Name: Think Coffee
Location: 1 Bleeker Street and 248 Mercer Street, New York, New York
Think Coffee’s socially responsible imperatives looked good on a paper cup but didn’t do much to get me in the door. The big deterrent for me was the fact that despite producing well designed materials, offering a fairly extensive food menu, and making politically correct pleas, I could find little mention of the roaster they chose to use. Like not pre-releasing a film for critics, I often find that railing to report a roaster often results in less than stellar coffee. In the end, what got me there was their spot on the Road to Epiphany walking tour and their convenient, Bleeker Street location, which turned out to be more or less on our way to to Gimme!.
The inside of the shop was a nice enough place that my family chose to sit for a while (of course it was unbelievably cold outside), sporting worn wooden floors and tiny marble tables arranged carefully enough for a relatively tiny space to quality as a halfway decent-sized Manhattan cafe. The menu was extensive, offering a selection of soups from Hale and Hearty, a variety of (seemingly pricey) grilled cheese sandwiches and the usual variety of pastries. What caught my eye, however, was the 3-group La Marzocco GB/5, which suggested at least some serious coffee potential for this operation.
I ordered a cup of of the house blend (along with some food for the wife and kid), which was brewed via commercial brewer into heated urns. It turns out Think’s roaster is Porto Rico, a well-established New York roaster that tends towards slightly above average, but usually over-roasted beans. The house blend they roast for Think follows this trend to a T. It was bold and full-bodied and not lacking in intensity, like many a watery New York cup of coffee. At the same time, it was roasty and toasty and didn’t offer much in the way of flavor or aromas than I tend to find in a cup of urn-brewed Peets.
Think did redeem itself with its espresso, however, offering me a shot that was better than I would have expected. It was dark and rich in tone with a lighter, reddish crema that was thicker than the nearly minute-old espresso pictured below. The shot was buttery and full-bodied, and while not particularly well-balanced, this bottom-heavy and slightly smoky shot offered notes of brown sugar, tobacco and a hint of something fruity.
Physically, what’s interesting about Think (at least this location) is the way the espresso bar is set apart from the main counter, visible through a separate window, sharing space with the kitchen. My theory is that this physical division reflects a split in operations; its like two coffee shops in one. The main counter, including the cashier who handles the brewed coffee and food, operates somewhat oblivious to the espresso half of the shop. Tucked away, competent and attentive baristas along with top-notch espresso equipment do the best they can with the coffee they’ve been given.