Tastes of Africa in Mason Jars at B. Koffie

Available in Mason Jars and Tasted with XPress Lid

For the longest time, lovers of single-origin high-end culinary coffee in the upper Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood have had to travel downtown for beans. Even this place is a bit far from the West 50s.

Now comes B. Koffie.

The new shop drew a fair amount of attention when it opened earlier this year as the first place to offer a disposable a French-press-to-go cup.

I went to see that and try it out, but I was more interested in the selection of single-origin beans, all imported from Africa.

The beans are sold in Mason jars, the ones made by the Ball Corp., the type that my parents used to use for canning preserves, sauces and pickles.

If you return the jar for a refill, you get a discount, the barista told me.

    Coffee Rwanda Rwabisindu

    Purchased May 16 at B. Koffie, 370 West 51st St., between 8th and 9th Avenue, closer to 9th.

    Description According to the hand-lettered chalkboard (pictured): “Chocolate tones, jasmine, fruit and nuts.”

    In the Cup: This was a smooth, rich and delicious coffee, prepared as an espresso and an Americano at home. It seemed fresh, though I don’t know the roaster or roasting date, or the precise origin, presumably a cooperative associated with the Rwabisindu washing station. I was in a hurry on my visit, so I forgot to ask about those details, and they were not posted.

[Update: I was told on a later visit that the beans were imported and roasted by the Philadelphia-based La Columbe Torrefaction, which also has its own shop in SoHo.]

The little shop on West 51st Street is easy to miss on the south side of the street. When I visited, there was no sign out front, the overhang said something about an electronics shop, and I almost walked by. Inside, there are no seats, but the decor is pleasing, and the staff was patient and helpful.

According to the shop’s Web site, B. Koffie was created by Tanya Hira and her partner Roberto Passon. The Xpress lid is a clever gimmick, a disposable contraption designed by Jeff Baccetti of Smartcup.

The barista put the ground coffee in the bottom and poured in the piping hot water. I waited four minutes and then pushed the plunger down until it clicked.

This results in a considerably fresher cup of coffee than something that has been sitting around the shop.

And I mean it about the piping hot part — I walked several blocks before the cup was cool enough to drink.

I think I still prefer the precision that a skilled barista can get from a Clover, and I generally don’t mind the wait. When I go back, I think I’ll try an espresso pulled from the shop’s FAEMA E61 espresso maker, which seems to be a fetish object for some coffee geeks.

But the real reason to visit B. Koffie is the coffee, of course. And now that the Mason jar is empty, it’s time to take a stroll over for a refill. (Update: I did just that and also gave the French press cup another try, with a smooth and smoky Ethiopian Yergacheffe that satisfied].

This entry was posted on May 29, 2010 at 11:03 am and is filed under Coffee!.

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