A good coffee shop is all about atmosphere. And the atmosphere is one reason that I've tried to like the Joe Art of Coffee chain. They really make an effort.
Paintings and other one-of-a-kind art on the wall. Barista classes. Cute little signs describing bits of coffee lore. Cupping notes on the bags. The last time I sampled some beans here, very early in my coffee quest, I was disappointed. Lately Joe has been popping up on best-of lists, so it was long past time to give Joe another chance, and now I'm glad I did.
One important change: Joe has switched to a new roasting partner, Ecco Caffe in California, since my visit last year. A good roast makes all the difference. The retooling landed the shop on this best-of-New-York coffee list by The Times. Coffees Brazil Serra do Bone, Brazil Fazenda Sertãozinho and Seasonal House Blend
Roasted Late April by Ecco Caffe
Purchased May 3 at Joe the Art of Coffee, 405 West 23rd St.
In the cup Ah, Brazil. When it comes to old school coffee, I've come to think there's nothing like beans from Brazil. Cue the Sinatra. "They put coffee in the coffee in Brazil."
On the morning I visited, the featured coffee was from Brazil, the Serra de Bone.
The tasting note said: "Malted chocolate and praline with a balanced acidity and a creamy, caramel finish to yield an approachable cup." It was so delicious and amazing that it didn't even bother me that one guy was sprawled with stuff across all three chairs in the window of the shop.
I decided to go heavy on the Brazilian flavors with the two bags of beans that I bought.
The seasonal house blend (Mogiana from Brazil, Tingo Maria from Peru) lived up to its tasting notes: "Cocoa-nosed sweetness with lovely tones of brown sugar and a lingering honey finish for an elegant and approachable cup."
That's a description right up my alley, and this didn't disappoint me. For the past couple of weeks, I made this at home as both espresso and Americanos.
At the office, using my Aeropress, I have been enjoying the Fazenda Sertãozinho.
The bag described it as "drenched in rich, dark chocolate. Tons of sugarcane, caramel, Satsuma tangerine, honey, vanilla and malted milk imbue this with an elegant and approachable sweetness." I didn't pick up much tangerine, but this is accurate.
Another nice thing about my Joe experience: The bags are generous with 12 ounces of beans, and not overpriced -- generally $11 to $13 per bag.
Maybe I got lucky. Maybe the tasting notes were spot-on (despite the overuse of "approachable.") Maybe I should thank Ecco Caffe or the nation of Brazil.
Of the three, I like the Fazenda Sertãozinho best, and wish I had some at home right now. Alas, the bag is sitting in a cupboard in the office.