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Reviewing New York's Café Grumpy

In the course of researching “tip creep”, we came across the evocatively named Café Grumpy. On some level, you’d have to love a place that calls itself Café Grumpy. Many of us, after all, aren’t exactly little rays of sunshine before we’ve had our first cup of coffee for the day. On the basis of the name alone, Grumpy sounded like a shop worth checking out. Question is, will you be as grumpy leaving the shop as you were when you came in?

The Location

We visited Café Grumpy’s Chelsea location (224 West 20th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues). The staff here were efficient, friendly and knowledgeable, striking just the right balance between answering customers’ questions and keeping the near-constant line moving.

The shop is split into two sections: the front, by the counter, is charmingly cramped, with a steady flow of patrons during our entire visit. There’s also a small seating area to the rear in case the small tables in the front don’t afford you quite enough space. What some may find an annoyance — the shop doesn’t offer WiFi, and a sign over the counter forbids laptop use — we actually rather enjoyed. There’s a subdued buzz of conversation from the tables, and even (wonder of wonders) customers chatting each other up while they wait for their coffee. While we don’t necessarily object to getting work done in a cafe, it’s nice when someone bucks the trend.

So. Cheerful space, cheerful staff. So far, so good. But how’s the coffee?

The Taste Test

We sampled two of Café Grumpy’s offerings, both pourovers made in KONE filters. It was a good choice for both coffees. There’s some silt and more oils, but one gets the feeling that a paper filter would have muted some of the coffee’s already subtle top and bottom notes.

The first coffee sampled was Los Santos, a Guatemalan coffee sourced from multiple small producers. Its taste is reminiscent of black currant, with notes of dried fruit and a trace of hazelnut. Thanks in part to the KONE brew, it has a slightly clingy mouth feel that accentuates its long finish. The soil in which a coffee is grown makes a big difference in the taste, and the Santos in particular has a pleasingly earthy flavor that comes through in each sip.

Next up was the La Pastora/Monte Crisol Costa Rican decaf. Normally, we avoid decaffeinated coffee, since often as not it’s a pale simulacrum of its higher-octane brethren. However, two full-caff coffees in one sitting seemed like it might be pushing our luck. The short verdict? Huzzah! Decaf that isn’t awful! This decaf starts syrupy and stays that way throughout, but in spite of that it has a clean — nearly abrupt — finish. There’s a bit of cinnamon in the nose. Each sip starts sweet, but not cloyingly so, and finishes with notes of plum and a faint tang of citrus.

The Conclusion
Not everyone’s a morning person. Your humble reviewer certainly is not; prone to keeping odd hours, I’m not even sure I have a right side of the bed at this point. As an occasionally grumpy individual, you can understand why I’d be predisposed to like Café Grumpy for the name alone. Happily, I can recommend them for far more than their name or their endearingly cantankerous coffee bean mascot; their coffee is more than enough reason to make them worth a return trip.