Inside Brooklyn’s Bean Belt

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An unknown author once said, “Man does not live by coffee alone.” I wholeheartedly agree given the surrounding neighborhoods of Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Prospect Heights. Man – and woman – also need the coffee shop, a modern mecca of communal interaction defining our cupping palate and social character. So, if your coffee shop had a personality, what would it reveal about you? Here’s a ‘round-the-borough profile of coffee shop spaces that remind us of the commonly known “big five” personality traits and, by extension, our varied character identities.

1) Trait: Conscientious | Type: Conscious Consumer

Café Grumpy's

Café Grumpy's

Park Slope: Café Grumpy’s
From its minimalist approach in décor and design – one communal table, a few bar seats and an outdoor bench – to its direct seasonal coffee menu, Grumpy’s caters to the knowledgeable drinker who is a crop-to-cup connoisseur. While the café might have a justifiable attitude when it comes to how it serves its self-roasted coffee selections – i.e. no espresso over iced, one-size flat whites, the proper rule-of-third ratio for a cappuccino – one can appreciate its keen interest in providing a worldly selection of cautiously crafted varietals of coffee in their intended form. Grumpy’s is equally serious about the origins and social issues of their beans as an agricultural product. While it might be one of the more expensive cups of coffee you’ll purchase in the Slope, its coffee-with-a-cause ideology is worth supporting with a smile.

Breukelen

Breukelen

Prospect Heights: Breukelen
Breukelen pays homage to the original spelling of the borough’s name, provided by Dutch settlers in the 17th century.  While it supports local roasters like Stumptown as well as community artists, the shop’s limited space is known for cleanliness, down-to-earth owners and neighborly coffee consumers in and out of the Heights. Noticeably, Breukelen is one of the few coffee spots to have an exhaustive list of alternative milk options for those with a wider drinking repertoire and a menu of vegan edibles. It stands in good company with neighbors Glass Shop and Sit and Wonder, but be assured Breukelen has an identity of its own, commanding respect for its attention to the simpler yet important non-dairy things in life.

2) Trait: Neurotic | Type: Crazy, Sexy, Cool

Glass Shop

Glass Shop

Prospect Heights: Glass Shop
On the one hand, it might seem out of the American ordinary, even a little insane, for this Australian-inspired spot by neighborhood guy Francesco Ison to serve coffee in glasses and pull shots of non-drip coffee by default. On the other hand, Glass Shop’s transparent space, haphazard décor (mainly culled from curbsides) and wild garden is infectious and doesn’t underwhelm. These disparate elements draw a diverse crowd not easily pigeonholed. “Glass Shop is like coming to a hang out joint where you’re expected to occasionally make coffee.,” says barista Maricia Duplessis. “Baristas are the engine of a coffee shop without us a coffee shop wouldn’t function.” Expect Philadelphia’s La Colombe for drip and espresso and a short sheet of Aussie drinks including a 2 oz. short black, a 6 oz. flat white and an 8 oz. long black. “Here, there are all the necessary components that make for a great life: coffee, company and people all mixed together,” says Duplessis.

Café Martin

Café Martin

Park Slope: Café Martin
Not even a year old and Café Martin is making an impression in the coffee community. This is due to owner-brothers Richard and Martin O’Connell venturing out on their own. You might call Martin, a skilled neighborhood barista, crazy for being the coffee wonder behind his namesake or confidently sexy for pulling off another great spot among a string of equally great cafés in the area. And if smart design is a prerequisite for enjoying coffee, then consider this spot a self-promotion in Euro-cool. Its high ceilings and suspended lights create a sense of airiness that is a respite from the oft tiny spaces that Brooklyners find themselves in. You’ll relish the multiple mirrors interspersed with art along the wall as a nice diversion for daydreaming. Ask anyone and they’ll recommend Martin’s equal parts cappuccino with an emphasis on cream as being unlike any other. He also walks confidently to the beat of his own drum, passing up known favorites like Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Counter Culture for a brand of Arabica up north. While Martin might be the known consistent staple here for now, the other developing variables in the months to come will make for an adventurous visit.

3) Trait: Openness | Type: Free Spirit

Park Slope: Roots Café
While the apparent low lighting contributes to its mellow vibe, it is touches of hands-on elements – worn-in couches and liberal choice of Stumptown coffee – that make the Roots Café quite the contrary. The space is infused with a combination of owner Jamey Hamm’s Alabama hometown charm and a Brooklyn neighborhood energy that creates a vibrant experience for each visitor. “It’s not about being part of ‘the scene’ … I want Roots to be a place where people feel that we’re all family,” says Hamm. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a daily regular or a one-timer, we want you to feel like you matter.” This explains why its unpretentious environment is intentionally communal and why you’ll often find folks crammed inside for local art and live music. A visit here for whichever part of their motto – coffee, community and culture – will surely put you in touch with more. It will connect you to the root of you – your soul.

Prospect Heights: Sit and Wonder
Gemma and Lucien Redwood made sure the name of their coffee shop also embodied their community ethos. Sit and Wonder was constructed so that customers will temporarily lose track of time and purpose. “We are free spirits ourselves and we didn’t want to be absent owners. Our coffee is for everyone and we want people to gather, to people watch, to feel happy and important,” says Gemma, who credits growing up in France as a major inspiration. Indeed, it is easy to just “sit and wonder” in a horizontal space with lines that lead you to circular tables, wrought iron cushioned seats, street-facing stools and reclining chairs. Here, your activity is as exposed as the brick walls, and it feels liberating. Once settled, there’s Hair Bender Stumptown for espresso, a rotating single origin drip to sip and always Holler Mountain. With a rotation of 6-7 beans during the week and bi-weekly deliveries, there’s no doubt about the Redwoods’ emphasis on quality coffee. If you’re used to grabbing your cup of joe on the go this will easily free you of the habit.

4) Trait: Agreeable | Type: Laidback, People Person

Windsor Terrace: Southside Coffee
Joshua Siddis and his partner Ben Jones are neighborhood staples who aren’t looking to impress you with the frills of fancy furniture, elaborate interior design or high-end machinery. Rather, the founding ambition of their little-coffee-shop-that-could is to woo your drinking sense with, “quality coffee and a sense of community,” according to Siddis. It’s not uncommon to see both partners pulling shots, doing an occasional pour-over or steaming organic milk alongside their long time friend and barista Amanda. The seating at Southside Coffee is diverse – window seats, outdoor benches, Lay-Z-Boys, couches, work tables and regular chairs, but so is the roster of high pedigree coffee from around the country – Intelligentsia (Chicago), Counter Culture (North Carolina), and PT’s (Topeka, Kansas). “You can have the best beans and machines but it also has to be in the right hands,” says Siddis. “We’re all here because we care a lot about what we do.” These factors combined are why Southside isn’t a destination coffee shop; it’s the people’s spot.

Red Horse Café

Red Horse Café

Park Slope: Red Horse Café
Upon entering you’ll feel like a regular even if it’s your first visit. Owners Brent and Carolina have created an everybody-knows-your-name-and-drink feel to the Red Horse Café. There’s an expansive coffee bar with everything you want on the menu – beer, wine, edibles and, of course, coffee in all its traditional sizes. If you’re staying, you can opt for a seat with a view from their lookout windows. The flood of natural sunlight a is highlight of being indoors. The walled art consistently beckons your eyes and incites conversation. During the day there’s sufficient quiet and calm for day workers. Chatter picks up in the mid-afternoon as does the social component. By evening, dimmable incandescent bulbs set the scene for intense lounging until its closing time. No matter the time of the day, there’s always room for intimate exchange, like an eclectic indie music playlist and an on-duty barista who usually excels in latte art. What better reason to sit back and enjoy it all.

5) Trait: Extrovert | Type: Social Butterfly

Tea Lounge

Tea Lounge

Park Slope: Tea Lounge
One of the longest running coffee shops in the Slope, the Tea Lounge wants your company by any means necessary. Luckily, it caters to everyone. There’s the mommy-and-me crowd, day workers, and students. Later you will find night owls with an arsenal of goods, games and alcoholic amenities. “I try to focus on the community and make the atmosphere and environment accessible,” says owner Jonathan Spiel. The Lounge’s coffee-sphere includes everything from live music, vintage videogames, beer, wine, more than 60 teas, smoothies, edibles and weekly bean deliveries from a micro-roaster in Maine. How is there room for all this? Tea Lounge is essentially a big living room. Plus electrcial outlets and free wi-fi can power up to 60 laptops. Tea Lounge offers up to 200 drinks including a signature Shot Chocolate and provide a space well into the night. It’s easy to love Tea Lounge for what it does best: being a social hub for the Slope.

Park Slope: Postmark
Postmark is not for tourists. And when it comes to baristas, it’s like a co-op of coffee shops: Postmark is famously run by outgoing volunteers from the Church of Park Slope. The happy medium of this altruistic space is that it’s equal parts community haven and coffee lounge. Don’t be taken aback if you find yourself being the only coffee consumer in the room (a rarity in Park Slope) or if you wind up amidst a group of activity seekers after 9 p.m. (also a rarity). Nonetheless, your experience will be a welcomed respite from a harried New York day. While tucked away off 5th Avenue path, there’s enough individualized attention at Postmark where you’ll feel like someone actually notices you. Now the name makes sense: Postmark will leave a stamp on your palate – and your heart.

Whether we’re a regular to one of the above establishments or a frequent visitor to a few, the plethora of locally diverse coffee-holes will surely nurture character and community – the heart of our neighborhoods.

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2 Comments

  1. Ishmeail Edwards on

    Good information, Building up community Relationships, It would be good to Link yourself to customer we read this and visit these shops. It would be good to let the shop know when someone visit there place and mention this there first taste is discounted. Also it would be good for those who read and like your journal contact you to do there freelance preview of there shop in the hood. Also you could leave the web site so others can review.from International scene. My thought

  2. Cassiamelle Edwards on

    Right on! I never thought about linking our choice in coffee shop with our personality. But, considering it, I usually choose to go into a shop that has a style or feel that reflects my tastes. Good information as well. Its nice to know what type of atmosphere you are going to encounter before going in to a coffee shop. I look forward to the next article.