Espresso Train : Box Kite

Location: 115 St Marks Place (btwn 1st Avenue & Avenue A).

Lower East Side is full of really good places to grab a cup of coffee, and Box Kite is no exception. Right next to Tompkins Square Park,  I was greeted with some extremely knowledgeable and friendly baristas, delightfully smooth lattes, and a sign claiming that their food was prepared by a two-headed half-shark half-octopus. How could I refuse?

It's a little compact, to be sure, but there's more than enough space for a tiny kitchen overlapping onto a bar overlapping onto a pile of records overlapping onto a pastry case.
It’s a little compact, to be sure, but there’s more than enough space for a tiny kitchen overlapping onto a bar overlapping onto a pile of records overlapping onto a pastry case.

I was actually referred to Box Kite by one of the people running  Everyman Espresso further downtown, who highly endorsed both Cora Lambert, the store’s proprietor, as well as her selection of espresso and coffee beans in their drinks. Their usage of Madcap and Ritual Coffee Roasters (based out of Michigan and San Francisco, respectively) seem to be pretty unique if unusual choices, given how saturated the roasting community is in New York City; however, the baristas here definitely know their product inside and out and are able to deliver a quality cup, no matter what you ask for.

Also, there are some totally sweet wood details on a custom-made espresso machine.
Also, there are some totally sweet wood details on a custom-made espresso machine.

When a person talks about their craft with a passion, no matter what it may be, you feel an energy that really speaks volumes about the quality of the product they are creating.

It never ceases to amaze me how much of an effect a knowledgeable barista has on one’s overall impression of a café as a whole. When you have a conversation with a person who talks about their craft with a passion, no matter what it may be, you feel an energy in the place that really speaks volumes about the quality of the product they are creating. This mentality has been steadily on the rise in the many espresso places around New York, and everyone gains from it.

One of the people working at Box Kite attributed this change in mentality to the advent of the Third Wave of Coffee, which marked the evolution of coffee from a commodity product to a smaller-scale, artisinal product (compared to post-WW2 industrial Folgers cans or the largely homogenized, mega-corporate Starbucks-style chains of the 90’s). The finer nuances and subtleties of coffee that were discarded in favor of a consistent product  in the past are being re-explored, and people are willing to invest much more time and energy in all stages of production from farm to cup in order to make that happen.  It’s really pretty amazing.

So while on a superficial level, a cup of coffee may seem pretty similar from one to the next, there’s really a lot of personal thought that went into its creation. Bringing it closer to the art side of the equation instead of the engineering. Whole dimensions of flavor and textures to considered before deciding what a given café will deliver to their customers.

At the end of the day, I’m just a random person getting a caffeine fix in lots of different places. I’m sure there are tons of aspects in my beverages that I’m missing. Let’s hope that I’ll be able to better appreciate what I’m drinking as I continue going to more places.

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