick, bowed out of the interview. So that left me to fly solo. That certainly didn't help to calm my nerves.

With cameras rolling I just went for it. Nerves and all, it seemed to go well. My hands did have a mind of their own, but my pours came out OK though. When it came time for the "beauty shot" (read this if you aren't sure what that is) of my latte, I went for a tulip/rosetta pour.

(This one was poured by our friend Nick B. from Dwelltime)

It wasn't my best but they didn't seem too excited about letting me pour another. We were last on the day's list and it had been a long day for them so I let it stand. Besides, they went to five different cafes and interviewed at least ten different people. Who knows what will actually survive the cutting room? In the end it will probably look as if Bob is pulling shots at Cafe Grumpy. If this episode helps people realize that coffee is not just a caffeine delivery system and can be a truly culinary experience, screw the continuity issues of a TV show. That's a tiny sacrifice. If the high quality cafes keep getting this kind of coverage maybe we can raise the bar a little more.

Time for bed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tuesdays with Tim

As reported on the latest podcast from, the WBC Board of Directors converged on NYC for a couple days of meetings followed by a NY cafe crawl. Doug came by early to scope the scene, slyly ordering a shot before his brand new t-shirt gave him away. We chatted briefly before I called him a car to visit Grumpy up the street, where Owens happened to be. Meanwhile Tim Wendelboe was landing at JFK and caught up with Chris and Doug a little later. Since Tim and Chris had spent some QT together over yonder in Oslo, we all caught up again that night back here at gimme for shots. Doug took off and Tim, Chris, M'lissa, and I, took the opportunity to get Tim drunk. The agenda? Tequila. Apparently tequila isn't so big in Norway and Tim was interested in doing a "cupping" of different tequila's. Several shots later it was clear Tim had already found his passion in coffee. After a day and a half of meetings at the NYBOT, the crawl started. I was caught off guard with the timing, but was at Grumpy when they left Gimme and headed there. Caffeine fueled discussion ensued around Grumpy's big square table, and critique and compliments flowed. Since Nick came up to party with his fellow rock stars, we had a chance to reconnect over our shared passion in pda/smartphones. We both had the new MDA last time we met but he's since moved on. To what? The E-61 of course. Not the faema...The Nokia. Niiiice. I'm holding out for one of the 4 hot new ones that are being released this winter.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Monday in Malmö

After the Nordic Barista Cup, M'Lissa and I stayed in Copenhagen for a little vacation. Monday we decided to take a little day trip to Malmö, Sweden. It is just a 20 train ride over The Øresund Bridge.

We spent the day wondering this quaint little town (although I think it's Sweden's third largest). Of course we had to visit some coffee bars. First stop was Caffe Nesta. This is the home of Dan Stenqvist. I had contacted Dan a few weeks earlier to see if he would be willing to be our guide and he graciously agreed.

When we arrived at Nesta we found out that Dan was at university until 5 so we decided to mill about on our own. We were armed with a list of coffee bars that Dan had recommendeded but no real idea where they were.

By dumb luck we stumbled across Lilla Kafferosteriet. We walked in and, to my surprise, were recognized by the barista. Ulrika had seen us at the NBC and took excellent care of us. Not to mention giving me one of the better espressos of the trip. The cafe is in a beautiful 16th century restored home. The Probat is tucked in the corner of the main room right next to the bar. Man, I love to see a roaster in coffee bars! You can have your coffee in any of the rooms which are nicely appointed with antiques. Of course everything is for sale. This place is already good and I have a feeling they are on there way to great things.

It was time to meet up with Dan back at Nesta where he treated us to dinner. After dinner we set out for Solde Kaffebar.

If you care about coffee and find yourself in
Malmö, Solde Kaffebar is your spot. This place is only about coffee. No nonsense to get in the way. We met up with one of the owners, Johan Carlsrtom. He's a great guy and a talented barista. Just check out all his awards if you don't belive me. I had a lot of fun sitting around and talking coffee with other passionate people (Dan's friends Lars and Anna joined us as well). Then Dan and Johan asked me to step behind the machine and play. Johan has some of those fancy teflon coated portafilters (I REALLY want some of these). They just rinse clean with pure ease. Beautiful. As if that wasn't cool enough they also have a Teflon coated steam wand! I was honored to be allowed to work Johan's bar. I really must get back there soon.

I have to give a big thanks to both Dan and Johan for a great time.

Also, I finally uploaded some of the pictures from the Nordic Barista Cup to my Flickr if you're interested.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

How to miss half of the Nordic Barista Cup

NBC day 1

After collecting our bags and hitting the hostel, M'Lissa and I made our way to the Nordic Barista Cup location at 4pm. Just in time to catch the champagne boat tour of Copenhagen. But, we missed the registration. We had no badges. Sarah Allen (Barista Magazine) spots me and we explain the situation and she takes charge and finds Bjorg Brend (Europa) for us. We are well taken care of.

The Guides of the tour are Fritz Storm and Troels Poulsen, who spent the whole time making fun of everyone involved including themselves.

We are let off the boat at the "Longest bar in Denmark" to have drinks with Sarah, Kyle Larson (Stumptown), Sigga Dora (Photographer and Klaus Thomsen's girlfriend), and Njall (part of Team Iceland) before dinner.

The opening dinner was a banquet at Noma. The 33rd best restaurant in the world we were told. Tim Wendelboe decided to join us at our table. It was good to see Tim again.

Due to the fact that I worked my normal open shift and neither of us can sleep on planes, both M'Lissa and I are pretty much working on a 40 hour day and wrecked. So, after the announcements of the first days winners we bolt. We didn't even wait for dessert.

NBC Day 2

I awaken in the very early morning feeling as if my head is splitting open. I slowly move to the bathroom where, to my great disappointment, I realize that the contents of my stomach no longer wish to stay there. Come to find out that M'Lissa is having the same difficulties. We manage to clean ourselves up and drag to the NBC. We make it through the opening seminar of the day. Which is on the Clover. Neither one of us can keep it up so we head back to the hostel. Four hours later and feeling slightly better we go back. Choke down some bananas, coffee, and A LOT of water.

From a distance we listen to Morten Munchow's (Kontra Coffee) lecture on water and talk with Lizz Hudson (Stumptown). As, the lecture finished the national teams then had a water cupping competition. Over several "flights" they had to correctly identify waters from the tap, different filtering processes and waters from their different countries.

We managed to get some more food down at the dinner buffet but still were not feeling well so we left before the final competition of the day. Sleep won out again.

NBC Day 3

Feeling better but still walking a fine line of dehydration we head off to the final day of the NBC. This time the event is held outside in a public square of Copenhagen. Enjoying some yogurt and the morning air Tim approaches us and asks if we would like to judge in the final competition of the day. It turns out that all the teams have to make coffee using the Clover. The teams will be using coffee they roasted earlier in the day as part of another competition. Of course we agree. In the meantime, as the teams start the day's first competiton, to sell coffee for Libras de Amor, we head off on a cafe crawl of Copenhagen.

We make it back in time for the Noma signature drink competition. Let's just say these kids are lining cups with meat. While the judges are sipping from meat cups I chat with James Hoffman. We geek out on Molecular Gastronomy and our personal tastes in espresso.

Next up was the Clover competition and our time to judge. Even though it is all in fun I was still a little nervous. Since this was M'Lissa's first cupping ever she thought she was going into cardiac arrest. Given that it is hard to brew in the Clover using very fresh coffee, I feel that all the teams presented good cups. Two did stand out however. To my taste Iceland had the sweetest cup and Norway had the best overall extraction. That was a lot of fun to be a part of.

Ending the event was an auction. They sold pretty much everything except the rented tent. With all of the proceeds also going to Libras de Amor.

Then came the gala dinner. The theme: 80's. Lets just say that not only is it a great experience to be in a room with so many of the worlds best in coffee, but to see them in ridiculous outfits and incredibly wasted is great in it's own way too. Those Scandinavians can party and so can Kyle;)

Chris Owens (more tales of Copenhagen to come)

This is a heavily condensed version due to the fact that I cannot seem to find free internet. I mean no offense to all the great people I may have left out of this account. It was truly amazing and I am extremely happy to know you all.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Chestnut Hill and Milkboy Pictures

Mike called me out so here they are. I only took a couple and they aren't very exciting really but, if you want to seem them look here.

In other news, I leave for the Nordic Barista Cup tonight. I'll do my best to blog while there. Also, unlike Philly there will be MANY photos. I promise.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Visitors from ESI

We ended up rallying for the day trip to Philly yesterday, hitting up Chestnut Hill Coffee Co and Milkboy. Both shops were impressive in terms of design and execution, and it was fun tracking down John Hornall. Unfortunately Hornall was in the Pacific Northwest at the time, but it was still cool to check out the new digs. The space is really beautiful, with two floors of spacious hardwood and leather surrounding a modest and clean bar equipped with a 3 group Linea. The neighborhood Chestnut Hill is a really interesting mix of 19th century buildings and homes, interspersed between high end retail shops and specialty restaurants. It's a high end hood, and Chestnut Hill Coffee Co fits right in. Unfortunately I couldn't be bothered to return to the car for my camera, so if you're interested in visuals, e-mail Owens.

On another note I had the pleasure of spending time with Kent Bakke of ESI, who arrived in our shop today with his (our) Northeast Regional Sales Manager Michael Del Gatto. Both of whom are top notch industry specialists. Though excited to simply get decent espresso here in the city, Kent was particularly interested in our feedback on the GB5. "Your feedback?" you ask? Yes, my feedback. My humble opinion was respectfully acknowledged today and I was happy to tell him what a workhorse the GB5 has been. I also made a point of informing him of our two gripes with the machine, the shallow (and sharp) drip tray, and the wiring harness on the power to the groups that slowly dislodges itself after 3-4 weeks of use. Kent dutifully made notes of my issues, and the conversation moved on to grinder technology.

I have a feeling that Kent's arrival in NY was simply a layover on his way to the NBC, but I hope we get the pleasure of having him again. It was a joy talking to the man personally responsible for La Marzocco's in the U.S.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Busy Weekend

Shoutouts today are in order to our new buddy Scott Lucey over at Alterra Coffee Roasters in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Scott was kind enough to send along a few of their "Barista Throwdown" t-shirts in a package that included a pound of their pride and joy Espresso Blend. While we haven't played with the coffee yet (probably tomorrow night) I gotta say, the t-shirts rock! I was excited to receive mine and will wear it with pride. Thanks Scott!

On another note, there's a lot going on this weekend. Up in Vancouver the Coffee & Tea Expo is kicking off in their convention center (centre?), while here in the States the SouthEast Regionals are kicking into high gear, sponsored in part by the fine folks at Counter Culture Coffee. While Nick Cho tries not to drop his glass bottle of milk, the Gimme crew are planning a day trip to Philadelphia to check out Chestnut Hill Coffee Company, operated by the esteemed and legendary, John Hornall. I have a sneaking suspicion that the man and legend himself will actually be in North Carolina this weekend, but it's the best chance that us Brooklynites will have to visit his new space. Word on the street is that MilkBoy Coffee is doing great things with their Counter Culture down there as well, and we just might have an opportunity to check them out too.

Good luck to all the competitors down in NC this weekend. Maybe we'll finally get our acts together to put on a similar event in the NorthEast this spring.