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Cafe Review: Toby's Estate

Toby's Estate (44 Charles Street location)
A short time ago in this space, we reviewed Hoboken's Bean Vault Coffee, which featured coffees by Toby's Estate. Having enjoyed the coffee, we decided to go to the source, visiting their West Village location at 44 Charles Street. The cozy location, with its cramped but cozy exposed-brick confines, was a welcome respite on a cold and blustery February day. The first item sampled was Toby's Estate's take on the Flat White. We were prepared to be disappointed, especially after having been let down by Starbucks' bland, flavorless take on the drink. As it turned out, we'd worried ourselves over nothing; this is the Flat White done right.
Toby's Estate Flat White

Here's the thing: a good flat white relies on a layer of microfoam for texture, but also as an espresso delivery system; in effect, a good quantity of the espresso is floated on the denser layer of milk beneath. If it's done right -- as it is here -- you have a texture that's velvet from first sip to last (as contrasted to the Starbucks version's texture, which is something closer to plush, or perhaps terrycloth). So the texture was a ten out of ten. Thankfully, the flavor didn't disappoint either. The milky, rounded sweetness was perfectly complemented by the understated nutty bitterness of the espresso microfoam. When we'd finished basking in the glow of the Flat White, we followed up with a cup of El Tambor Guatemala. It sports a malty taste that's oddly but comfortingly reminiscent of perfectly-done toast.

Those malty notes are nicely balanced by a lightly caramelized acidity that fades to Meyer lemon over the course of a long, though not unpleasant, finish. After our second time sampling Toby's Estate, we can safely say three things: One, we can recommend them without reservations. Two, we'll certainly be going back. And three, this Third Wave brewer that's one of New York's best-kept secrets isn't likely to stay that way much longer.