Eye-level Bushwick, Brooklyn in 2016 is a rapidly escalating situation. The once-marginal home of music, art, and food creativity—remember, even Roberta's hides itself in a nondescript cinderblock box—has embraced the molting process, shedding its rough industrial skin for the shiny, bourgie businesses its vivacious young inhabitants desire.
This week's entry into the conspicuously stylish Bushwick scene is the luminous roastery-cafe Supercrown. A new New York City coffee business combining coffee and design pedigrees, Supercrown is angling not just for an embrace by the local community but by the coffee world at large—you'll find their slick online subscription interface just as prominent as their store hours. And they've got the elbow, if not the seating, to do it.
Stepping into the whitewashed one-storey space—an auto welding shop in a bluer-collar life—the walls angle back like opening arms, skylights above illuminating your path to a sleekly-outfitted bar. Atop, a gleaming Poursteady pour-over robot machine faces the entrance front and center, flanked by heaps of bakery treats furnished by Brooklyn fellows Baked and Bien Cuit. Eyes dart to an electric purple La Marzocco Strada EE, dual Nuova Simonelli Mythos grinders (these, in hot pink) and to a more subtle back wall of mood-calming Heath Ceramics mugs and the proverbial white Mahlkönig EK43. (The dairy-alert will also notice a milkshake mixer back there.)
But the eye's truly drawn to the blast of pink coming from the back room, only separated from the main space by its subtly angling walls. The rear of the business is set aside for in-house roasting operations by owner Darleen Scherer, a lifetime eschewer of pink, she says, who's apparently come around. Anchored by a Probat UG-22 once owned by Alterra Coffee Roasters of Milwaukee, Scherer's roasting program, she says, aims to be both “nimble and humble”.
Formerly the head roaster and co-owner of (somewhat notorious) Park Slope institution Gorilla Coffee, Scherer sold her share of that business a year ago, and with them, some old attitudes towards roasting.
“I'm picking really bright coffees and roasting them a lot lighter,” says Scherer. “We're following the seasons and keeping this breadth of interesting coffees, whether it's award winning or an interesting varietal or interesting processing methods,” she continued.
At the helm of the coffee bar itself is Wade Matheny, ex-of Dallas, TX roaster Cultivar, New York's Intelligentsia wing, and others. Always ready to wax eloquently about coffee, Matheny sees the bright and well-equipped cafe as ready to stand tall in an already busy landscape of contemporary Brooklyn-based roasters.
“I feel like coffee is always trying to find a way, and I feel like Darleen has planted a garden here that actually has a shot,” said Matheny.
The finishing touches beyond coffee are striking here as well. The color-popping labels on the beans' sleek packaging feature a logo designed by ex-pat Dane Martin Justesen, who's responsible for the cafe's overall branding (and those slightly warped geometric rosettes painted in the loo.) You'll know Justesen's striking work from his design hand in Greenpoint's Tørst and Luksus, as well as on beer cans.
“I kept picking up all the Evil Twin cans, I loved the colors and the geometry of it and I loved how Scandinavian it looked,” said Scherer. “It really appealed, and it was so different from what I had been doing. So I emailed [Justesen] and it turned out he had just moved to New York.”
The simple but color-splashed space is an easy backdrop for narrowing focus to the important things: coffees (Scherer is excited about a Bella Vista COE from Colombia, a Rwanda Kanzu, and a dry-hulled PT Toarco Sulawesi at the moment), and of course, treats.
A thick drinking chocolate made with Ritual chocolate is capped by an ample house-made marshmallow (“I just wanted to control the shape of it so it's a square and hand-cut to cover the top,” says Scherer). On the warm-weather end of the spectrum is an Ample Hills Creamery sweet cream ice cream base blended with espresso, grinds, and a touch of Maldon sea salt. And with the weather as unpredictable as it's been in New York this winter, either one's a safe bet.
Save room (or lunch) if you like for the so-called “Magic Bialy”, in which the magic act involves convection-baking a bialy, putting an egg on it, and topping with caramelized onion, chile peppers, Tellicherry pepper, sea salt and arugula. Prosciutto, too, if you prefer.
And after all those drinks and treats, what's left? Nothing, Scherer hopes, as the shop owner is aiming for a zero waste output from the new business, inspired by others like Sweetgreen.
“We have a lot of compostable stuff like chaff and grinds. That's what we're going for and I think we can do it. If it's not compostable, it's recyclable. It's inevitable that there's going to be a weird plastic fork that lands somewhere in here, but I'm really positive that it's going to work,” says Scherer.
And in a landscape suddenly littered with fancy food, fancy coffee, and—don't worry—still a healthy share of unfancy loading docks, truck traffic, and bodegas, it's a pleasant shift to see people trying, in more than a few ways, to do things a little differently.
Liz Clayton is a staff writer and the associate editor at Sprudge.com. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.