High-end coffee retailer Blue Bottle Coffeemade headlines earlier this weekwhen it was reported the company had received $US25 million from several big-name tech investors and Morgan Stanley Investment Management.
The company, which operates 11 locations in New York City and California’s Bay Area, has become hugely popular with hipsters and techies from coast to coast. Vintage brewing machines and artisanal coffee are some of its major selling points, and lines are known to get long.
We paid a visit to the spacious Blue Bottle cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to see what the hype is all about.
And another one where the shop's hours are posted. The logo on a to-go cup part is of the company's cachet and a sure sign the drinker is 'in the know' about what's cool in the world of coffee.
The cafe is housed in an early 20th-century brick building that, according to Blue Bottle's site, was at different times used by glass blowers, metal smiths, and barrel makers.
Guests were sipping coffee and reading the newspaper at the counter when we visited in the late morning.
There's also seating against the front window, which is on a runner so it can open when the weather's warm.
There were a lot of people around, but the cafe was laid-back, and mellow music played over the speakers. We missed the morning rush, when lines can build up.
We snuck a peek at what was going on behind the counter. The company prides itself on unique brewing techniques, and the Williamsburg location uses a vintage Probat roaster, Kyoto-style iced coffee drippers, and a restored Faema Urania lever espresso machine.
Coffee isn't Blue Bottle's only product. You can buy granola in to-go bags or choose from the baked goods in this case behind the counter.
But there's also a lot of gourmet stuff to look at on the counter, including these Mast Brothers chocolate bars, also from Williamsburg.
Once customers have decided on an item, baristas place their order on this iPad. Customers sign with your finger.
To start, we decided to try the New Orleans iced coffee and the Buckwheat Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich.
The biscuit was one of the best coffee-shop pastries we've had, a savory combination of sweet and salty flavours.
Next we decided to try some espresso (left) and drip coffee (right). Helpful labelling on each package of coffee lets you know what kind of beans are inside, including where they're from and whether they're Fair-Trade certified.
The barista told us that this coffee, which also came from Ethiopia, would best be enjoyed black. It came served hot in a glass mug and had a light floral taste, almost like a tea.
These funky-looking machines are actually slow cold-drip coffee makers from a Japanese company called Oji. They're used to make Blue Bottle's Kyoto iced coffee.
The five globes and filters are situated among a collection of coffee knick-knacks opposite the counter where we ordered.
Sacks of coffee beans sit on shelves in the back. The staff explained that they roast small batches at a time, equivalent to about half of one of these bags.
Every day, they process the beans on this vintage Probat roaster, a very precise procedure that requires a lot of concentration. Beans are served within 48 hours of roasting, which guarantees their freshness.
Small, simple signs with faux handwritten font prohibit smoking in the cafe (and offer a number if you're looking to quit).
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