The menfolk at Handsome Coffee Roasters may be based in Los Angeles, but that hasn't stopped them from taking a bite out of the Big Apple. HCR Owner and World Barista Champion Mike Phillips recently spent ten days in New York City, a whirlwind work-fun combo trip wherein Mr. Phillips did the following: served free iced coffee at the Brooks Brothers Flat Iron location in Manhattan; worked guest shifts at the Joe NYC Pro Shop; handed out bags of coffee during the Baristas For Boobs charity event (which raised more than $1500); hung out with Handsome's East Coast Sales rep Park Brannen; likely drank some nice cocktails; and totes went to Shake Shack.
Sprudge.com caught up with Mike Phillips and asked him a few questions about his wild ride.
Sprudge: Hey Mike! Can you tell us more about the HCR – Brooks Brothers partnership?
Michael Phillips: Handsome Coffee Roasters has been pretty lucky so far in the folks that it can call friends. One of the more intriguing and unexpected ones is that between us and Brooks Brothers. For those that do not know, Brooks Brothers is actually the oldest men's clothing company in the US and was based on a motto that it practically feels like we unwittingly lifted when we started Handsome.
Their stated goal was “To make and deal only in merchandise of the finest body, to sell it at a fair profit, and to deal with people who seek and appreciate such merchandise.” Pretty much exactly how we feel about coffee.
Anyways, we have teamed up to do occasional events at their locations. This one involved us going to their Flat Iron district store and serving iced coffee for a week free of charge to thirsty New Yorkers. Kind of awesome. Along with this the fabulous Jonathan Rubinstein of Joe gave me a chance to run a guest shift at their new Pro Location and to also host a tasting of Handsome's line up. Add into that seeing all my besties in the big Apple and you have the sum of what I was doing out there.
Sprudge: Was this your first time working bar in NYC?
MP: I am glad to say I am no stranger to NYC. I have managed to pull a few shots at (rest in peace..) RBC NYC and have even plucked a few hours of working at Southside Coffee. This was certainly the longest stretch however being at the Brooks store for 8 days and Joe for 2.
Sprudge: Was the NYC coffee drinking scene different than the LA scene?
MP: That's a pretty big “yes” but I don't think it's a coffee specific issue. I am pretty sure folks in both of those great states would proudly proclaim a difference in many areas of life from one another and they would be right. With that said, we ran a bar that was only serving iced coffee and iced coffee with milk. No sugar, no decaf, no flavors… just clean, sweet, balanced single origin coffees and people loved it, the exact same response we get in Los Angeles. For my part however, I am solidly from the Midwest, so they're all a bit different from me…
Sprudge: At Joe Pro Shop, you were using a Kees van der Westen Mirage Indrocompresso. What was that like?
MP: Ohhhh boy… that machine is something else. I am humble enough to admit when I have met my match and that Kees van der Westen Mirage is a brawler. Kees is well known for making souped-up beautiful espresso machines that play outside of the lines and this one is particularly rambunctious. It is a lever version of the Kees Mirage making the extraction an entirely different beast from the rotary pump drive vehicles we are all so familiar with.
Coming from a world of highly dialed and programmable pre- and post-infusion on Handsome's Linea SG, I was looking to the Joe staff for advice on this one. All in the abilities on it were very intriguing (can we say foot pedal operated steam wand) and hopefully some day I'll get some more time on it to catch up with all the cool kids who normally work that bar.
Sprudge: For people in NY, are there places one can purchase/consume HCR coffee?
MP: Why there actually are, so glad you asked! We are lucky enough to have a home at the Joe Pro Shop on 21st, off and on at the ever wonderful Sweet Leaf locations, the super tasty Marlow and Sons in South Williamsburg and at my favorite breakfast spot in all of NY, Cafe Iris in Brooklyn Heights.
Sprudge: Did you get to visit a lot of cafes/restaurants/bars in NYC? Any favorites?
MP: After doing all of my bar shifts, I mainly spent time with coffee folks outside of coffee bars… is that bad?
Sprudge: We totally understand.
MP: Food wise I made the rounds best I could… Shake Shack, Union Square Cafe, and Gramercy Tavern were pretty awesome, as Handsome puts Danny Meyer on a pretty high pedestal. Lot 2 and Cafe Iris are always great eats as well. For bars I finally checked off PDT (amazing…) and also feel in love with McSorley's Old Ale House. You have to go there to understand but trust me.
Stay abreast of the Handsome shenanigans via the Handsome Coffee Tumblr.