As Third-Wave cafes go, Roasting Plant has kept a low-ish profile compared to the likes of Blue Bottle, Stumptown, or Intelligentsia. We can only chalk this up to the fact that Roasting Plant, unlike its counterparts, doesn't have the same national -- or, in Blue Bottle's case, international -- reach, though that's slowly changing thanks to the opening of a new Detroit location. It certainly has nothing to do with their coffee, which happens to be every bit as good as its more famous rivals.
I visited the location at 75 Greenwich Avenue in Manhattan. My first thought upon entering was that even though my eight-year-old self may not have been a coffee drinker, he would've loved the look of Roasting Plant, with its mix of exposed brick, funky artwork, and a profusion of tubes and machinery that looked like the Blue Man Group had ditched their drums and gone all in on coffee instead. Luckily, 42-year-old me gets to enjoy the decor and the coffee.
The Jetsons never had coffee this good.
Roasting Plant does things a bit differently. For starters, there's the variety of coffees on offer, which currently include coffees from Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Hawaii, plus various blends. Next is onsite air-roasting, after which each is ground and brewed fresh (hence the network of pneumatic tubes snaking around the premises).
I started with the Bali Blue Moon. It's got a heady aroma that belies a light, satiny mouth feel. It's bold, with notes of malt and a subtle nuttiness that'd compare favorably to a good stout. The acidity is present, but slightly subdued. On any other day, this coffee would be the clear winner.
And while the Bali Blue Moon didn't disappoint, it couldn't hold a candle to the Colombia Geisha Azul that I tried next. It's a bit more expensive (an additional $1.50/cup, which pales next to the beans' $77/pound price tag), but it's worth every penny. It's wonderfully light and fruity, with a citrusy acidity that's almost reminiscent of an Orange Pekoe tea (right down to some mildly tannic notes, though that could have been my tongue playing tricks on me), albeit with a lightly chocolate-y finish. The nose is just as beguiling -- like sniffing a bowl of fruit.
Finally, a word about the cookies. I tend to avoid baked goods when I'm tasting coffee, since I prefer not to have the flavors from the foods I'm eating interfering with the taste of my java. I made an exception here once I'd had enough of the coffee to give a fair assessment, and I'm glad I did. The cookies, like the coffee, are done in-house. They have a sloppy, gooey freshness that tastes just like home-made, and they're the perfect compliment to your coffee.
So if you hadn't heard of Roasting Plant before, you have now. Try their coffee. While the Azul was a particular standout, the Bali more than held its own, and indicated that there's as much depth to Roasting Plant's menu as there is in each individual cup of coffee.
A video that shows a glimpse of what makes Roasting Plant unique:
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