Coffee is awesome. Not just as a life-sustaining caffeine source – though that’s certainly a major contributor – but also as a culmination of several aspects of my life into one neat, delicious package. The production of a really good cup of coffee shows a mastery of some really fundamental engineering principles: controlled extractions via extremely specific temperature and pressure conditions, batch roasting processes that determine the ultimate terminating flavor profile, the list goes on and on.
The production of a really good cup of coffee shows a mastery of some really fundamental engineering principles.
At the same time, the determination of what makes a given cup of coffee satisfactory to serve is up to the person creating it. That means that there are as many ‘correct’ cups of coffee as there are people making them, and it leads to a wide variety of different takes on what is, at first glance, the same drink. To explore that diversity, I’ve taken a habit of wandering around NYC in the mornings before going to lab, going into any new espresso places I happen upon; I’ve met all sorts of really interesting people in that process, each with their own little spin on a fantastic, caffeine-laden beverage.
Recently, there’s been a map of Manhattan’s best coffeehouses floating around the internet. While the comments on Reddit about this picture share many of the sentiments that I have about the map as a whole, looking it over I had a few knee-jerk responses of my own:
- Some of the places on this map aren’t really coffeehouses, per se; while Pie Face does have some really delicious food, its main good is (as the name might imply) its pies and not so much its coffee.
- This map plays pretty fast and loose with the correlation of these coffeehouses to their respective subway stops.
- The map actively avoids using duplicates of the same coffeehouse, if they have multiple locations. That’s kind of disappointing as some of the branches that were missed are in many ways better options than the ones selected.
- I’m really happy to see that R&R Coffee is still on the map as they opened up RIGHT before Hurricane Sandy trashed their entire area a few years ago and I hadn’t had a chance to go back since.
- While not really a coffeehouse, I find it hilarious that New Kam Hing, a Chinatown bakery that my family’s been going to since pretty much forever, made it onto this thing.
- Up in Harlem: Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. I guess there isn’t really much of a non-mega-chain coffee scene in that area. But that’s okay, too!
This all being said, I think that it’s really telling to see just how many different options are available to someone in Manhattan when he or she wants a good cup of coffee. And just as there are many people in New York passionate enough about coffee to open a venue devoted to it, the fact that there is enough demand to sustain all of these places is testament to how much everyone else loves themselves some lovingly-made, sweet, sweet (actually bitter) caffeine.
I’ll be posting about the coffee places that float around to on this blog every so often. We’ll see how it plays out.