New York Coffee Festival: Takeaways (besides a caffeine high)

Like many coffee aficionados, my devotion began less as an expression of passion and more as a product of necessity. The world may run on fossil fuels, but people, well, they run on caffeine. The delivery method of choice comes in the form of seeds (commonly referred to as “beans”) from the coffea plant, a commodity so precious it is more valuable than oil. Add to that the third wave of coffee, an artisanal movement elevating this respectable staple to a gourmet foodstuff and a burgeoning national obsession (though we’re not quite to the level of Australians), and you have the groundwork for an event such the New York Coffee Festival.

Originally based on the popular programs in London and Amsterdam and now in its second year in New York City, the two-day festival is both an industry event as well as a celebration for coffee-loving enthusiasts. It boasts over 85 coffee, food and equipment suppliers, unlimited tastings, product demos, giveaways, interactive workshops and demonstrations, and live music.

What worked:

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC
Walter’s Coffee Roastery, the Breaking Bad-themed coffee shop, was Instagram gold

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC

Toby’s Estate had their signature Cold Brew as well as their new Black & White on tap for tastings

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC
Alpha Dominche, a brewing system that offers controls for time and temperature which allows customized extraction

As one would expect, the New York Coffee Festival afforded us the opportunity to speak to representatives of some of our favorite vendors, such as Toby’s Estate, Bluestone Lane, and Cafe Grumpy, as well as discover new vendors, such as Quills Coffee Roasters out of Louisville, Kentucky and Tom’s Lemon Coffee. Tastings were offered at everything turn, and we scored numerous sample bags of whole bean roasts to try out at home. Some established vendors took the opportunity to debut new concoctions, like Toby’s Black & White Cold Brew, which was deliciously rich and creamy. Festival-goers looking to equip a home brewing station could find options that ran the gamut. And all the while we were supporting a good cause: 50% of tickets sales from the New York Coffee Festival are donated to Project Waterfall, a New York-based charity supporting clean water access projects in coffee-producing communities.

What didn’t:

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC
Pardon our *ahem* glow

There were some serious air conditioning issues, which should have been an obvious priority with a number of coffee vendors actually brewing coffee. Latte art workshops were available for wannabe baristas, but didn’t really impart any skills: it was mostly a seasoned hand guiding yours. And lastly, two simple words (borrowed from Anothony Bourdain): judgmental baristas.

This year’s New York Coffee Festival took place in the 69th Regiment Armory. Even though the event organizers struggled with the temperature of the event space (indeed, it was very nearly a sauna during our visit), we found the event charming and educational overall.  So mark your calendars with over-caffeinated, feverish anticipation: the next one is sure to be even bigger and better. Hopefully, we’ll see you there.

Pair it with:

Pastries from Sans Bakery

New York Coffee Festival - Mad Hatters NYC

Sure, Lynn and I like to indulge when we eat, but we occasionally attempt to balance that with something a little more healthy. In many cases, that’s reason enough. But we also have friends and family who have dietary requirements. I like to try vegetarian and vegan foods, because if my brother and his fiancee visit, I want to know the absolute best places to take them. And we’ve had some incredible luck on that front.

Similarly, we’ve tried gluten-free foods, but to put it mildly, success has been elusive. Enter Sans Bakery, the near solitary light breaking through a nearly impenetrable bank of clouds. Erica Fair, the proprietor of Sans Bakery, learned that she suffers from a wheat allergy. It was, I’m sure, an unpleasant discovery. But even more unpleasant, I’d venture to guess, was the discovery that most of the gluten-free baked goods available were atrocious. Lucky for all of us (and especially those with wheat allergies), Erica decided to create her own brownies, cookies, and sweet breads.

You can find an assortment of Sans’ products at numerous restaurants, coffee shops and cafes. A few of our favorites — where you can pair your eats with incredible coffee — are Cafe Grumpy, Bluestone Lane and Think Coffee. We highly recommend their banana bread, in our humble opinion one of the best in the city, gluten-free or otherwise.

– J.

6 thoughts on “New York Coffee Festival: Takeaways (besides a caffeine high)”

  1. Hey! Thanks for leading me here…you do a terrific job. I too am a coffee addict; when I return to the city for a visit, at the top of my list, along with seeing art, is revisiting old fav coffee (OK, and pastry) shops. They tend to be near where I worked – way downtown. Next time I get to NY I will have to look you guys up and compare notes.

    1. Thanks for visiting and the super kind words! We’d love if you’d look us up the next time you’re in town – there’s nothing we enjoy more than coffee (and pastries, yes!) with good company 🙂

  2. This sounds superb. I wish I had known of it earlier, would have definitely brought my husband to it.
    Luckily, there is always next year 🙂
    Putting alerts on my calendar now.

    1. Hi Tara, it’s so good to hear from you! This is a little last-minute, but they’re actually holding a craft coffee festival in Williamsburg tomorrow. It’s not quite as big, but there will be about 20 roasters present. Otherwise, you’re right – there’s always next year! 🙂

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