Coffee Chronicles: Queens Gets Even Sweeter with Sweetleaf

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[Photos: Liz Clayton]

If New York City is truly in the throes of birthing a coffee revolution, it's going to be impossible to do so without true five-borough penetration. Sweetleaf Coffee in Long Island City, Queens, joins the neighborhood's trendy upswing by raising its own game: now a place of bigger, better beauty in which to savor the borough's best coffees.

coffee110310 (3 of 1).jpgThe shop's moved from a tiny, Jackson Avenue wedge-shaped boite, to a legit, multi-storefront coffee parlor: Stumptown brew is now being poured-over manually on Hario V60 drippers, and is also available in more trad Bunn brewers (owner Rich Nieto assures me that even those are carefully calibrated regularly with their Extract Mojo tool). Espresso offerings have expanded as well, along with Stumptown's increased interest in roasting single-origin coffees for the city's more taste-curious cafes.

Besides being an anomaly in the Queens coffee scene, the now triple-sized coffee shop also features a fair amount of architectural interest. Beyond the antique cabinetry, demolition-salvaged (from the same building!) wood and a studious common table (for the laptop crew, now exiled to their own little Internet purgatory in the sunny front window) make up a truly thoughtful, appealing renovation.

coffee110310 (1 of 1).jpgBaker Beverly Lauchner has been brought into the light, too, and Sweetleaf's homemade treats—a salty coconut cookie will surprise—are now foregrounded. Along with the rock and roll vibe.

Yes—they're playing Heart's "Magic Man" when I come in, and as far as macchiato pairings go, well, that's a hard one to beat. Indeed, the cafe's added a "rock and roll playroom" overlooking the end of the railway line. It's just one more touch in a series of unexpected, great, contributions to this side of the Pulaski Bridge. Sweetleaf II coming soon to...Elmhurst? We can hope.