Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Café Integral, New York

Coffee fanatic Petitesoeur had read about this place on Serious Eats -- a one-man vertically-integrating coffee roasting operation run by 24-year-old César Martin Vega.  He imports the coffee (all from Nicaragua, where his family is from), roasts it, delivers it (on his bike!), and serves it cupped to order at his Café Integral, located within American Two Shot -- a clothing store in Soho.

When we arrived around 6-ish on a Friday, César was at the counter.  We think he was closing up, but he still cheerfully talked to us about the 3 varietals of coffee he had on offer.  He positively exudes a passion for coffee.  We opted for the Maragogype, which he brewed for us using a Sowden Softbrew.  The softbrew is like the French press in that it lets the water circulate evenly with the grounds - immersion brewing.  However, rather than pressing out the grounds, the softbrew has a much finer mesh sleeve, which you pull out of the pot leaving a cleaner brew than the press.  To me, it seemed a gentler process, much more like the delicate process of brewing tea.  You can read about more about why they like it at the Cafe.

Intrigued by the other blends we bought a sampler set.  He sells his coffee in 12-ounce Ball jars - which are refillable and more sustainable than paper bags.  For the sampler, you get three 4-ounce Ball jars - one of each varietal.  Petitesoeur took home two, and I took home the jar of Maracaturra, which was very a delicate coffee. I could drink it black (and I am not generally a black coffee drinker).

The softbrewed Maragogype we had at the Cafe was a nice smooth cup, and we loved chatting with César about his business -- so much so we ended up being late meeting our friend for dinner.  But it's absolutely fantastic what he's doing all on his own -- definitely an enterprise worth supporting!

Café Integral at American Two Shot
135 Grand Street
New York, New York, 10013

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