New York

Reviews of coffee shops and roasters in New York.

Queen of the Hill: Time Tested Roasting Meets Ordering Online

Queen Bean Banner

My favorite part about reviewing coffee is coming into contact with family roasting companies that have been around for generations. When I’m able to review or buy coffee from a shop that has been around for decades, passing recipes and roasting techniques down as they go, I know I’m in for a treat. Mills Coffee is one such company, having been founded by Thomas Mills in 1860. The roasting company is currently being run by fourth and fifth generation Mills who recently launched TheQueenBean.com, their online retailer that sells their signature roasts and blends.

The Snapshot

After Thomas Mills emigrated to the United States in 1860 from Scotland he opened Mills Teas and Butter. Eventually he decided to expand to include his new favorite beverage: coffee. In the late 1800s Thomas began roasting his own beans, beginning a tradition that would continue for over a century. Today, Mills Coffee is run by Susan and her brother David. David took on the role of master roaster while Susan handles financial and creative dimensions of the company. Susan’s son Dave now works in the family business, being an all around go-to man and stepping in to roast when David is away. Her daughter Nicole handles online retail through their new website. Mills Coffee is a family company through-and-throug and they carefully select their coffees from high quality, sustainable, eco-friendly, socially-conscious environments. One of the places they get their beans is La Cotorra farm, located in a remote portion of the Dominican Republic. They helped La Cotorra get out of a tight financial spot, simultaneously contributing to the local DR community.

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David Mills visiting a farm in Costa Rica

Their online store is easy to navigate, with coffees in the $20/lb range (upwards with shipping). The “coffee 101” and “about” sections of their website are fine, though they don’t give nearly as much information as the handout they included with my coffee. Their story is fascinating to read, and I think it would benefit them greatly to include it on their website. Additionally, the art on their shopping portion of the website is a bit much and doesn’t tell me a lot about the coffee, besides the name. The rest of the website has a lighthearted yet still professional feel, while the art seemed to stick out as being not entirely cohesive with the rest of the site. Perhaps determining a consistent theme and then departing from that according to the specifics of each coffee would help. Ordering coffee is a breeze, though the descriptions of their roasts and blends are hit and miss. Some are great – offering flavor profiles and specifics about where the coffee was grown. Others are more general and could use some more details about what makes that coffee unique. I’m probably a bit oversensitive here: I really like to know what coffee I’m getting and where it came from. It could be that this simply isn’t as big of a deal to the average consumer. Overall, I’m excited that they decided to open up an online store this year, and I think Mills Coffee is taking steps in the right direction.

The Coffee

Mills Coffee sent me two coffees: their Dominican and El Salvador roasts. I ended up enjoying the Dominican more, but both brought interesting flavor profiles to the table.

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The Dominican is a lighter roast with strong, earthy notes and mild acidity. Brewing it in my v60 created an expected clean cup of coffee, and I found the aftertaste to be almost sweet. The flavor is strong and present throughout each sip, never wavering. It reminded me of a macadamia nut – smooth, yet bold all at once. It kept me coming back for more, and the steadiness of each cup increased my trust in this coffee.

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The El Salvador, conversely, is more citrusy/chocolatey in flavor. It reminded me almost of a chocolate covered peanut, which is welcome to be sure. My only qualm with this coffee was that each sip finished extremely dry. While it wasn’t inherently bad, I found myself desiring no more than one cup in a sitting, followed by a glass of water.

Final Thoughts

I absolutely recommend buying Mills Coffee. Their family origins and their passion to make a great product is evident. Their coffee is delicious, and their website is a very capable medium to purchase from. My experience with them has only been positive, and it is evident that they really do care about the quality of their roasts.

The Coffee Guy

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Mills Coffee Social Media Links:

Website: thequeenbean.com
Twitter: @QueenBeanCoffee
Facebook: Like their page

Bluebird Coffee Shop Review

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One of the perks to going to school an hour north of NYC is that I occasionally get to venture into the city for an adventure or two. The problem is that the barriers to entry are large – logistics of where to stay, how to save money, and who to hang out with have prevented me from getting into the city nearly as often as I’d like. Today is one of those opportunities I rarely have – a free evening in New York City with little on my plate, and a hankering for good coffee.

Bluebird LogoToday I find myself at Bluebird Coffee Shop in East Village, Manhattan. Good coffee has slowly been seeping into this turf – one that until recently has been heavily steeped in the likes of Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. In March of 2010 the NYT ran an article titled “New York Is Finally Taking Its Coffee Seriously” where it outlined some of the quality coffee that was only then starting to pierce the veil of commodity coffee. One of the coffee shops covered in that article is Bluebird Coffee Shop, where I just ordered a standard latte.

The Snapshot

Bluebird Coffee Shop is small, located on the corner of 1st Avenue and 1st Street in East Village. It has a bar that can be sat at from the inside or outside, and three small tables (they can fit your coffee or your laptop – not both). Half of the room is dedicated to the coffee bar and storage shelves in the back. They serve whatever is in season from Counter Culture, with several roasts for sale by the bag. Their menu is composed of espresso drinks and drip coffee. To my chagrin, no pour-overs are available. Still, the coffee is excellent, and the shots are pulled well. The environment is minimalist, the music is low but enchanting. It’s the type of place to stop while on your way elsewhere, not necessarily ideal to stop and smell the roses.

Since I’ve been sitting here, several locals have come in for an espresso shot and to discuss coffee with the barista. This is a place that depends on regulars.

The Coffee

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Lattes are hard to make poorly, but equally as hard to make excellent. I ordered one because, well, I felt like one. That being said, it was excellent. And I don’t use that term lightly. The barista frothed the milk to exactly the right consistency, and the shots were pulled without flaw. The latte art was impeccable (I had already taken a sip in the picture on the right) and from the conversations the barista was having with customers I could tell he loves his craft.

While it was hard to tell the specific notes of the espresso due to the creamy and delicious milk, I could tell that they had light, fruity tones to them. Definitely nice for a summertime latte. I just got into town, and it was exactly what I needed after a day of flights and time change.

 

Final Thoughts

Bluebird Coffee Shop is worth visiting if you can make the trek to East Village or if you live nearby. A few notes: they have a $10 minimum for card swipes, but gladly accept cash. They have bags of freshly roasted Counter Culture for sale, and they also sell KeepCups (which I can personally endorse having used one for months). Additionally, wifi is free, as is people watching!

 

The Coffee Guy

Find Bluebird Coffee Shop Online:
BluebirdCoffeeShop.com
Bluebird’s Facebook Page
@bbcsnyc
Instagram

Coffee Common at a Glance

It was such a joy spending yesterday at Coffee Common. Below is a slideshow and gallery of the rest of the pictures I took. Hopefully it gives you a better idea of what it was like! Check out Coffee Common’s Google+ page to see the “hangouts” or video discussions they’ve been hosting about coffee, and follow them on Twitter here.

The Coffee Guy

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