Will Blue Bottle Make New York a Coffee Town?

Photo: Courtesy of Blue Bottle Coffee

As you surely know, Blue Bottle Coffee, the Bay Area outfit with a cult following, opened its doors in Williamsburg on Wednesday. James Freeman, Blue Bottles founder, was inside the airy, minimalist space overseeing the launch. Its incredibly stressful opening a place in New York, he told us, so its good to see that people are showing up. Among the attendees were a mother and her toddler. This is how they make iced coffee! the mother whispered in her tykes ear, pointing at the shops most theatrical coffee-making gadget: the five Japanese slow-drip devices that line the shops rear wall. And see back there? she continued, gesturing toward the roped-off area in the rear of the place. Thats where they roast their beans. The baby yawned.

Beverage production at Blue Bottle is a complex process. On weekends, for instance, the shop will offer customers something called nel drip coffee, which is filtered through Japanese flannel. And even a cup of basic drip coffee takes five minutes to produce, because the beans are individually ground and (individually) filtered with the help of a swan neck kettle.

Is the elaborate process just a way for Freeman to show up his artisanal-coffee competitors, like Caf Grumpy and Abrao? Freeman actually sees himself as part of a united front against blander options like Starbucks. When Im in New York, I stay at the Ace Hotel so I can have Stumptown in the morning, he told us. And you know what excites me? When I see a line of twenty people there, and then go around the corner and see five people at Dunkin Donuts. Being part of that shift thats really what this is all about. At just that moment, Freeman was greeted by Oren Bloostein, the founder of Orens Daily Roast, who had stopped by to congratulate him.

Later, we called Matt Lounsbury, the director of operations at Stumptown, to see how he felt about Blue Bottles arrival in New York. Maybe its a West Coast thing, he told us, but were not competitive the way you guys are. New York is a huge city, and its kind of ridiculous that its been so hard to get good coffee until recently. Were a fan of anyone who wants to help out. Could all this caffeine be making the coffee-making vanguard more mellow?

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