GREENPOINTERS ESPRESSO TOUR RESULTS!
An excellent espresso is a cafe’s best business card. On Sunday October 2, 2011, Rebecca from I love Greenpoint, Mike & Charlie from Brooklynauts and I tasted a total of 19 espressos from every cafe* in Greenpoint in order to determine the champion of the Greenpointers 2011 Espresso Tour. The density of outstanding espressos in this neighborhood was impressive and made the tour difficult to judge, but we have a winner!
Each cafe was notified and generously donated 3 espressos. We judged using the following score sheet adapted from the World Barista Championship:
TASTE EVALUATION OF ESPRESSO:
• COLOR OF CREMA (hazelnut, dark brown, reddish reflection) 0/10 ___
• CONSISTENCY & PERSISTENCE OF CREMA* 0/10 ___
• TASTE BALANCE (harmonious balance of sweet/acidic/bitter) 0/10 ___
• TACTILE BALANCE (full bodied, round, smooth) 0/10 ___
• TEMPERATURE** (hot but not too hot to drink) 0/10 ___
• CORRECT ESPRESSO CUPS USED (60-90mL w/handle) YES/NO
• SERVED WITH ACCESSORIES (spoon, napkin & water) YES/NO
After judges’ individual scores were added, the highest possible score was 156. Results ranged between 97-142. (Only the top 3 scores are revealed.)
*We were unable to contact Ashbox and the cafe was closed on Sunday.
2011 GREENPOINTERS ESPRESSO TOUR RESULTS
*** 1st Place: Cup on Norman ***
Top Score: 142
2nd Place: Upright ( Score: 139)
Best on Franklin St: Veronica People’s Club
Best on Manhattan Ave: Upright
Best near McGolrick Park: Variety
Best Overall Experience: Veronica People’s Club
Best Coffee Bar: Troost
Best Presentation: Le Gamin & Cafecito Bogota
Hottest Barista: Janna at Van Leeuwen
Best Team: Cookie Road
Most Unassuming: Garden Spot Cafe
Most Charming: Milk & Roses
Best Value: Royal & VPC ($2)
Congratulations to CUP, the 2011 Greenpointers Espresso Tour Champion!
THE WHOLE STORY:
I have been dreaming about this day for a while. I LOVE ESPRESSO! I am not an expert (how that’s defined I don’t know) but I do know what I like and I am a harsh critic. The day began when I met my fellow judges at Royal, the cafe where I usually take my morning espresso. There are a few reasons for this: its only $2, its a good shot, its close to my place and I love my girls. Recognizing this may be to their advantage, it was our first stop. Samantha and Christy gave us a huge welcome when we arrived and cheered us on as we left. I felt like we were about to run a marathon.
Everyone in our crew had great attitudes, “There’s nothing I better on a Sunday than getting strung out,” Mike said. That’s the spirit! I know the Brooklynauts from Ugly Art Room’s Balls Out Competition (Mike and Charlies are rad dudes with great balls!) But it was my first time meeting Rebecca and I’m so happy I invited her. Her hilarious zingers didn’t stop the entire day. The worry on her face when she first asked in her British accent, “No one has ever actually died from too much caffeine, right?” was priceless. The answer is NO… I think.
Along the way we learned a few secrets to counteract caffeine’s jittery effects: 1. WATER 2. BANANAS 3. COCONUT WATER. Water is obvious but bananas and coconut water both pack potassium. We took tastes of each one, but we drank the equivalent of 10 espressos in 5 hours. The more my teeth chattered and the less sense my sentences made, the more I said, “this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” I was anticipating major gastrointestinal disturbances. As Rebecca put it, “Coffee makes me shit!” Luckily things remained normal in that department. Whatever it was going to take, we were ready!
We biked from cafe to cafe and made a lot of friends along the way; it was the perfect brisk and sunny fall day. By our 7th espresso Charlie was literally zipping back and forth down the blocks. Mike had a permanent surprised look on his face. And Rebecca and I were giggling fools. By Franklin St we felt like super heros. “When I get home, I’m going to clean my whole house!” I said. “When I get home, I’m going to write a whole book … on coffee!” Rebecca said as we sped down the block.
Scoring was difficult, especially at first with no point of reference. I wondered whether our senses would be dulled, but our taste buds grew more acute as the day went on and it was easier for us to discern good from just okay. The best espressos made us light up when we tasted them, and say, “hmmmmmm!!!” and those were the ones we had a hard time NOT finishing.
We are lucky to be Greenpointers. Our cafes make mean espressos. Two things that didn’t vary much were crema, most places had their crema down with nice color and good consistency. Many pull a “too long” espresso for me, my biggest complaint. When its way too long its espresso soup. Luckily we only had a few of those. The ultimate offense is the to-go cup. It takes 30 sec. to drink an espresso, why do you need to take it with you? The to-go cup is espresso death. Only 2-3 places out of the 19 had to-go cups and were forgettable, but they weren’t absolutely undrinkable. To those Rebecca said: “Inject it, don’t taste it.”
Most places were ready for us. At Cookie Road, Aneta and Jerzy were called downstairs and tag teamed our espressos with such care and attention. They are the cutest espresso making couple in Greenpoint.
Alexander from Le Gamin delivered our espressos on a silver platter! “I expect nothing less from the French,” Rebecca said.
And brothers’ Fernando and Oscar from Cafecito Bogota, aside from being the two nicest guys around, served our water in fancy wine glasses and adorned our plates with espresso beans. Nice touch! “He takes care of the technical part, I take care of the art.” Fernando said.
We loved our 2nd Place winner Upright’s double walled glasses that kept our espressos warm and our hands cool. Up until recently I never even knew this gem existed. Its a small, quick in-and-out shop, with great service and a damn delicious espresso. Beth pulled a near perfect shot (they use Brooklyn Roasting Co. beans) with a gorgeous crema, a nice sweet and not too bitter flavor, which was short enough for me.
The type of coffee and machines varied widely, and it was interesting to compare places that used the same beans but pulled completely different quality espressos. For example, Van Leeuwen and Veronica People’s Club both use Intelligensia’s Black Cat but we noted that the tastes were quite varied.
We judged ONLY on taste, but it doesn’t hurt to have a cute barista. The hottest and sweetest Barista was Janna from Van Leeuwen. She did a practice run to get the machine right then sat and chatted with us, recommending the bananas. While discussing who’s the hottest, I kept whining, “But what about Orion from CUP?” Rebecca looked at me and said, “Its the cutest one, Jen, not the one you want to shag the most.” Good point Rebecca!
While most of us take our espressos in about two seconds and run out the door, its important to note the overall experience. Veronica People’s Club took the cake here. If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to lock your bike they have a convenient window. But inside is nice and dark, great if you’re hungover or in last night’s clothes on a walk of shame home. Plus their music is always rockin’. I remember R. Kelly playing one morning. Major points.
Milk n’ Roses is the most charming cafe, with its cozy library and grand piano. Plus Tommaso is hilarious. “Hello, Ms. Galatioto,” he greeted me, perfectly pronouncing my difficult last name in his Italian accent. Then he said to Rebecca “I cannot believe I am getting judge by a Brit!”
Troost, the new place that just opened on Manhattan is gorgeously designed with the nicest coffee bar in the neighborhood, plus an awesome backyard. Its the kind of place you don’t want to leave owners and John and Jamie are really friendly.
Garden Spot was the most unassuming location for a really good shot.
We chose to end end our tour at Grumpy, who uses their own roasted Heartbreaker blend. As one of the most esteemed coffee shops in the city, it tied third with Champion (who brews with Oslo coffee.) Both cafes pulled stellar shots, well rounded, great flavor, short and good temperatures.
By then we were quite disheveled, our eyes were bulging. Charlie was so shaky he had to set his cup down. Peter (Grumpy’s hot barista) was very encouraging: “I know how it is to have that many coffees, it tough, but you will be okay.” We felt assurance in that he was alive.
It was quite relieving to be over it all. “I feel like we really accomplished something!” I said. Dehydrated, exhausted and “cracked out,” we decided to reward ourselves with burgers and cocktails at 5 Leaves. Let the scoring begin!
We worried there might be a tie, but after all the calculating, CUP came out on top. Barista Orion had the best smile, he was friendly but quick, he paid attention to every detail and took the time, even though they were slammed, to explain the espresso beans are Single Origin Brazilian Daterra “Sweet Blue” roasted in Rockland County by Plowshares. Daterra, Orion explained, is a portmanteau for, “From the Earth.” CUP is the only cafe to use this coffee variety in Greenpoint, which is specifically roasted for them and Orion was the only barista to win the two extra points by including, not only the regulation cup, water and a spoon, but also a napkin. CUP did their homework and it paid off. It was espresso flavor harmony in our mouths. The taste was superb, smooth, rich, well rounded, not too bitter, slightly sweet, the perfect temperature and not too long! We all had a hard time NOT finishing this winning shot.
Congratulations CUP on winning the 2011 Greenpointers Espresso Tour! Excellent espresso and unbeatable skills Orion!
Thanks to all the cafes for participating, donating espressos, and taking such pride in your craft. Thank Rebecca, Mike & Charles for agreeing to this insane adventure. It was a great day and I am happy we have an entire year before we have to do it all over again!
I’m usually in bed by midnight; I am posting this at 4am…