Hey this is Nick. If I look a little tired today it's because I just arrived from an overnight bus ride back from a long weekend in New York. While I was ostensibly there for academic reasons, I made sure to get some coffee geeking in. For those that don't know, New York has a pretty awesome coffee scene right now, owing a lot to some crucial people at Cafe Grumpy, Ninth Street Espresso, and Gimme! Brooklyn, to say nothing of the great things happening upstate, notably Chris Defario at Carriage House and Gimme's main Ithaca locations. I got the chance to pop into Grumpy's brand new Chelsea location and it was a sight for sore eyes-- two Clovers, a Synesso, and some fantastic selections from Counter Culture Coffee and Ecco Caffe (apparently Ecco's own Steve Ford was in doing a cupping that morning, but I unfortunately missed him). After downing a CCC espresso and a delicious Kenya off of the Clover, I left with a half pound of their Cup of Excellence Nicaragua #8 winner from Luis Vasquez-- compared with the Kenya's fruity dominant notes that veered into tomato soup territory as the cup cooled, the Nicaragua was a pleasant contrast with persistent nuts and caramel and a mellower acidity that gave a very warm, pleasant impression.
Cupping notes aside, the trip gave me an even stronger sense of what can happen when a small number of enthusiastic people get together to build a scene. New York's specialty coffee scene isn't large, but it's growing-- recent New York Times articles and other media attention (Martha Stewart!) has driven the boom, but it has most to do with the positivity and group spirit these guys have built. Different shops aren't competing, they're supporting one another and in turn creating an infectious energy. I want to see this happen in Toronto, and I know it will, but there's still too much fracture and fragmentation-- baristas and owners competing rather than supporting one another (let's not confuse this with barista competitions, which tend to foster mutual respect amongst the coffee community). I for one would like to see more cross-communication, knowledge sharing and support. In a city as big as Toronto, there simply aren't enough top-notch specialty coffee shops for there to be any logic in trash talking and avoidance. Let's make a scene, guys! This goes for anyone out there, if you want to come in and talk coffee, or invite me to check out your shop, hit me up here-- I'm in the shop Mondays and Tuesdays, and I know I can speak for everyone at Mercury, we want to build on something that is already gaining momentum. The Pacific Northwest has been a model for years, but it's inspiring to see a city as close as New York create something in such a short amount of time with such a relatively small group of motivated people. Let's make this happen, Toronto.