Hazel de los Reyes and Clare Lim of Sydney-based roaster Coffee Alchemy have opened their first roaster and café in Brooklyn, United States.
“We’ve opened doors and it’s so exciting. It’s really happening,” says Clare, direct from New York.
The duo’s first overseas venue, Gumption Coffee, an extension of its Sydney store, had a soft opening in late December 2018, but Clare says it’s time to make some noise internationally.
“We don’t want to sound like we’re just another Aussie opening in New York serving Australian coffee to New Yorkers,” Clare says. “We don’t want to preach that we make better coffee than them. We came to New York because we didn’t know how to make coffee for New Yorkers, and as a roaster from Sydney, that’s a challenge. We came to serve New York coffee, and the best New York coffee we can make.
“The importance is not our nationality but our skill as coffee roasters.”
Just what exactly do New Yorkers enjoy, Clare says, has been an interesting discovery, which she identifies as “not over roasted and full flavoured”.
“It’s very clearly not Australian,” Clare says. “The roasting is definitely different. What Australians would describe as ‘intensely roasty’ is what the Americans love. They’re just used to that style, and Australians aren’t. Because New Yorkers love that style, we’ve adapted our roast to develop more sweetness.
“It hasn’t been so much a challenge, but an education. We love that we’re constantly discovering, From our filter coffees to our espresso, the feedback from New Yorkers has been so rewarding. [I love] seeing the smiles on the faces of our New York customers as they drink our coffee and say to us, ‘now that’s a good coffee’.”
Gumption serves its New York blend called Hammer & Tongs, along with exclusive micro-lots soon to be released including a Guatemala Quejina, Bolivia David Mamani, and Bolivia La Linda Caturra,
Clare says American coffee often receives a lot of flak, but underneath the giant coffee chains is a community of passionate coffee people producing incredible coffee.
“You have to try and understand New York, cater to its audience to appreciate the incredibly diverse coffee scene it has,” Clare says.
“We haven’t come to New York with a sign saying ‘Australian-roasted coffee here.’ There are other specialty coffee places doing that. That’s not what we’re after. We are for every New Yorker. New Yorkers love their coffee as fiercely as we do.”
Gumption is located in Brooklyn’s Industry City, an innovation ecosystem or as Clare describes it, “New York’s equivalent to Sydney’s Barangaroo”. The 35-acre space encompasses 23 buildings and resembles more of a collage campus than a working space on the waterfront in Sunset Park.
Hazel and Clare’s roastery and café shares the street with popular designer furniture business ABC Home and Carpet and the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, which has a practice court with floor-to-ceiling windows and boasts one of the best skyline views of Manhattan.
“We think Industry City is a game changer. This place is a space for the future,” Clare says.
“We were looking to open another specialty coffee shop, we thought of Melbourne or Brisbane. Then we thought, let’s do something unexpected even for ourselves, let’s do New York. We’ve made it happen in Brooklyn. This is real for us.”
Gumption also encompasses a food menu with items all made on-site from the café’s small kitchen. You won’t find any smashed arvo or Vegemite toast on the menu, however this Brooklyn gem is dedicated to producing everything from scratch, including its own jams, cured salmon and sourdough bread selection.
“We roast our own coffee, ‘so why not make our own food as well?’ The things that come out of our tiny kitchen are just incredible. You can taste the difference,” Clare says.
“We are manufacturers. We try to work with food producers/farmers within miles of Industry City, which allows us to support local producers and the community we’re in.”
Standout items include Gumption’s chicken pot pie, apple pie, espresso banana bread, soups, chicken in a biscuit, pastrami sandwich, house cured salmon on sourdough, and the breakfast sandwich.
With three high-volume cafés already operating in Australia (Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville, Gumption by Coffee Alchemy in The Strand Arcade, and Micro Coffee in Barangaroo) and one newly opened café in the US, Clare are Hazel are hopeful the expansion of Gumption is just the beginning of big things to come.
“I really hope we can open future places. Why not open a shop in Manhattan? It’s certainly a goal.”