Monday, June 6, 2011

Crazy for Caffeine

As the hipster revolution continues, coffee rises to divine status. There is food out the wazoo in this city, but sometimes all you want is some delicious bean-y goodness. (Side note: who was the first person who looked at a coffee cherry and said, "I will peel this, take the slimy green bean inside, put it over a fire, add really hot water, let it steep and then drink it?")

Though it might not be Seattle, Portland or SF, there is no dearth of options here for coffee in this city, especially in Brooklyn, where organic-minded, PBR-obsessed hipsters all want the best brewed cuppa in town. I cannot claim to know much about coffee, but I'm a big fan of cafes -- just think about the number of times you've been to Tunnel City and have seen me crouched away in a corner.
My first stop in Brookyn was Park Slope's Gorilla Coffee. It's iced coffee season north of the equator, so I sat down with some cold brew and watched the world go by. There was a constant flow of people in and out of the shop and it made you want summer to last forever despite the unbelievable temperatures. There's something about sipping away on iced coffee as people saunter by that transports me to a very happy place. And so I continue to search for this feeling across the city.
Stumptown Coffee is slowly building an empire in this city and New York is lucky enough to have its own cafe in the Ace Hotel (Midtown) where tattooed, fedora-wearing baristas pour out some delicious drinks. Their iced coffee is just okay, but their mochas, made with Mast Brothers chocolate is otherworldly.
But perhaps quite unexpectedly, the best iced coffee I've had in this massive city so far is at a little spot named Saturdays Surf in SoHo. A surf shop smack-bang in the middle of an urban jungle, it somehow does not seem at all out of place. The store carries boards, clothing, books, bric-a-brac and some delicious coffee from a bar at the front of the house. Maya and I stopped in during a day of concrete-pounding shopping and it provided us with some much-needed respite. Grabbing a tall cup of their iced caffeine, dousing it with simple sugar and cream, I took it to the outdoor patio in the back where we city melted away into the swirls of my coffee.

Of course, in a discussion about the delights of coffee, I cannot leave out the cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk) I've had during my search for some authentic South-East Asian eats. The first, which was maybe better than anything I had in Hanoi, was at Ba Xuyen - the sandwich shop around the corner. The second was made all the more fantastic with the company of Jasmine, my friend from my study abroad program. Eating some pho ga, sipping on some iced coffee, sitting on metal stools (though decidedly more for the cool effect here than cost-effectiveness), we went from the Lower East Side to its antipode in minutes. An Choi, on Orchard Street, translates the Vietnamese street food scene into 'Manhattanite', giving it an hip gloss that does not detract from the pretty authentic food.

Funnily enough, my favorite cafe is one at which I did not have any coffee. About two days ago, Eben showed me to a small neighborhood spot in Brooklyn Heights named Iris Cafe. It was very close to my idea of heaven. Set in the middle of a residential street shaded by trees, the cafe's door was set ajar to let the breeze waft through. We sat on rustic wooden seats eating simple but delicious egg salad sandwiches. The place was alive with a quiet energy, full with a love of good weather, good food and good drank. Absolutely adorable.

Since I don't know much about coffee in all its technicalities (brew? roast? what?), I just continue my search for the a place that really fits: where the drink meets atmosphere in a perfect union. And thankfully, there's no shortage of places to try, so I'm going to keep the ball rolling on my caffeine-driven adventures.


  1. You're too cute - hope you find your perfect place! :D

  2. PS: get rid of the word-check for comments. No-one's going to spam you....