I started and ended my trip to New York this year with the High Line and Blue Bottle Coffee in Chelsea. Prime on my list to visit was the much talked about Siphon Bar, conveniently located near their High Line kiosk. I went ready to be talked down to, but the baristas at both spots were the friendliest people we met on the trip! They were so informative and helpful, and for the first time I felt comfortable talking about coffee with someone behind the counter.
On the High Line
Eaten: hot chocolate, olive oil shortbread, and a snickerdoodle (not pictured).
At the Siphon Bar
If you’re around the area, the siphon bar is definitely a must! Not only is it a personal and intimate experience, but as someone who just started learning about coffee, I found it to be revelatory in many ways. It was hands down the best coffee experience I’ve had. We were the first to get there and had the entire bar to ourselves for about an hour, during which we got to chat with our barista as she lead us through their coffee ‘menu’ of the day and the two different brewing methods they had stationed up. Unfortunately, a lot of the technical details went over my head.
We started with a complimentary cup of Cascara Tea, an herbal tea made from dried coffee cherry, which came paired with cubes of bourbon infused marshmallow. At the barista’s recommendation, we then followed through with the Siphon (a seemingly complicated brewing method involving a bit of simple physics), it yielded a very light brew of their Guatemala roast, and then the Nel with an Ethiopian bean, a pour over drip method that produced a concentrated extraction that went down smoothly.
Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day with a severe lip twitch.
The Guatemala’s weak flavours were a surprise to me. I’ve had different roasts in Toronto and they’ve always been more full-bodied with a strong mouthfeel that coats your entire palate, usually lingering for a long time, especially the aroma. This was thankfully explained! The beans used for us that day were essentially nearing the end of their life, the stronger, more chocolatey flavours that I usually associate with a Guatemala roast had mellowed down, leaving only the light citrus notes. This totally explains why coffee lovers always advise to buy ‘fresher’ beans (closer to the roasting date as possible) and in small batches if you know you won’t finish it in a month.
While waiting for the siphon bar to open, we also tried an Iced New Orleans, a cold brew coffee with chicory, cream and simple syrup. Unlike hot coffee that’s been chilled, the Iced New Orleans had a remarkable flavour profile and barely any acidity because of the long extraction process. I found it very similar to a Vietnamese coffee and Thai iced tea.