My relationship with coffee began, as many do, as a casual friendship. I had been working overnight at Apple’s Fifth Avenue store and after a year of nocturnal living found myself wanting its warm, comforting buzz. It wasn’t the energizing chemicals so much as the atmosphere of Mud, a slightly-small, dark East Village coffee shop that really got me hooked. Manhattan felt more crowded and hostile all the time and I knew I could always wrap myself in the warm blanket of good music, hot espresso macchiatos and friendly faces.
It was a treat, a preemptive reward for being productive. I didn’t drink it daily or prepare it for myself–I didn’t own any of the necessary equipment. Months later I started a mostly-new life in Birmingham, Alabama, a city that from the start I could tell wouldn’t be as innately challenging as New York. That was a relief, but the feeling wore off as the reality of starting over set in. There was no nearby Mud to serve as my hideout, and there weren’t many people I could have shared it with even if there were. Urban Standard opened a few months later and provided Downtown Birmingham with just the kind of expertly-made coffee and social space I needed.
After that [necessary? useful?] preamble, we fast-forward from mid-2007 to this past weekend, when I met up with longtime friend and fellow coffee lover Carla Jean. We brunched at Mud, whose food I’d never eaten. Once the sturdy orange mug was in my hand, it was like I’d never left. Their coffee, which I took black (like my heart), was surprisingly full-bodied and silky for drip. Our server explained their method (using more ground coffee, simply enough) as we finished our almond-crusted french toast.
From Mud, we headed to Williamsburg’s Secret Project Robot Art Space for the Cannonball Press print show. One of my favorite letterpress houses–Yee-Haw Industries of Knoxville Tenn.–was on hand with their beautiful prints and will be back in NYC this December for the Chelsea Market Christmas thing. Carla Jean had to head back to Midtown in a rush, so she missed out on Blue Bottle. Oh did she miss out on some sweet, sweet coffee.
After randomly running into a former suitemate who turned out to be periodic percussionist for the Richmond, VA band The Diamond Center, I met up with an old friend at Blue Bottle. They are perhaps best known for their niche brewing techniques, which include nel drip and siphon, and they are certainly worth a inter-borough trip. The weather was brisk but I was overdressed and overheating so I opted for a New Orleans iced coffee (pictured, top). It was, as the menu suggests, slightly sweet and just milky enough. The experience would have been perfect if stroller-toting hipster parents had kept their monstrous baby carts from impeding traffic at every turn. But that’s what you get in Brooklyn. I can’t wait to go back and try some hot coffee.
I’m always taking suggestions, so if you have a favorite coffee spot in the city (or anywhere. I’ll travel), please hit me up with a comment.