What is it about our devotion to coffee that makes it so indispensable?
Is it the flavor or aroma, the moments of peace it instills as we relish it or the superpowers it imbues once its caffeine kicks in? It’s surely a little bit of everything that makes it one of the world’s favorite drinks.
When it comes to our beloved bean water, many consider themselves casual connoisseurs. If you’re always in search of the next best cup, these Northeast coffee roasters are some of the finest in the game, perfecting blends that quickly become an integral part of their customers’ daily habit.
But first, let’s take a brief look at how coffee came into our lives.
Meant to “Bean”
An estimated 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year. Without it, many of us lose focus and may not otherwise function like a normal human.
But it’s so much more than a quick energy boost or morning ritual. Coffee is loaded with powerful antioxidants to improve health and brain function, and may affect metabolism, inflammation and one’s sensitivity to insulin.
This famed pick-me-up is steeped in 1,500 years of history, too. Legend has it that an Ethiopian farmer noticed his goats wouldn’t sleep after eating berries from a particular tree. Word quickly spread of the stimulant, and by the 1000s, the Arabian Peninsula began to blend the seeds (beans) with animal fat to make a snack bar, then roasted them to drink in the 1200s. Beans were finally being sold by the 15th century.
Public coffee houses were called “Schools of the Wise” as they became the center of social and cultural activity and communication, according to the National Coffee Association of the U.S.A., and by the 17th century, European travelers to the Near East raved about the beverage. However, some considered coffee “the bitter invention of Satan,” and only papal approval allowed coffee to escape controversial condemnation in 1615. It was even banned in the Ottoman Empire until 1839.
Once coffee replaced beer and wine in the morning cup, work performance not surprisingly improved, and opinions shifted.
When the Dutch successfully cultivated beans in the late 1600s in Sri Lanka, they were smuggled or carried abroad, including to France, Portugal, Brazil and New Amsterdam (now New York City). In the Northeast, it topped tea’s popularity when Boston Tea Party rioters launched tea reserves into Boston Harbor in 1773, and Thomas Jefferson is rumored to have said, “Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.”
Though the variety of coffee beans is as plentiful as grapes for wine, 60% of coffee as we know it is the arabica varietal, with origins in Ethiopia – versus the African robusta strain, making it one of the world’s largest commodities.
If all this has you craving a sip of Joe, take a look at what’s brewing at these Northeast coffee shops.
Top Northeast Coffee Roasters
Zumbach’s Gourmet Coffee, New Canaan
You can smell the freshly roasted coffee beans before you even open the door of this Fairfield County institution. Once inside, the magnetic appeal of its six or more drip coffees and espresso takes over, as do the oven-warm muffins and collage of college flags on the ceiling. Take your cuppa to go and stop by its monthly Caffeine and Carburetors events. Cash only.
Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea, Branford
Willoughby’s has been roasting the finest fair trade, organic arabica beans for nearly 40 years. Its impressive international lineup of single origin and blended coffees originates from destinations including Panama and Kenya, as well as Bolivian co-ops that support social welfare of coffee bean farmers. The result is a heavy, rich aroma, with smooth body and sweet milk chocolate flavors that will woo you.
Monsoon Roastery, Springfield
This environmentally conscious roaster has a walk-up espresso bar to grab a can of beans (try Liquid Sunshine’s strawberry and caramel undertones), a hot or cold beverage (an Iced Americano or hot latte will hit the spot) and breakfast sandwich on the go. Fresh international coffees are roasted daily, then packed or brewed in a building that composts and uses 100% wind energy.
Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, Melrose
More than just fantastic coffee, Bitty & Beau’s encourages acceptance and inclusion by hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to run their stores. The energetic vibe radiates through staff and customers alike. Try the fruity Bitty’s blend, nutty caramel Beau’s blend or currant-flavored decaf from Colombia, Guatemala and Ethiopia.
Grover’s Mill Coffeehouse, West Windsor
Sit outside this fair trade and community-centric coffee house on Saturday mornings and enjoy its live music while sipping your organic arabica coffee. It offers myriad styles, from single origin Peruvian Penachi to house blended javas, sourcing from family farms then small-batch roasting for premier flavor profiles.
Modcup Coffee, Jersey City
This coffee has come a long way since 2012 when it was roasted in a garage and sold curbside from a cart. Now it’s in three Jersey City locations as well as South Korean cafés. Modcup’s Gold Label Single Origin from Kenya is so good it has a wait list, but you can enjoy its experimental Ecuador Typica that uses anaerobic and cold fermentation processes (just like wine), or its delicious seasonal single origin Colombia Cumbarco.
Aldo’s Coffee Company, Greenport
Since 1987, Aldo Maiorana has been brewing his premier javas and baking famous biscotti and scones for fans across New York and the globe. His Italian and French upbringing mixed with international travels to inspire the coffee’s old-world styles that transcend trends. It even drove Starbucks out of town. Enjoy his signature Orient Espresso blend, or any of his single-origin organic coffees roasted daily.
Abraço, New York City
This simple yet classic menu hasn’t changed much since established in 2007, but it still draws a queue. Its traditional macchiato stains the espresso with a teaspoon or two of milk, while its delectable cappuccino is a double with steamed milk and foam. Try kaffe mit schlag, a fresh-roasted coffee of the day with whipped cream and its famed olive oil cake.
Cooper’s Cask Coffee Company, East Greenwich
Sumatra Lintong beans at Cooper’s Cask are aged in Rhode Island’s Sons of Liberty single malt whiskey barrels to infuse coffees with sweet tobacco and woody earth overtures with a hint of vanilla and caramel. This means you get an enriched coffee that widens to a long whiskey finish for that extra push through the day. Purists will delight in the Single Origin Series, from destinations like Costa Rica and Tanzania.
The Coffee Guy, Newport
With no brick-and-mortar location, this hyper-local roaster offers home delivery or pick-up at farmers markets for customers to experience the freshest small-batch blends. Try a 32-ounce growler of the trademark cold brew concentrate, Aquidneck dark roast or Sumatra French roast for an exotic personality.
Tell us about your favorite Northeast coffee roasters in the comments below.