Coffee Beans in Manhattan
I'm not a coffee drinker, but I'm looking to get some good coffee as a Christmas gift. I would prefer to stick to places in Manhattan.
Are there any recommendations on places to go and what to get? Should I get the beans or ask to be grinded?
Thanks in advance!
Please buy whole beans! Ground beans have a much much shorter shelf life. If your coffee drinker is serious about coffee, they'll have their own grinder at home. It also depends whether they drink drip coffee or espresso at home. Some beans are best for espresso.
Time, air, humidity, and temperature are all enemies of coffee. You didn't say when you were buying and when you were planning on giving the gift. A lot of NYC coffee shops have special blend that they source from elsewhere and get them roasted and then shipped to NYC. So they may not be as fresh as beans that were roasted locally. But some spots in NYC do roast their own: Cafe Grumpy, for instance, roasts their own for some blends. And we now have Stumptown roasting their own beans in Brooklyn (they're originally from Portland).
Also, it depends where your gift recipient is from and gets their beans from. I wouldn't buy Stumptown beans, for example, for someone who lives in Portland, or La Colombe for someone who lives in Philly, etc.
Make sure your giftee has a coffee grinder, please. There's nothing more frustrating than being given a bag of beans and having nowhere to grind it. Guaranteed to be a regift.
That said, I'm partial to French Roast from a local commercial roaster called White House which is in Brooklyn. Several specialty/gourmet shops carry it. I shop at Nicola's on 1st between 54th & 55th. Since I like strongish (not burnt) coffee, I go for the French Roast. If I serve decaf French Roast, no one even suspects it's decaf.
Definitely check out Stumptown. I love their Hairbender blend for drip and espresso. I would be sure to buy it as close to giving time as possible. Fresh roasted coffee is a totally different experience from coffee that's been sitting around.
La Colombe (locations in Tribeca and Soho). The most important thing is that the beans be fresh. Mediocre fresh beans, I have found, often best top quality beans that are old.
What about McNulty's on Christopher Street? They're definitely of the old-school-New-York variety -- they've been around since 1895. They're incredibly helpful in selecting a blend from the the variety of beans they have. Even their (gasp) decaf varieties are pretty good.
Having said that, I've heard good things about Stumptown. Mud Coffee is also a perennial favorite in the East Village.
McNulty's Tea & Coffee
109 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014
18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001