Name: Gimme! Coffee
Locations: 228 Mott Street and 495 Lorimer Street, New York, New York (and several upstate locations)
My relationship with Gimme! Coffee has been fraught with well-intended, but somewhat missed connections. My visit to Lorimer Street took place a short time before the start of this blog. A few months later, I somehow bungled my attempt to attend a New York Coffee Society event that took place at Mott Street a week and a half before they opened. At July’s Slow Food Nation Tasting Pavilion, I met Jenni, the manager of Gimme! Mott Street who suggested I let her know next time I was heading to Gimme! While I never did manage to arrange for that personal tour, I did finally get to Mott Street during the active life-cycle of both their store and this blog. If you haven’t already been, I definitely recommend you check them out.
First of all, Gimme! Coffee is one of the few (semi) local roasters in the New York Metropolitan area (that’s worth going out of the way for, that is). Of course, local in this case means upstate New York. While Ithaca is not exactly the immediate area, it is at least from the same state and from the same general part of the country. These days, many high quality roasters are staking claims on New York’s burgeoning coffee shop scene, but I’d argue that these (otherwise wonderful) far flung roasters don’t constitute local flavor even if they are opening roasting facilities in outer boroughs.
Second, and I freely admit that what I’m about to say is a very casual observation, Gimme! Coffee tends to take a somewhat different tack when it comes to roasting than many of their colleagues, especially those from the Bay Area. Their coffee covers a pretty wide range of roasts; Gimme! doesn’t appear to want to be identified solely with lighter roasts (like Ritual or Barefoot) or darker roasts (i.e. Blue Bottle dark and not Starbucks/burnt dark). And perhaps in response to recent laments about a myopic Bay Area preference for single origin coffees, Gimme! doesn’t hesitate to offer several blends. I haven’t quite thought through the full implications of what this means for consumers (more options or less because fewer of their coffees fit your tastes?) or what this means about the practices of other roasters (do someone do it less well or does Gimme! just pick coffees with different potential?), but the bottom line is that I find I like their coffee.
Gimme!’s espresso is the Leftist Blend, and the shot of this that the barista pulled for me at Mott Street on their La Marzocco FB/80 was really distinctive. While I didn’t immediately love it, the clarity of the notes and uniqueness of this blend really stuck with me. The shot held a lovely, thick reddish-brown crema and was surprisingly sweet with just a touch of spice. It came across to me as juicy with a medium to full body. I had a bit of trouble pinning down the precise aromas and flavors but it was darker in tone, emphasizing the chocolate into herbal range. I’m definitely eager to try it again.
I didn’t get a good look at the brewed coffee system which was down behind the counter, but it looked like commercial brewers with coffee stored in thermal carafes that are then set out on the table. At Mott street, I had my choice of the Leftist Blend (dark) and their Ethiopian Sidamo Organic (light). While I very much enjoyed the latter, it certainly came across much darker than the lighter roast it promised to be. This sweet, medium-bodied coffee was filled with potent, but not overwhelming fruit notes, like dried cherries and blueberries.
The selection of beans on the shelf was somewhat old (in some cases 2-3 weeks) and limited, but it turns out that three boxes of new coffee were waiting to be unpacked. Between customers, the cashier was kind enough to flip through boxed bags to help me locate the Brazil São João that I finally settled on purchasing. While the roast and the crop are completely different, I do believe this is the same coffee I had from Ritual last year. It’s interesting to see how how two of the “same coffees” can be so different yet equally compelling. (In fact, these two are not the same coffee – see comments below.)
Now I say the following knowing full well I should have posted this review sooner, but I loved this coffee and definitely recommend it IF you can find some. It’s sold out online – Gimme! had a fairly small supply to begin with – but there may still be a few bags left in stores (I also have a small stash vacuum-sealed away in my freezer if you want to make me an offer I can’t refuse!). Anyway, this coffee, unlike last year’s, has a distinctive aroma of peanuts that provides an amazing opportunity to calibrate your senses for this sort of thing. It also has some oddly brittle, but solid chaff hanging onto the bean (I’ve now exceeded the limits of my bean biology – what is this stuff?).
As a French Press, it’s very delicious. It has a roasted, Spanish peanut quality with lots of dark, subtle nuance meandering throughout. I got chocolate, nutter butter cookies, raisins and chocolate and finished up with a heavy, but pleasant, tobacco aftertaste. Despite this deep range of flavor, it’s not overly heavy or full-bodied. It also worked well, but not amazing, as a single origin espresso, trending towards a darker Italian-style blend. It reminded me of a slightly nuttier, smokier version of Counter Culture’s Toscano and produced surprising amount of rich reddish-brown crema for a single origin espresso.
In terms of design, both New York City shops (I haven’t been upstate) give a proper nod to their historic spaces such as exposed brick walls and hardwood floors while co-mingling more modern elements – the chairs and tables at Lorimer street (Mott Street is standing room only) or the trumpet-like fixtures shooting out light in the Mott Street chandelier. Neither space is uber sheik nor did they blow me away with their sense of design, but both spaces are well thought through and quite pleasant places to be, especially when drinking Gimme!’s coffee.