smdlr x cCNYC

The Experience

The scene is quite monochromatic. Located at the pop-up @AStartUpStore in Chelsea, its a white walled space with the black branding accents of @coffeecommon throughout. Punctuating colors came from the wood trimmings of coffee vessels, stainless steel kettles and scales and the fashion of baristas wearing pungent colors like red and yellow.

Upon entering, the greeting desk informs that your $5 entry price is for “a coffee experience.” I happily went along with the premise because after all, isn’t that what us coffee drinking consumers want? I gladly extended my bill over the multi-rows of ceramic mugs that signaled my time was about to get personal. For @coffeecommon to decide to choose for every person to sip& and taste& from a non-disposable ceramic vessel felt like the intent was for this to have more than a transitory impression.

The setup offers three bars within the space. I like how each bar allows you to interact with the process designed at its station without being interfered by the activity of the other bars. The space has a smart and succinct flow from one bar to another, intermingled with product placement of  supporting sponsors (Brevile, Google +) coffee equipment  and the events featured independent roasters from locales  like San Francisco (Ritual), Portland (Heart), Chicago (Intelligentsia), North Carolina (Counter Culture) and New York via Ithaca (Gimme). Despite the who’s who of coffee labels and cameos from baristas in the industry, the vibe is communal inciting engagement without pretension.  And, that is the kind of culture smdlr supports.

The Coffee

My first experience began with hailing my proper ceramic vessel to the tasting bar where I met up with YeeKai Lim of @cogcoffee. There I started off with a brew& of @intelligentsia (Bolivia) whose dominant note was like a milk chocolate. Then I moved to @jparkbrannen, recently of @cafegrumpy and upcoming at @handsomeroasters in N.Y.  I started with Gimme Coffee’s “El Sauce” from Honduras. It took a couple sips& for me to determine what I tasted – it was like a ripened tomato, sweet with pinches of acidity. Now, I’m not an official at any of this, but if there’s one thing that I learned on my trip to Portland, it’s that when I cup, to then attempt to articulate what it is I’m experiencing. Little did I know the behatted guy that said “I can see that,” in agreement with me, was one of the Sam’s from Everyman New York. Can we talk about a little #swoon here?

I return back to YeeKai for the @ritualcoffee La Esperanza (Columbia).  I wonder where exactly this harvest& region is, it tasted like the rind of an orange – not fully zesty but with enough kick to know what to associate the taste to, it was my favorite note from this bar.

Methods Bar

Up first was Heart Coffee Roasters Puerta Verde on the Woodneck with a cloth filter. This was my first time experiencing coffee with this method, so I approached the process with an open palate. Cora Lambert of RBCNYC was doing the demonstration. I really warmed to how she treated it as a scientific process and educated us viewers each step along the way from grind& to pour.There were three specific pours which included time for blooms and brief pauses. Soon, I was jotting notes on my blackberry on grams of coffee, to grams of water applied, to coffee and agitation times. I’m far from being a scientist but I appreciate that there is a method to the coffee madness, so to speak.

While there, a demonstration was done on the AeroPress, which I have at home. Gimme’s “El Sauce” was used. The first demo was with the assistance of the accoutrements of scales and timers. The other was done on the fly at the request of a viewer to see if it really mattered to have these tools. One can suppose a good cup of coffee can be achieved on the fly but my taste buds decided differently.   I tasted “El Sauce” earlier on pourover, and while the aeropress is a different  process  – immersion brewing –  the pleasing ripened tomato note from earlier, turned into a tart exit as the coffee went down. While the difference was recognizable only in the finish, it was perceived.

The Ingredients Bar

I intentionally saved this bar for last. I wasn’t excited about having whole milk – which I already don’t drink –  being added to my milk. Yet, I went along for the experience. At first sip& of the commodity coffee, I tasted no discernible flavor.  When the milk and sugar were added it didn’t add anything to the coffee but the taste of the milk. I admit that I am partial to Heart, after visiting it in Portland; I was excited to have some fresh ounces of it in my cup.  Once I did, I sipped& back- to-back trying to give words to what I was discovering. And while, I wasn’t able to articulate just yet what I liked about it, when the milk and sugar was added I felt like I tasted lemon in my coffee.   The barista – who I soon learned was the #ErinMeister – explained that adding milk to coffee can accentuate its natural acidity, creating the taste of lemon squeezed into milk. Let’s just say, I’m not a fan of how those ingredients affected either coffee.  This forwarded the discussion of how do I experience coffee at its best if I like a soy latte or a flat rate. I learned that these in themselves are a different experience, than say what a pour over cup or an espresso yields. The goal is to discover& what you enjoy and to enjoy the experience.

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