The other week, I took my partner Michal on a trip to New York as a little pre-40th birthday present to me and a pre-masters graduation present for him. New York as a relatively short city trip (5 days) is always a good idea. It’s close enough to Amsterdam to not make the trek unbearable and far enough to feel like you’ve really arrived in a very different place.
I have visited New York many times in the past but for Michal it was the first time and I was excited to show him around and to discover new things together. Throughout the trip, we visited many coffee bars all over town but it was the last one we journeyed out to that was the most interesting.
SEY is a coffee roastery and café located in Bushwick. Its relatively remote location makes it a bit of a coffee lovers’ destination unlike many of the Manhattan cafés that we visited that were bursting with tourists or office workers and often lacked charm. SEY was set up Tobin Polk and Lance Schnorenberg who I previously met many years ago when they were roasting coffee out of a Brooklyn loft as the aptly named Lofted Coffee.
Since SEY arrived on the New York coffee scene it has taken the world by storm. There have been countless examples of cafés that I visited in places like Maastricht, London or Paris where SEY’s coffees were on the shelves. And yet, the production space in Brooklyn is still relatively modest, at least that how it looked from the café side.
When Michal and I arrived at the café, it was a beautiful sunny afternoon and we took a seat near the big garage door that sported some temporary artwork from Ross Carvill all over it. The space itself is industrial but thanks to countless plants on the walls and hanging from the ceiling it looked almost like a greenhouse.
At the back, there is the production space where you can observe the team running around and going about its business roasting on the Loring and packing its coffees into the iconic white boxes with colourful inserts. The bar offers a variety of options from the current coffee menu so Michal and I decided to treat ourselves with two handbrewed coffees from Panama’s Elida Estate; one washed and one natural Geisha.
These coffees were both outstanding, their flavour profiles morphing as they cooled. Initially, Michal preferred the natural but after a while he fell in love with the washed. As we sat there observing the customers, I noted a mix of local residents, creatives, a few coffee tourists and others who sat at on the benches, at the bar or at high tables. The atmosphere felt warm and cosy.
Given that New York to this day is still somewhat behind many of its major city peers when it comes to being the home to a wide variety of globally renowned coffee roasters and coffee bars, SEY is definitely at the top of the city’s crop. I liked that it is relatively far from Manhattan and not overrun by tourists looking for brunch. If you make it all the way there, take your time. It’s what Tobin and Lance would want.