Taylor St. Baristas, a pioneering London specialty coffee brand with locations across London City, are now on the move to Manhattan, with plans for a multi-level cafe located on Madison Avenue between 40th & 41st to open in November 2015. Located at 285 Madison, the 1600-square-foot two-floor cafe will combine seated service and quick service elements across two distinct areas, bringing a much-vaunted Aussie-style cafe dining menu to Manhattan’s specialty coffee scene.
In an interview with Sprudge.com, Taylor St. co-founder Andrew Tolley dished details on his brand’s new stateside digs. They’ll be serving Counter Culture Coffee—”it tastes great with New York water”, Tolley tells us—off spiffy new espresso and coffee brewing equipment from the likes of Nuova Simonelli, Victoria Arduino, Mahlkönig and Marco Beverage Systems. Food is an important part of the Taylor St. Baristas experience in London, particularly at cafes like their Broad Street Bank hub, and they’ll be focusing on food in Manhattan, with a nod towards the high standards for cafe food in Australia and London.
The high-volume, heavy foot traffic location for Taylor St.’s Manhattan dovetails with their London ethic, focused on bustling districts like Mayfair, Liverpool Street, and Canary Wharf. Staffing for the Manhattan cafe will integrate Taylor St. veterans from London, alongside local NYC hires.
Andrew Tolley opened Taylor St. Baristas back in 2006 alongside his sister, Laura, and brother, Nick. Originally from Australia, the Tolleys have built a mini-empire of quality-focused, fast-paced specialty coffee bars across urban London. We spoke with Mr. Tolley digitally to learn more about their Manhattan project.
The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Taylor Street’s new NYC cafe—when will it open? Where’s it at?
We’ll be opening in New York in November—it’s a site on Madison and East 40th, a couple of blocks from Grand Central Terminal. The address is 285 Madison.
How many square feet will the cafe be? What’s its scope?
The space is 1600 square feet, over two floors.
The ground floor is 1000 square feet, and used for predominantly takeaway. One of the things we specialize in is in doing high-volume takeaway, but with high quality—we’re going in to that area with the expectation of making a lot of great coffee.
The second floor that will be dine-in, and allow us to fully explore the main elements of great cafes: food, coffee, and service. Good cafes do great coffee as a given, but then it is the food element, which is missed by many, and that’s the opportunity we’re exploring, and this all needs to be wrapped up with lovely service.
The Taylor St. Bank cafe in London has the dining area split off from the takeaway area, and we’ll be doing a similar concept to that, but over two floors instead of one.
Please tell us more about the food program.
When we started Taylor St., great coffee was enough get customers in the door and develop a loyal following. Since then, the proliferation of great cafes and wider availability of specialty coffee means that cafes are working harder to differentiate and food is a natural part of that—it’s a nod to our Aussie roots and is almost taken for granted that great coffee will be accompanied by great food in Aussie cafes.
As far as the rest of the food goes. the focus is on dishes that are healthy with a Middle Eastern theme to them. Bright colors, bold flavors, pungent spices, but done in a way that’s cafe friendly, focused on quality and provenence of the ingredients.
What coffee will you be serving?
We’ve been looking at the New York market and American roasters for a long time, and the company we’re consistently impressed with for their quality, range of coffees, the sourcing and ethics, is Counter Culture. We’ll offer 2 different coffee options for espresso. We will use the Apollo blend, which is composed of washed Ethiopian coffees currently. I like the caramel, ginger notes we get from this coffee in milk and the bright citrus and floral notes as an espresso. We will also select other interesting seasonal coffees to reflect the flavours of multiple origins. The concept is very much to have contrasting espresso and filter coffee flavor profiles.
And this style will be offered in the New York cafe?
Yes. In the main area downstairs, there will always be three filter options with three flavour profiles offered. The flavor profiles will be consistent; the component coffees will change regularly.
Brew methods for takeaway downstairs will be bulk, in partnership with Marco using their new Jet model, and then upstairs, with a bit more time and a drink-in option. We’re trying out the SP-9—we’re trying it now back in London, and we’re going to probably roll that out and use it in New York as well. The SP-9 allows you to do small batches of fantastic coffee and gives us the ability to diversify the menu.
Will there be a similarly styled guest coffee roaster program in New York?
We’ll work with Counter Culture and explore all the coffees they’ve got. I’ve been excited going to New York recently and drinking these Counter Culture coffees: the quality is there, their roasting is consistently very good, you can choose from any sort of flavor profile or roast profile, and the coffee tastes good with the New York water. I’m really happy with that. Down the track we’ll see what happens, but Counter Culture has everything we want right now.
Will you be staffing up entirely from the NYC area, or bringing over folks from London?
We put an ad out a few months ago within our internal network for our first 4-6 positions in New York. Within our own training program, we’re looking for people who’d gotten to a senior level.
That ad went to existing Taylor St. people as well as our alumni. and we had this huge response from people who’d worked with us—everything from people who worked with us 5-6 years ago to the present day. It’s what’s great about having been in business since 2006—we’ve got this huge network of great people we’ve worked with who are still passionate and excited about working with coffee. They are very much taken with the idea of coming to New York and working there.
So we’ll fly 4-6 people over, accommodate them for a month, sort out visas, all to make sure that we can get the shop off to the right start. We have a Taylor St. style, which is professional, and very focused on quality, but in a more relaxed, I suppose, Aussie kind of way, which is friendly and disarming but still very professional. That’s what we want to plant into the New York cafe. We’re working on developing a training program, which is another reason why Counter Culture is such a great partner, as we will have access to their Manhattan Training Center. It’ll be quite intensive, but once the shop opens it’s about ensuring that every drink that goes out meets quality standards.
Who is handling the architecture & design of this new cafe?
My sister Laura does all of our interior design, and has been working hard from this side of the Atlantic to ensure things look good and go smoothly over there.
Why is the cafe where it is? Why Midtown?
I think it’s what Taylor St. does best—high volume with high quality. We like the rush.
How many Taylor St. cafes are there total now?
We have 9 cafés at the moment, though we’re opening a kiosk near St Paul’s Cathedral in late July [now open] and have a roastery & café opening in London this year too.
Is this part of a wider America expansion plan?
It’s a New York plan for now. There’s space for a few Taylor St. locations in New York. But we like cities, and everything they offer. There are plenty of cool cities in the US. There’s also some great cities in Europe we’d like to explore.
To be clear: this is not a co-licensing agreement or franchise store, but rather, a fully functioning Taylor St. owned by the London-based brand?
We are not co-licensed or anything like that. We’ll be on the ground from day one. [laughs] My brother will be personally working in-store when we open, most likely.
The challenge is what’s most exciting. Setting foot in a new city, a new country, and starting from scratch, building up a network of new co-workers, suppliers, and customers, who end up being friends.
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge.com.
Photos courtesy of Taylor St. Baristas, used by permission.