Our Fave Local Coffee Joints, Plus The 15 Cutest Baristas In NYC!

Whether you limit yourself to one cup a day or refill your mug on the regular, chances are that if you're a New Yorker, you've got a favorite local coffee shop keeping you going all day long (even if it's not called Central Perk). Indeed, this island floats on caffeine — or at least this office does — so we got up close and personal with a few of our favorite local grind gurus to find out exactly how they brew the perfect cup. The result is a beautiful flipbook of R29-approved baristas and the java spots they call home.
And, you can bet there's no shortage of passion in their percolating. As Everyman Espresso's Sam Lewontin puts it, "I love serving coffee, and I love working in the coffee industry…If pressed, I'm sure I could find something else to occupy my time and attention, but I very much doubt it would be the same." We couldn't have said it better ourselves. We think you'll love Sam (and the rest of our featured baristas) a-latte, too! (Sorry, we couldn't help it, okay?).
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Get your morning buzz direct from our seven favorite NYC coffee shops.
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Emily Miller, Stumptown Coffee Roasters
How do you take your coffee?
"Black. I prefer a pour-over method, like Chemex, that can really highlight the flavor profile of a lovely coffee."

What do you love about your coffee shop and neighborhood specifically?
"I love that our coffee shop is aesthetically beautiful and fast paced while maintaining a warm and friendly atmosphere. Being in a hotel, we meet people from all over the world but also get to know those who live and work nearby."

Stumptown Coffee Roasters, 18 West 29th Street (between Broadway and Fifth Avenue); 347-294-4295.(Pictured: Jennifer Price)
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What are the most important elements to a good coffee shop?
"It goes without saying that a good coffee shop should offer great coffee. However, it is just as important to have a friendly and knowledgeable staff who will greet a customer with warmth and be able to tell them anything they want to know about coffee from farm to cup. I think anyone should be able to walk into a coffee shop and be treated like family, whether they are a regular customer or it is their first visit."
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What is your least favorite task to do around the shop?
"We compost all of our coffee grounds, which is awesome, but I don't think that taking the compost out is anyone's favorite task."

Do you have regulars? If so, do you have any fun stories about building relationships with them?
"We are lucky to have many regulars at our shop. We were open last week on Thanksgiving, and many of them were incredibly generous and brought gifts to those of us who were working. We all had turkey and stuffing on our breaks!"
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What would you be doing if not for this?
"If I were not working in coffee, I would probably be doing grandmotherly things like knitting and needlepoint and hopping on the craft-fair circuit."

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Do you have any specialty drinks or pastries that you could give us a quick recipe to?
"My favorite espresso drink is a macchiato — two shots of espresso and a tiny bit of steamed milk. It is a three-ounce drink, which is just enough to keep me going in the middle of the day!"
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What kind of music do you blast at the shop? Is it different early morning than on a late shift?
"The music we play varies quite a bit because there are so many different personalities behind the bar. In the morning, it usually starts off slowly, then gets pumped up when the cafe becomes busy. At night, it tends to be more mellow as the speed of the cafe winds down."
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During Hurricane Sandy one of the things people were really missing was hot coffee. Why do you think New York, specifically, is addicted?
"I think New York City is addicted to coffee because it fuels our fast paced lifestyles. Also, the ability to establish a routine at your local shop and have a conversation with a neighbor is a great way to feel connected in such a big city. After Hurricane Sandy, it was important for people to be able to continue these routines because they provided a sense of community and familiarity, which were lost when day-to-day life came to a halt. It was important for us to reopen as soon as possible after the storm, and people were grateful to have a place to come to when they didn't have food, hot water, or electricity at home."
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Micah C. Philliips, Blue Bottle Tribeca

How do you take your coffee?
“Barista’s choice: anything they're excited about that current day. But typically an espresso, followed by a pour over of some method and repeat.”

What do you love about your coffee shop and neighborhood specifically?
“In all facets, this location is about participation and community. Being constantly surrounded by those that care about a particular craft and product is inevitably inspiring and refreshing.”

What is your least favorite task to do around the shop?
“Can't say I have a one.”

Do you have regulars? If so, do you have any fun stories about building relationships with them?
“Many of our regulars have lived in Tribeca for years and have tales to match the years earned. Stories that surround a consistently quiet and untouched neighborhood under rapid development.”

Blue Bottle Tribeca, 102 Franklin Street (between Church Street and West Broadway); no phone.
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Brancey Mora, Blue Bottle Tribeca

How do you take your coffee?
“Black.”

What do you love about your coffee shop and neighborhood specifically?
“The sense of community created by the vendors at All Good Things, and the customers. Most of all, the florists in front of us at Polux. They're the sweetest people.”

What is your least favorite task to do around the shop?
“Bring milk crates up from the basement.”

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Do you have regulars? If so, do you have any fun stories about building relationships with them?
“Yeah, our regulars are the best. I have someone who comes in and is always so surprised and pleased that I remembered exactly how they take their coffee, that I've taken to actually starting it the second I see them through the window. It's fun to see how easy it is to make people happy, and it gives us an opportunity to show we care and are paying attention.”

What would you be doing if not for this?
“Probably unemployed.”

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During Hurricane Sandy, one of the things people were really missing was hot coffee. Why do you think New York, specifically, is addicted?
“Well, it's the city that burns the candle at both ends. Without coffee I'm not sure how New York would realistically function.”

What are the most important elements to a good coffee shop?
“Caring about the what you're doing, paying attention to quality, and improving on what you do well. And being nice to people.”

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Do you have any specialty drinks or pastries that you could give us a quick recipe to?
“No, just fancy latte art.”

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What would you be doing if not for this?
“We all have past endeavors, but if I wasn't engaged heavily in coffee right now, I'd be back upstate farming, spending more time with my outdoor brick oven.”

During Hurricane Sandy one of the things people were really missing was hot coffee. Why do you think New York, specifically, is addicted?
“New York, from what I gather, is built on the comfort of routines. In an environment of such sustained energy, the nuance of control in your daily cup is profound.”

What are the most important elements to a good coffee shop?
“The most important element is someone who cares about the product and service they are putting out. In this case, the middleman creates the experience and emphasis in any shop. How can beauty be translated without intrinsic beauty?”

What kind of music do you blast at the shop? Is it different early morning than on a late shift?
“Given this is a shared market space, we typically only play music before opening. But during dial-in, it’s always a good mix of Braveyoung, This Will Destroy You, The Body, Nils Frahm, and much of the like.”

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Sam Lewontin, Everyman Espresso

How do you take your coffee?
“Almost always black. I've been drinking a lot of filter coffee lately, brewed using either an Aeropress or a Chemex. Drinking filter coffee without additives gives me a chance to delve in to the flavors that make each coffee interesting and distinctive. When I drink coffee with milk, it's almost always as a cortado or a cappuccino. I really enjoy the interplay and balance of well-prepared espresso and milk.”

Everyman Espresso, 136 East 13th Street (between 3rd and 4th avenues); 212-533-0524.

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What do you love about your coffee shop and neighborhood specifically?
“We designed and built our Soho store to be a comfortable, welcoming space for both our baristas and our customers. That open, homelike quality is easily my favorite thing about working there. It's a real joy to be in the cafe when it's full of people. It’s more akin to sharing my kitchen with a group of friends than standing behind the counter in a cafe. As for the neighborhood, the variety of people we serve coffee to every day is wonderful. We get not only folks who live and work in the neighborhood, but travelers from all over the country and all over the world. The mix of perspectives and tastes is refreshing.”

What is your least favorite task to do around the shop?
“I'd be hard pressed to pick one. I love seeing the shop tick along smoothly, and everything that needs doing contributes to that. If I had to pick, though, I'd probably say mopping.”

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Do you have regulars? If so, do you have any fun stories about building relationships with them?
“Every shop that's been around for long enough has its regulars. As for building relationships with them, I find it's more of an organic, long-term process than a sudden transformation. Most of my favorite interactions with regulars are little, low-key moments that highlight the nature of the neighborhood and the community that the shop's a part of.”

What would you be doing if not for this?
“I can't rightly say. I love serving coffee, and I love working in the coffee industry. I've yet to find a field this consistently engaging, this rewarding, or this full of wonderful, friendly, supportive people. If pressed, I'm sure I could find something else to occupy my time and attention, but I very much doubt it would be the same.”

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During Hurricane Sandy one of the things people were really missing was hot coffee. Why do you think New York, specifically, is addicted?
“I don't know that New York is any more addicted to coffee than anywhere else. Though the unique confluence of market forces, history, and refined culinary sensibilities that informs the coffee scene here is certainly fascinating and invigorating. Much more present in my mind in the aftermath of Sandy. It has been the way that everyone involved in the coffee community — baristas, business owners, customers and everyone else with a role in the scene — have come together to support shops affected by flooding, power outages and lasting infrastructural damage. It's been really heartwarming to see.”

What are the most important elements to a good coffee shop?
“There are many elements that have to align to make a shop great. Design, equipment choice, location, coffee and ingredient selection, technique, and training are all very important. More important than any of these though, is who's behind the counter. The best shops are those that hire great people, and give them the freedom, support, and community they need to thrive.”

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Do you have any specialty drinks or pastries that you could give us a quick recipe to?
“All of our drinks are pretty simple, recipe-wise. We're stoked about coffee, and we want to keep the focus pretty squarely on it. What makes us special are the coffees we use (we get all of our coffee from Counter Culture, who do some of the best sourcing and roasting in the business), and the knowledge and technique of our baristas.”

What kind of music do you blast at the shop? Is it different early morning than on a late shift?
“Depends very much on who's working. A recent sample might include David Bowie, Lou Reed, Macklemore, Frank Ocean, Ladytron, Portishead, The Blow, Built to Spill, Aphex Twin, Metric, The National, Dolly Parton, the soundtrack to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World; the list goes on.”
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Michael Sadler, Gimme Coffee

How do you take your coffee?
“Black.”

What do you love about your coffee shop and neighborhood specifically?
“We have a really intimate space that is great for interacting with our customers. Our neighborhood is a little glamorous, but also a little funky, with a good mix of LES/Soho, and a touch of Little Italy in there. Our shop is a gathering place for the community, and a landmark for tourists.”



Gimme Coffee, 228 Mott Street (between Prince and Spring streets); 212-226-4011.
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Do you have regulars? If so, do you have any fun stories about building relationships with them?
“We have a lot of regulars. One of our customers was pregnant when I first met her three years ago. I've watched her daughter grow up. She just started talking. It's cool to be part of someone's life in that way, even if you don't know them that well. It's hard for me to walk down the street in this neighborhood without seeing a customer I know.”

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What would you be doing if not for this?
“My background is in theatre. I teach, perform, and direct.”

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During Hurricane Sandy, one of the things people were really missing was hot coffee. Why do you think New York, specifically, is addicted?
“New York is fast-paced. Many people are going out late, then starting early the next day. How else could we keep up?”

What are the most important elements to a good coffee shop?
“The most important elements to a good coffee shop are: 1) The highest quality product. 2) The best baristas. 3) A welcoming atmosphere and the highest level of service.”

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Do you have any specialty drinks or pastries that you could give us a quick recipe to?
“I'm partial to the Gibraltar: 1 shot of espresso, and about 3 oz of milk. Simple, packs a punch, and smooth.”

What kind of music do you blast at the shop? Is it different early morning than on a late shift?
“Match the mood to the music. Morning rush: fast-paced high energy tunes; slow evening hours: mellow out.”

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Jason Patrick, La Colombe
“I love a latte. The taste of our espresso beans is balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the milk we use.”

La Colombe, 400 Lafayette Street (at 4th Street); 212-677-5834
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What do you love about your coffee shop and neighborhood specifically?
“The first time I walked into La Colombe's Noho cafe, it immediately recalled the mastery of European cafes where artists, poets, writers, and people of all walks of life convene to either collaborate, create, or simply see and be seen. I felt like I'd walked into a painting and became a part of its beauty. Noho is one of my favorite neighborhoods with its cobble streets. It evinces a quintessential NYC complete with some of the city's best restaurants and galleries. And so it's no wonder that you will find La Colombe here. When you walk through the doorway, you are met with an impressive aroma of coffee beans, an open and expansive high ceiling, beams of light flooding in from walls of windows, handcrafted wood furniture, walls decorated with minimalist art…and the people — such beautiful people! The centerpiece, literally, of the cafe is the helm of this operation where friendly, competent, smiling faces blend beautiful drinks and pour them into handmade, painted ceramic ware from a small village in Italy. All of my senses felt heightened the first time I sat down cradling my latte between both hands, taking it all in. It felt like home. So, for months, I would come in daily to journal, work, or simply talk to the staff. I had found my spot in this vast and eclectic chaos that is NYC.

The coffee is truly the best that I've ever had. Without geeking out completely, there is something to the science of how it all works in harmony — from how the beans are farmed (organically) to the roasting process, the grinding, the way it's packed into the espresso machine, the steamed milk, to how it's poured. Minus all the atmospheric elements of the cafe, the coffee alone is an experience. And that's it. We deliver an experience for our customers!”

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Do you have regulars? If so, do you have any fun stories about building relationships with them?
“Sure, there are of course people who come in on a regular, daily basis. Inevitably, there is a story arch to our conversations and you begin to become more informed about who they are. This kind of relationship building is part of what makes La Colombe so special. But what I love the most is seeing a face light up, even if it's one person, just one time. There is meaning in being present for regulars and non-regulars alike, even if it's sometimes just 30 seconds of interaction.”

What would you be doing if not for this?
“I'm a yoga teacher. It's one of my passions and truly fulfilling. I was one of those crazy New Yorkers who ended up with a big corporate job living an unfulfilled life. I dreamt of getting rid of all my suits and being able to wear jeans every day. And so as many of us talk about doing, I made a big change. I got rid of my NY apartment and moved to the Bahamas to study yoga. Three years later, I moved back to the city as a yoga teacher. I stumbled into this cafe and after many months, I asked my newly forged friend Doug Wolfe (owner) if he would be willing to hire someone with no training in the coffee industry. One doesn't typically jump into the service industry in his mid-30s, but I wanted to be a part of this experience. Doug took the risk, and here I am.”

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During Hurricane Sandy, one of the things people were really missing was hot coffee. Why do you think New York, specifically, is addicted?
“New Yorkers love their coffee, yes. But my perception is simply that coffee creates a community amidst the noise and grit and raw energy of the city. We like to be around other people — we are city dwellers after all. In the same way that we go to bars at night, we go to cafes in the morning and throughout the day. We like to feel connected to each other even when our experiences are disparate. And our community had its coffee during Sandy! Our La Colombe family from Philly brought down a generator so that we could serve drip. I found myself again serving up coffee, but this time truly being able to lend an ear and commiserate. Yes, folks wanted hot coffee, but moreover, they wanted to be around friends, familiarity, and a community that understood.”

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What are the most important elements to a good coffee shop?
“This question has a few answers. Exceptional coffee is supreme, but it's not the average customer who really understands that. So, it's up to the staff: leaders who are emboldened by their knowledge to share the whole experience. It's important to be present for our customers and then to give them the space to enjoy their coffee and community. The guys who started this business are purists to the coffee — the sourcing, farming of the beans, as well as the roasting process, and finally to the delivery. These guys adhere to their ethics and are moreover loyal to their customers. They want to deliver the best coffee. Simple.”

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What kind of music do you blast at the shop? Is it different early morning than on a late shift?
“The music is always contingent on my mood and how I want to shape the mood of the community. And we don't so much blast (technically) until we're closed and cleaning. Music is one of the most profound elements of creating a social space. I tend to lean toward Nina Simone, but I find filling the space with Spanish guitar music is also conducive to positive group-think. And of course, Miles Davis to soft French beats from the '50s or The xx is also nice. It always depends on who is working and has control of the stereo.”

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Chris Riffle, The Bean

How do you take your coffee?
“I've gotten sort of picky after working here a while! I like it just the right temperature and sweetness...etc. A small vanilla almond milk cappuccino with an extra shot!”

The Bean, 54 Second Avenue (at 3rd Street); 646-707-0086.
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What is your least favorite task to do around the shop?
“Kicking people out. Whether it's an angry homeless person harassing customers or someone trying to use the bathroom. I don't like to have to be confrontational, but I definitely do have to be at times.”

Do you have regulars? If so, do you have any fun stories about building relationships with them?
“Tons and tons of regulars. I love that over time some of the regulars that seemed grumpy or just not as friendly have come a bit out of their shells as I've gotten to know them. I really enjoy hearing about what they do or where they come from. Psychologically, it's a really interesting job! I also have met many great musicians that I've played with through this job. As well as my producer who was just a customer with a guitar on his back that I started talking to one day.”

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What do you love about your coffee shop and neighborhood specifically?
“I love all the local characters that I get to know through working here. I live just down the block, and ever since I started working here, I know everyone in my neighborhood.”

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What would you be doing if not for this?
“Besides playing as much music as possible, I'd probably go back to doing more web design or audio recording. But I always hated staring at a computer for extended periods of time and I love the social interaction of this place.”

During Hurricane Sandy, one of the things people were really missing was hot coffee. Why do you think New York, specifically, is addicted?
“We're always on the go and need that extra push to keep going! I was walking up to Midtown every day to get coffee — it was quite an experience!”

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What kind of music do you blast at the shop? Is it different early morning than on a late shift?
“I love to listen to '50s/'60s music in the morning or, somedays, '40s. It keeps the day moving and upbeat. Especially at 6 a.m. when I roll in, it's hard to get moving! In the evening, '80s, '90s. The "XMU" satellite station plays a lot of current college indie music, which is nice in the evenings.”
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Cafe Grumpy

Hand roasted specialty coffee is what makes this Cafe Grumpy outpost (the franchise's first!) so good.

Cafe Grumpy, 193 Meserole Avenue (at Diamond Street); 718-349-7623.
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The focus is impressive.
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The Greenpoint space is Cafe Grumpy's largest (and the baristas are super-cute, too!).
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A few beans from one of Brooklyn's finest...just don't spill 'em!
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Cafe Grumpy is also home to free wireless and a book exchange!
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