“Slow down and have coffee,” isn’t a caffeine-adjacent suggestion you hear often, especially in New York City. Over the course of the last year, though, life has slowed way the fuck down. These new Brooklyn coffeehouses have adapted and are giving New Yorkers something a mellower for our caffeine-infused enjoyment.
Drip Coffee Makers Bushwick/Bed-Stuy: 12 Belvidere Street Brooklyn Heights: 100 Henry Street
“The idea behind ‘slow down and have coffee’ is that the commodification of coffee on a global scale is why we now have bad coffee,” says Nigel Price, the man behind Drip Coffee Makers.
He has a theory. It goes like this (deep breath): “To enjoy a great tasting cup of coffee there are some basics: The first is quality coffee grown by farmers that are fairly compensated for their labor; roasters that are trying to find the best roasting profile or recipe for those beans, and lastly baristas who are genuinely interested in expressing this labor in your cup. Our model is built around showcasing specialty coffees, and if any of those major steps are rushed, the end result is not special. It’s just a quick cup of coffee.”
A New York native, originally from South Jamaica, Queens, Price quit a well-paying financial research position with JPMorgan to open a cafe.
“I left my day job naively assuming I will spend a year or so learning coffee and be ready to start my business,” he says. “The more time I spent in these shops the more I realized how much I needed to know if I was gonna make a proper go of it.”
Finally, in January of 2020, after gathering 15 years of coffee experience, Nigel opened Drip’s Bushwick location, and in March of 2021 his Brooklyn Heights shop, the latter located inside the Clark Street subway station.
“I’m old enough and have been in New York long enough to remember that all of those little green boxes inside and near train stations used to be newsstands that are now sitting dormant,” he says. “We are trying to coordinate with MTA to see if we could make use of them either through a profit sharing model or even a non-profit/training program. So many possibilities.”
For now, though, your only chance of getting a great cup of coffee inside a Brooklyn subway station is if a lunatic takes someone else’s and throws it in your face.
In the meantime, Price is in the process of opening two more non-subway locations, one in SoHo and the other inside The Amant Foundation at 315 Maujer Street, a 21,000 square foot nonprofit arts center in East Williamsburg. The campus includes two galleries, a performance space, and studios for four resident artists, as well as offices, a bookstore, and, soon, a café. The center itself is currently open, but the coffee space should be ready by the holidays.
When you visit one of Price’s shops you’ll taste the drive and passion in the coffee.
“The origins of the coffeehouse were spaces to gather and share ideas. I found a few third wave coffee shops in the early ‘00s and that’s what started this journey. I truly believe creating these spaces can change lives.”
When Ruben Villagomez planned to open a coffee shop in Greenpoint, his business model didn’t include room for a global pandemic. He didn’t let it deter him, though. In fact, it informed the build and approach to selling his coffee for the first six months.
“I saw people were buying more and more at-home brewing supplies so I signed a lease on a small space at 117 Meserole Ave and really pushed retail whole bean coffee.”
People want their coffee. Like most drugs, it’s a recession proof industry. I was still pounding cup after cup all day and I had literally no reason to be alert, or even awake, for the majority of 2020. Ruben was also able to get one of the disaster loans the city was offering.
“The terms are great. 30-year loan at like 2 percent. I have to pay $80 a month for 30 years. Pretty good deal.”
An amazing deal if you ask me. My first credit card had an APR of 700,000 percent and every week a company rep was allowed to stop by my place and punch me in the face.
“I had a lot of pour-over options since people weren’t in a hurry. It also forced them to try different beans and take home something new and interesting.”
Ruben works directly with small farms all over Central and South America. He roasts it himself at a facility in Long Island City. He’s detail- and data-oriented thanks to a background in physics and years spent working in Brooklyn coffee shops.
As the city shifts around a new normal, expect changes for Paloma as well. In the coming weeks, we will see Ruben rebrand under the name Paloma Craft Coffee Roasters and open two new locations: in Northern Greenpoint on India St. and at 349 Union St. in Williamsburg, which opened officially on Aug. 13.
Whisk and Whiskey is a unique little spot on the edge of Park Slope and Gowanus. Equal parts coffee bar, whiskey bar and bakery with a Trinidadian-Cambodian twist. W&W is co-owned by Chandra Touch (the whiskey) who is Cambodian, and Secoyah Browne, (the whisk) who is from Trinidad. Cultural inclusivity played an important part in the business plan.
“We host monthly dinner parties with four course meals,” says Touch. “They’re about three hours long and people from the Trinidadian and Cambodian communities of which there are a sizable amount in Brooklyn come out and network and enjoy great food.”
The day I stopped in, Touch was getting the backyard ready for an event featuring Woofbowl, a doggie food truck (which is exactly what it sounds like). Last weekend they hosted a pop up with a local pizzeria. They also host a jazz night and drag queen brunch. And they’ve only been open for two months.
“Our backgrounds are event planning and real estate development, respectively, so we had a good idea of where to start and what to do.”
The layout is a welcome change from the ultra minimalist, birch countertop/white walled aesthetic that makes you feel as if you’ve checked into an insane asylum for Norwegian graphic designers. W&W has high top tables, colorful wallpapers, a proper bar featuring whiskeys from around the world and a comfy couch sitting across from a giant Buddha that Chandra’s mom dropped off as a good luck gift for their upcoming event.
They serve La Colombe coffee all day and night, but the stars of the show are the bakes. Do not leave without trying one of these Trinidadian treats made with chewy bread and filled with brisket, crispy spicy chicken, or my favorite, the jerk chicken.
Businesses like these and many others all over town are proof New York isn’t not only not dead, but really super not-dead. Meaning it’s alive. Basically. Like most of us. This city and its people are as resilient as ever and slouching forward. As the subways and sidewalks fill back up with the hectic and hurried, let’s remember sometimes it’s OK to slow down and enjoy a cup of joe.