Have you had enough to eat yet? Let's take our Bloody Mary's from Coop's in the cab with us, after the boudin sausage and jambalaya breakfast in the courtyard at Napoleon House; but not before our walk from Anderson's place in the Treme into the Quarter, before our actual lunch, a crawfish boil from Big Fisherman on Magazine Street, consumed at a nearby outdoor bar front picnic table with Anderson and Kate, washed down with Abida Amber and bonhomie and capped by a desecrated crawfish photo op. You suck the heads and pinch the tails, donchaknow, and you can take that beer to go with you too, if you want, which you do. Where do we go next? Who wants a nice cup of coffee? We could really go for a nice cup of coffee…
A really nice cup of coffee…just down the street, at Velvet.
Velvet, open just a few short months, is already making a name for itself as the premier high-end destination for specialty coffee in the entire city of New Orleans. Behind a beautiful, chest-high oak bar, there sits, almost shocking in its unassuming presence, a gear cache to make even the most hardened nerd blink: La Marzocco GS3, Nuova Simonelli Appia, three Hario siphons, counter service run on an iPad, a V60 pour over bar, and a rotating selection of delightful coffees. In short, all the trimmings; exactly the gear, the groove, and the grindage you'd want to see in the best cafes anywhere in the world. Except this is New Orleans, where this kind of coffee beverage experience is just now beginning to peek through the bayou pines and into the sunshine.
Velvet currently serves up Stumptown and Intelligentsia, similar to Third Rail in Manhattan; they also feature guest roasters, and when we visited, they were serving the beautiful Kenya Kianjogu from Barismo. The Kianjogu was a competition roast, specially crafted by Barismo for use by Velvet's owner, Tamara Muro, at the USBC Brewers Cup.
Tamara has carved out a unique niche in the specialty coffee world. The woman is a bonafide Hollywood coffee visionary, responsible for putting the best coffees on earth into the hands of movie stars, film directors and crews for years before anyone outside of Hollywood had any clue what she was up to. We ran an interview with Tamara back in 2010, but little did we know that she would go on to own and operate one of the most remarkable, charming little high-end cafes anywhere in America. She's still got strong ties to the Los Angeles area, where her husband works as a noted Steadicam operator – and in some ways, that makes her Velvet project even more exciting.
While we were visiting, the barista, who Tamara has lovingly nicknamed “Elvis”, made us a delicious set of coffees from their V60 brew bar. While we were sharing the coffee, he told us about his work as a musician in the city. “I do experimental music that doesn't really fit in around town in New Orleans, but I kind of like that.” In a recent trip to PDX, he was shocked to discover how easily his music fit in instantly, to the point of being almost mundane. Elvis, like Tamara and Velvet, are faced with the challenge of doing something that's already well-established elsewhere, yet new and unique to the city of New Orleans. You won't find chicory coffee at Velvet, and that's okay. You won't find a neon green over-sized daiquiri to-go cup, either. You can find all that stuff down the street, at a different place. This is something new, and from the looks of today's crowd, people love it.
Tamara Muro has planted a flag in New Orleans, and under that banner there's an astonishing amount of room for growth. The city itself, beyond Velvet, is absolutely primed for a coffee revolution, begging for attention, aching for a different kind of coffee, and ripe for the picking.
There didn't used to be carefully curated multiple roaster cafe in the city of New Orleans. But now there is. It's at Velvet, on Magazine Street, a short cab or a pleasant bike ride from the Quarter, waiting to be discovered by the city and those who love it worldwide.
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