Like “Good” Government, “Good” Coffee, Categorized

As a semi-regular reader of The Awl, I am ashamed to have missed Matt Buchanan’s taxonomy of New York City’s “Good” Coffee shops from this past July. I didn’t find it until yesterday, after reading Buchanan’s more recent piece on how Good Coffee shops are “rediscovering” the gallon-at-a-time, drip coffee makers that you ordinarily find at bodegas, diners and McDonald’s. No wonder everyone hates us fussy coffee drinkers.

A Ton of Coffee, Literally

A Ton of Coffee, Literally

In his list of “Good” coffee shops, which he apparently updated in time for publishing the “by the gallon” article, Buchanan quips that as recently as seven years ago, there were “no coffee shops” in New York City until some refugees from the west coast arrived.

Having relocated to New York from California in 2001 likely explains why I was soooo late to the third-wave, single-origin craze that informs all of my public and private thoughts on coffee. And I can assure you, that getting good coffee in the early 2000s was next to impossible: Oren’s Daily Roast, Jack’s Stir Brew, and the flagship Joe’s Coffee on Waverly all kept us satiated until better beans arrived from California, Oregon, and Washington, by way of Central America and Africa.

The list is spot-on. I share Buchanan’s distrust of specific coffee shops that get lumped in with some actually good coffee places. Or, perhaps I can’t seriously regard trendy and perpetually crowded places, such as La Colombe, Think Coffee, the evil Blue Bottle, and the instantly everywhere chain The Bean. As a form of public validation, it was also nice to see some places near my stomping grounds rank high on his list: Joe’s Pro Shop and Third Rail are both in downtown Manhattan, and BÚÐIN, Sweetleaf, and Propellor are in my beloved Newton Creek neighborhoods.

Everyone who reads Buchanan’s list will undoubtedly note a glaring ommission, and, in that vein, I submit Rex on Tenth Avenue and 57th St as the only coffee place near Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle, and St. Luke’s–Roosevelt. The only alternatives are the seven Starbucks locations near there: 60th and Broadway, 59th and Columbus Ave, 58th St and 8th Ave, 57th and 8th Ave, 57th and 9th Ave, 57th and 10th Ave, and… who cares?

But a list of like this, of places where someone else brews and pours your coffee, is almost meaningless to a “True” Coffee Drinker. We all brew at home, anyway.

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