Artisan is the word of the day when it comes to coffee in New York at the beginning of the 21st Century. This artisan movement is touching every foodie fundamental possible from cheese and wine to heirloom tomatoes and, of course, coffee. Foodies are producing local wines, regional cheeses, produce, jams, honey, and just about any potentially excellent, generally store-bought-mediocre foodstuff locally and of a quality that many of us forgot was possible. This artisanal boom is happening in the suburbs, on organic farms, through co-ops, and even in the city, as the means of gourmet food production are being torn from machines one hand-kneaded boule at a time. So too, coffee is returning to its origins, with small batch coffee roasters producing artful coffees to meet the new standards of today’s conscious consumer.
This is, however, a renaissance, New York City having played an important role in almost all of coffee’s history in the United States.
New York Coffees: A History of Excellence and Innovation
The earliest coffee shop in New York City, The King’s Arms, opened in 1696 beginning a lineage of coffee consumption, innovation, and craftsmanship that continues to this day. Since colonial days, the green coffee bean has shipped from New York ports to Europe, and throughout the city’s history, New York coffee has set trends that have determined how Americans consume their coffee, whether in the active coffee shops of the bustling city or in the meeting rooms of Madison Avenue.
This desire to put quality and craftsmanship at the fore of local coffee production found its 20th Century incarnation in Chock Full O’Nuts, a national coffee that sought to capture the taste of New York City freshly roasted countertop coffee. Started when the Great Depression made roasted nuts seem an expensive indulgence, William Black converted his roasted nut shops throughout the city to sell freshly roasted coffee and a sandwich for a nickel. After World War II, Chock Full O’Nuts was putting the taste of New York City coffee into cups across the country.
Mass production won us wars, and the art of replaceable parts and automated processes helped the Greatest Generation build a prosperous post-war United States with coffee that was prized for its consistency, reliability, and ease of consumption. Such local successes as Chock Full O’Nuts grew to serve the national market, competing against other national coffee powers throughout the latter half of the 20th Century. A second wave of local upstarts came from the West, putting Starbucks and Seattle’s Best into American coffee cups. As if in response, coffee artists sprung up throughout New York State, producing small batches of gourmet roast coffees, catering to local tastes once more as if the mass-production tastes of the 20th Century were to be replaced with the local character coffee once had.
Award-Winning and Up-and-Coming New York Coffee Roasters
Each of these artisan coffee roasters is no different than Chock Full O’Nuts or Starbucks were at the beginning of their stories. They are the result of someone’s passion for coffee, their desire to innovate, and their own coffee journey on their way to creating an artisan coffee renaissance in New York.
With so many independent coffee roasters in the region to explore, the choices can be overwhelming, particularly when you are more familiar with the 20th Century machine-uniform coffees found on the supermarket shelf anywhere that you go. Many up-and-coming New York coffee roasters are gathered in the list below, giving your adventure in true New York coffee just the treasure map that it needs.
- Bear Mountain Coffee Roasters
- An artisan microroastery from the Hudson Valley Region that is increasingly popular in New York, Bear Mountain Coffee Roasters brings “Old World Craft” to the use of “State of the Art” roasting technology.
- Brooklyn Roasting Company
- A true, down-to-earth, city coffee, roasted in small batches in a Loring Kestrel ½ bag roaster, Brooklyn Roasting Company seeks to combine old-fashioned artistry with modern thinking by embracing environmentally friendly practices and exclusively fair-trade, organic, Rainforest alliance certified coffee beans.
- Dallis Bros. Coffee
- Not new to the New York Coffee game, Dallis Bros. Coffee has been roasting small batch coffee for more than a century, having moved to its location in Queens to meet the rising demand for coffee during The Depression. Dallis Bros. Coffee was the first company in New York to offer triple-certified coffees and continues to support Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade coffees as an expression of their company history of sustainability.
- Evening Star Coffee Roasters
- A small batch, New York coffee roaster with a heart of gold, offering four different charity coffees and engaging in environmentally conscious practices and packaging, Evening Star Coffee Roasters coffee is hand-roasted, using expert coffee roasters’ senses to determine the optimal moment to end the roasting process.
- Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters
- Organic, fair trade coffee roasted to the meticulous standards of Roastmaster Bob Cowdery, Finger Lakes Coffee has been impressing New York coffee drinkers since 1996 in Bushnell’s Basin, New York.
- Georgio’s Coffee Roasters
- Started by a couple with a passion for the world’s finest coffee, Georgio’s Coffee is the result of a world-wide quest for great beans and mutually beneficial business; engaging in Fair Trade and supporting coffee farms that engage in excellent farming practices, Georgio has tried nearly every type of roaster you can imagine but still favors his 37-year-old Probat for classic roast coffee character.
- Gorilla Coffee
- Started in 2002, Gorilla Coffee captures the feeling of Brooklyn: diverse, distinctive, and the scene of wave after wave of artistic self-expression. It’s the coffee for those who seek bold flavors and artful compositions.
- Irving Farm Coffee Roasters
- Started in Manhattan in 1996, Irving Farm Coffee has grown to include a converted farm house in the Hudson Valley that has been converted into a roasting facility able to combine new roasting technologies with the sensual experience of more traditional batch roasting.
- Java Love Coffee Roasting Co.
- Owned and operated by Jodie Dawson and Kristine Petrik, two women seriously passionate about good coffee, Java Love Roasters is located in Bethel, NY, where it started as a small coffee house. These idealists roast only organic, Fair Trade, Naturally Farmed, Rainforest Alliance coffee beans in small batches, recycling 95% of their waste. They pride themselves on making “the coffee that loves you back.”
- Joe Bean Coffee Roasters
- This Rochester, NY coffee roaster prides themselves on artisan coffee, craft beer, and a menu composed of locally grown produce and regional artisan foods. Joe Bean Coffee Roasters’ focus on handmade quality infuses every batch of beans that they roast.
- New York Coffee
- The flagship coffee of CoffeeForLess.com, New York Coffee chooses coffee beans sourced for their flavor profiles and roasted fresh in small batches to showcase each bean’s best qualities. New York Coffee also offers the most extensive selection of flavored coffees that you are likely to find anywhere.
- Plowshares Coffee Roasters
- Located in the Ramapo Valley, Plowshares Coffee Roasters artisan coffee is the product of many sample roasts and hands-on, sensory experience of the roasting coffee beans, before each variety or blend is selected for small-batch roasting in a vintage German Probat UG 15 roaster. Plowshares coffee Roasters strives for carbon-neutral business practices through the use of wind power and partnering with CarbonFund.org.