Big beans by the dozen

BARRY DIVOLA
Last updated 05:00 12/11/2013
Coffee Landscape
Barry Divola

COFFEE CULTURE: A brew coming up at the Bluebird Coffee Shop.

Coffee Std
Barry Divola
OCD ABOUT COFFEE: A Gimme! frontage.

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I love New York. I love coffee. I'm horrified when first-time visitors to the city return home and say, "I loved absolutely everything about New York, but I couldn't find a decent cup of coffee anywhere, so I went to Starbucks every day".

There has been a boom in artisanal coffee in the city in the past decade and now there are plenty of great cafes that serve excellent caffeine in Manhattan and Brooklyn. You just have to know where to look.

Here are a dozen of my favourite places.

ABRACO

Don't plan on sitting down. Do plan on a wait. This East Village gem, established in 2007, is slightly bigger than a broom closet and there's always a line, because Jamie McCormick, who learnt his trade at Blue Bottle in San Francisco, is obsessive about coffee.

That means no decaf and no skim milk. His wife, Liz, is the baker responsible for the olive-oil cakes and other delicacies.

While you wait, tap your foot to the jazz and Latin vinyl that's always spinning on the turntable.

86 E7th Street (East Village).

BLUEBIRD COFFEE SHOP

There's a flat white on the menu and Australian accents behind the bar. That's because Bluebird is owned by Melbourne transplant Alex Hall, who opened in 2011 and uses Counter Culture coffee in his La Marzocco machine.

All the pastries and biscuits are baked downstairs.

Hall's mission has been to introduce New Yorkers to the best Australia has to offer in cafe culture - good coffee, poached eggs and a welcoming home-away-from-home atmosphere.

72 E1st Street (East Village).

BLUE BOTTLE

It looks more like the secret lab of some sort of coffee superhero than a cafe. Amid drippers, French presses, grinders and siphons, you'll see workers sniffing rows of blends in the roastery, while cupping classes for the public are held at the long benches towards the front.

The highly regarded San Francisco coffee company set up in Brooklyn in 2010 and has become a fixture on the caffeine scene ever since.

160 Berry Street (Williamsburg). Also: Tenth Avenue and W16th Street (The High Line); 450 W15th Street (Chelsea); 1 Rockefeller Plaza, concourse level (Midtown).

CAFE GRUMPY

If you're a fan of Girls, you'll recognise this as the cafe from the cult TV series. It doesn't need that hip reference to get customers through the door.

With its inviting orange colour scheme (from the walls to the cups), plentiful tables, a roaster out the back and flat whites on the drinks board, it's a great place to while away an hour or three.

In fact, the clock on the wall is covered with a sign that reads: "TIME IS A LIE".

193 Meserole Street (Greenpoint). Also: 383 7th Avenue (Park Slope); 13 Essex Street (Lower East Side); 224 W20th Street (Chelsea); 200 W39th Street (Fashion District).

GIMME! COFFEE

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After arriving in Brooklyn from upstate New York a decade ago, Gimme! earns its rating as one of the city's finest roasters and cafe groups.

The founders admit to being "OCD about coffee" and they're fond of opening cafes in spaces and neighbourhoods that have fallen into disrepair and are in need of revitalisation.

495 Lorimer St (Williamsburg). Also: 107 Roebling Street (Williamsburg); 228 Mott Street (Nolita).

JOE

Since opening in the West Village in 2003, this popular family-run business has expanded its caffeine empire to six other locations.

The original at Waverly Place, on the corner of the much-photographed Gay Street, is a sunlit space with a sought-after front patio for watching the Village people walk by.

Regularly ranked in the top 10 outstanding coffee places in the city, they opened a "coffee university" at their pro shop in West 21st Street in 2012.

141 Waverly Place (West Village). Also: 9 East 13th Street (East Village); 405 West 23rd Street (Chelsea); 514 Columbus Avenue (Upper West Side); 550 W120th Street, (Columbia University); 1045 Lexington Avenue (Upper East Side); 44 Grand Central Terminal.

NINTH STREET ESPRESSO

These guys are the coffee pioneers of Manhattan. Their original Alphabet City outpost has sat opposite one of the East Village's many community gardens since 2000 and the outside benches serve as the area's communal front stoop.

Don't expect to eat breakfast here - it's all about the coffee, which you order according to the number of ounces of steamed milk, from 3 to 12.

700 E9th Street (East Village). Also: 341 E10th Street (East Village); Chelsea Market 75 9th Ave (Chelsea); Lombardy Hotel 109 E56th Street (Midtown).

OSLO

The original Oslo opened in 2002 on the site of a former poultry slaughterhouse, overlooking a triangular area in Williamsburg that used to be a pick-up spot for prostitutes.

Don't let that put you off.

It's all in the past, and the present involves an inviting warehouse space with a big communal table at the front, smaller tables at the back and plenty of their own coffee blends - all named after Norse gods - going through a La Marzocco Strada.

133 Roebling Street (Williamsburg). Also: 382 Bedford Avenue (Williamsburg).

SMOOCH

Former Sydney photographer Brett Cochrane, who now goes by the single name Basquali, couldn't find a cafe to call his own when he moved to leafy Fort Greene in Brooklyn.

So in 2006 he opened Smooch, a laidback local hangout that introduced creamy organic flat whites to the area, along with dishes such as The Tamarama and The Artie Beetson Omelette, names that must make the locals scratch their heads.

264 Carlton Avenue (Fort Greene).

STUMPTOWN

Established in Portland, Oregon in 1999, these Pacific Northwest stalwarts made the trip to the east coast 10 years later, setting up shop at the front of the Ace Hotel.

You can take your coffee into the hotel lobby and drink it there.

I recommend you do.

It's an old-world space with marble columns, art-deco lampshades and plenty of plush armchairs and lounges.

The fact that Stumptown is one of the most respected roasters in the country adds to the experience.

18 W 29th Street (Midtown). Also: 30 W 8th Street (Greenwich Village).

THIRD RAIL

This Greenwich Village cubbyhole is a David compared with some of the Goliaths in the city, but it packs a serious punch and generates long queues.

They use Stumptown coffee and offer at least two different espresso blends each day, along with a single origin on their Chemex.

Third Rail recently opened a second shop in the East Village, so what they're doing is obviously addictive.

240 Sullivan Street (Greenwich Village). Also: 159 Second Avenue (East Village).

TOBY'S ESTATE

Yes, it's that Toby's Estate. Any New Yorker will tell you that we Australians are invading their city.

But by the look of the crowds that have been jamming into this cavernous Brooklyn warehouse space since early 2012, they're damned happy about it.

Sun streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows onto communal tables and lounges, with a cupping room, roastery and espresso lab out the back.

125 N6th Street

(Williamsburg).

The writer travelled as a guest of Brand USA.

- FFX Aus

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