Serious Eats: Drinks

Coffee Chronicles, NYC: Dallis Bros. Coffee

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[Photos: Liz Clayton]

From horse-and-buggy to modern-day barista stunts, Queens-based Dallis Bros. Coffee has learned, maybe more than anyone in NYC, how to shift gears.

In the past year, the century-old roaster on Atlantic Avenue has made huge strides, not only to improve quality control on a more micro-focused, artisanal level, but to do this while accommodating its older customers as well.

Rather than abandoning the delis and diners that the old-school coffee factory has been serving for generations, they've split their vision: established Gotham brands that need to focus on the bottomless cup and the bottom line are now served by their "Gramercy Park" label, leaving the Dallis Bros. imprint reserved for the roaster's more refined focus on Cup of Excellence award-winning coffees, selecting beautiful micro-lots, and so on.

As Dallis Marketing VP John Moore sums it up: "Hazelnut and mocha were once considered gourmet, but as our industry's matured, we've moved away from that."

And, oh, they're "in a relationship" with a farm in Brazil—sister company Octavio has infused both enough coffee and cash into the New York offices to help reestablish the roaster as a more quality- and flavor-focused operation with more time and toys allocated to making awesome coffee.

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Cruise past the body shops of Ozone Park and just before you hit the Staples strip mall, go ahead and peer through the windows of the ominiously labeled COFFEE CONFERENCE CENTER. That's Dallis' coffee lab: the finest in espresso and coffee equipment set up for taste and training. Behind the scenes are their vintage German Probat roasters, which allow the roaster an artist's control over their beans.

Of course, if you prefer not to simply press your nose up against the glass, the company offers $10 tours on the first Saturday of each month, and yes, you get a pound of coffee with that.

But beyond the revised mission statement jargon and sweet gear, Dallis is delivering on its newly polished ideology to furnish stellar coffees to the drinkers of New York (and beyond). Dallis Bros. Director of Coffee Byron Holcomb is particularly excited about the Cup of Excellence coffees they've been offering more and more of, as well as the newest arrivals from Africa.

"We have a bunch of stuff that's new," enthuses Holcomb, "two Colombians, fresh crop Kenyas, and all the Cup Of Excellence coffees have been stellar. The Honduras Liquidambar is my personal favorite. And the fresh crop Koke, the freshest you can get from the Koke Mill [in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia]."

The Liquidambar, which Holcomb thinks is "really well-layered, it always has a little fruit, chocolate, great body, nice acidity", sounds like it might make a fine Single Origin Espresso if Dallis hopped on that continuing trend. But where better to showcase that than at a big competition? Thank goodness, we're having one of those in only a few weeks.

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As if to remind all the young comers in town whose house New York Coffee really is, Dallis Bros. is going one better than brewing this April and hosting the first-ever-in-NYC Northeast Regional Barista Championship at Manhattan's Milk Studios (April 8-10).

"I'm excited because it means collaborating with the people we've been making coffee alongside in New York for the past few years," said Moore, who looks forward to involvment from Gimme Coffee, Cafe Grumpy, Third Rail and Joe, among others. (Not to be outdone by their collaborators, of course, they're throwing in a Latte Throwdown and offering up a trip to Brazil.)

Beautiful coffees roasted more and more thoughtfully, our first local barista competition, a geek-paradise of a training facility, and fabulous prizes...Is there anything Dallis doesn't have up their sleeve? I suppose the only thing left is a retail cafe in the city.....now there's a thought.

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