Kitten Coffee Bringing Sexy Back to Brooklyn's Cafe Scene

By Sonja Sharp on October 9, 2012 7:29am 

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — New York coffee may have come a long way from the watery swill of decades past, but few would call it sexy. Few, that is, besides the guys from Kitten Coffee, a boutique roaster in a Skillman Street cardboard factory that's looking to steam up your cappuccino. 

"We want to inject a bit more sex into the coffee scene," said Todd Broockerd, Kitten's co-owner. "In places like Milan, and Melbourne, Australia, the coffee shop is like a bar. Here it's a place for people to go get on their laptops — no one talks to each other."

Kitten gets its name from a bar the company's founder, Rowan Tuckfield, ran in Australia. Its beans come exclusively from two farms in Brazil. In addition to curating single-origin coffee, the roaster, which has been around for five years, hosts classes for baristas and other espresso enthusiasts in the art of the perfect pull.

"We get a lot of folks that want to become baristas or open a cafe," Broockerd said. "It's one thing to roast really nice coffee, but to get people to serve it and make it the way it's supposed to be made is another."

The Bed-Stuy guys are far from the only connoisseurs trying to reinvent coffee for the city that never sleeps. Cafe culture is in the midst of a renaissance in Brooklyn, with Portland's Stumptown roasting in Red Hook and pour-over style coffee popping up on menus from Boerum Hill to Bensonhurst.

But Broockerd insisted what Kitten does is different.

"In Williamsburg, you can't throw a rock without hitting a coffee roaster," he said. "The Stumptowns and the Counter Cultures, they're about tattoos and ratty t-shirts. We want to inject more class into the scene."

That difference is more than skin deep. Unlike the competition, Kitten roasts just 25 pounds of coffee at a time, using a man — Brian Hamburg, 25 — not a machine, to monitor the process.

"When you roast in small batches it's a lot easier to keep your finger on quality," Broockerd said.

With a small but robust roster of clients in the city, Broockerd said he's hopeful Kitten can help usher in a new era for New York coffee — one with fewer computers and more conversation.

"I go into so many coffee shops and it seems like people just aren't having a good time," Broockerd said. "We're aspiring to a more Euro-centric culture."

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