New Coffee Flagships Match Style With Substance
When a roaster opens a flagship coffee bar, it can be an ideas lab as much as a place to refuel: It’s where you go to try something new. In exchange, the roaster will put its best foot forward. Often, the staff is more attentive, the cups are nicer and the coffee is tastier.
This season, two New York roasters are unveiling shops that are designed to impress. One, the airy Sey Coffee, which opened this month in Bushwick, Brooklyn, is all raw concrete and whitewashed walls, a skylit showcase for a roaster with a following among coffee-heads who favor the bright, clean profile of the so-called Nordic style.
Its owners, Tobin Polk and Lance Schnorenberg, started roasting in 2011 in a fourth-floor loft around the corner from the new shop. But it wasn’t until 2014, after honing their skills with the influential Joanna Alm of Drop Coffee in Stockholm, that they found their audience. Known then as Lofted Coffee, theirs was a cult coffee you were lucky to stumble across or hunted down.
New store, new identity: The roaster is growing up. (Sey is “yes” spelled backward.) A sense of craft fills the space. Mr. Polk built the burnished maple bench that runs along a cinder-block wall himself, and the ceramist Erin Louise Clancy will set up a work space in the back that will supply the shop. Eventually, a false wall will be removed and a new roasting machine will be installed, but until then beans will be carted over from the loft.
A roaster taking a similar tack is Nobletree Coffee, which has locations in the World Trade Center and the DeKalb Market Hall (with a second stall to open in the hall this year). Nobletree is unveiling a shop in front of its Red Hook, Brooklyn, roasting facility that sets out to make a statement, a state-of-the-art coffee bar with all the shiny toys: a gurgling Steampunk brewer, a streamlined Modbar brewer and espresso machine, kegs of nitrogenized cold brew on tap.
While the other Nobletree locations are built for speed, this is a place to nerd out, a destination coffee bar. It helps that the roaster is in a mid-19th-century warehouse, on a pier with a postcard view of the Statue of Liberty across the harbor. The setting is worth the trip.
Eric Taylor, the general manager of Nobletree, says the purpose of the coffee bar isn’t to make sales but to create a tasting room, a place where you can refine your palate. Nobletree is a part of FAL Coffee, which owns coffee farms and a processing mill in Brazil. Some of the beans that make it to Brooklyn are the cream of those crops — the baristas behind the counter are familiar with every link of the supply chain.
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