New York, We Need to Talk About the Coffee

Don’t get me wrong, New York. I like you a lot.

I like your East Village and your West Village and especially Greenwich Village (although to be honest I can’t figure out for the life of me where one part of the village ends and another begins). I didn’t like SoHo that much but I figure it’s New York’s Paddington equivalent and I’m a devoted inner Westie, so that’s only natural.

I like Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge (and I totally understand the frustration you feel when clueless tourists wander into/take selfies in the bike lane – I would have yelled at that woman too) and especially Brooklyn pizza.

I love MacDougall St and Bleecker St and the way a Tuesday school-night in New York has as much buzz and activity as a Saturday night in Sydney.

Although they can be rather brusque at times, I like your people and especially their accents. I apologise for our terrible take-offs of said accents and I also apologise for our Australian/Kiwi accents; every time I speak I hear the voice of Sandy from Grease come out of my mouth.

I like your awesome museums (yesterday I geeked out touching a 140-million-year old giant dinosaur fossil at the American Natural History Museum, and on Tuesday at the Jewish Heritage Museum I saw Heinrich Himmler’s copy of Mein Kampf, complete with his notes in the margins – blew my mind).

Although it smells pretty bad, I like the way steam rises up from the sewers because it makes me feel like I’m in Ghostbusters and Slimer is going to burst forth from between the vents at any moment. There is no Dana, only Zuul.

I like how everyone goes crazy for Halloween and that the costume shops are absolutely packed out with people buying latex wolf heads and severed limbs and clown costumes. If a shop in Sydney was that crowded there’d be elbows and swearing and probably some sort of racist rant that would no doubt end up on YouTube and result in an arrest, but you guys somehow manage to conduct yourselves with dignity in these situations.

Despite the slightly strange texture of the street hot dog I ate and the potential for subsequent digestive destruction, I liked it a lot. Especially the gherkin relish. I also like your classic retro diners like the one we ate breakfast in yesterday; I felt like a Seinfeld extra eating my bagel with lox, cream cheese, onion and a side of crispy bacon in a booth.

I like all this things and a lot more. But.

Dear God, the coffee.

I’m just going to come out and say it: 99% of the coffee in this city is rancid dirt-swill with the caffeine content of a chickpea. It tastes like someone soaked a cup of extra-mild dirt in a pot, filtered it through one of those steamy sewer vents, and let it ferment for 10 years before reheating it.

I’ve been informed that this is a nationwide problem, but I just feel as if – out of anyone – you should have nailed this by now.

I say only 99% of your coffee is horrible because, on our 4th day here, we ventured into the East Village (Sesame Streeeeeeeeet!) and stumbled across a café/ice creamery called Van Leeuwen.

I made a conscious effort to manage my own expectations as I didn’t want to get my hopes up only for my tastebuds to be bitterly disappointed again,  but as luck would have it two cappuccinos arrived and they were Sydney-quality: robust, smooth and full of actual caffeine. It was like being hit by delicious defibrillators.

I believe in in positive reinforcement so I complimented the hipster kid behind the counter. He informed me it was Toby’s Estate coffee and that one of the owners was from Melbourne. Bingo.

I know there must be loads of other little gems like this around the place (right? RIGHT??), but that was the one shining light we experienced in New York’s coffee landscape (aside from a decent post-pizza espresso in Brooklyn) in 5 days.

So by my calculations, that puts things on a good:shizen-hausen ratio of about 1:9.

Look, you do nearly everything else pretty damn well, so it’s not a deal breaker. But your country is in need of a caffeine revolution and you guys are probably going to have to be the trailblazers.

Importing Aussies and their beans is a good start, but if it helps move things along I’d be happy to round up some coffee-connoisseur Sydney hipsters and send them your way – we have way too many anyhow. Some of their beards might pose a problem in Customs but I promise there’s nothing hidden in them, and you can always do a full body/cavity search, presuming you can get their skinny jeans off.

Just don’t touch our Campos beans.

1 Comment

  1. I agree wholeheartedly about the coffee. The best we had was in the Red Garter in Williams coming from the Grand Canyon. The owner had lived in Sydney and was going again!


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