Coffee Chronicles: New Amsterdam Market Goes Coffee Crazy


[Photo: Liz Clayton]

This past weekend's New Amsterdam Market tried to answer a burning question: what's the best cup of coffee available under the FDR Drive?

After months of offering coffee service from a handful of select local vendors (like Stumptown, Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia), the "coffee, cocoa and oranges" themed weekend brought together coffee pushers from around the region to cup, teach, and brew.

From New Jersey's Small World Coffee to the LES' Dora, from San Francisco and Williamsburg's Blue Bottle to Bed Stuy's Kitten Coffee, pourover bars nestled up next to chocolate bars and lobster rolls, baristas answering questions and serving warm rainy-day drinks while boiling water from extension-corded kettles and burners. Workshops—like a cupping with Counter Culture and a Q&A with Crop to Cup—took place a block away, to give coffee geeks a chance to talk and learn between milling twitchily from stall to stall.

Julie Yeung, who coordinated the coffee vendors for the New Amsterdam Market, said the idea was conceived in part because of the abundance of great coffee purveyors now located in the region.

"We were having a dilemma of choosing a particular coffee vendor for the market," said Yeung. "So by having the coffee market and inviting over a dozen coffee companies, that exposed us to all kinds of different things these companies are doing... it really showcased the diversity of a different range of tiers of coffee people out there."

Marketgoers' response to the specialty fair was very positive, said Yeung, who noted that the event's uniqueness helped take coffee exploration far beyond the cafe environment and into the hands of the curious.

James Freeman, whose Blue Bottle Coffee Co. is no stranger to specialty food markets and is a mainstay of San Francisco's Ferry Building Marketplace, was encouraged by the emergence of such a market in the roaster's newly landed New York City. In fact, standing under a highway making coffee on a little stand in the rain is Blue Bottle's idea of a good time.

"As a company we highly value making good coffee outside under difficult conditions and being part of a community of makers of food. So we figured out how to MacGyver a marine battery/inverter setup so we could grind coffee a la minute rather than use preground coffee," said Freeman.

And as they left happily clutching their paper cups, Yeung—and the vendors at the end of the day—saw the market experiment as a success...if a little grey and rainy.

"I guess we brought a little bit of Seattle to New York with the weather as well as the coffee market," laughed Yeung.