Some might say we're too percky
We Central New Yorkers gotta have our coffee. We've been roasting since 1902, when Ella Barber deLima visited her husband's family at their coffee plantation in Brazil and came home to Syracuse to start some serious roasting.
Good coffee shops are full of good conversation and good stories, and it's surprising how many come with stories of their own. Take iconic Syracuse coffee roaster, Freedom of Espresso. When Anna Dobbs started her coffee bar in the 1990s, she named it “Federal Espresso,” partly because it was going to open across the street from the Federal Building. The location changed before the opening, but the name didn’t. Federal Express learned about the name and threatened a lawsuit, so Anna changed the name to Ex-Federal Espresso. No-go, said FedEx. After some legal wrangling, Anna changed the name again, to Freedom of Espresso. The story made national news and today Freedom of Espresso's coffee still percolates at all five locations. A local favorite: The first-floor store in Franklin Square. It has a recessed seating area and quiet brick patio, charming places to hunker down and finish that novel.
We'll leave it to you to discover which of Central New York's roasters you prefer as well as the stories that brought them to life. To get you started, here are a few, selecting and roasting their own beans in diverse styles and flavors:
Cafe Kubal has six locations and is a linchpin of the buy-local movement. It's a popular business meeting spot and a relaxing hangout place. If you really want to know about coffee, sign up for one of Cafe Kubal's cupping classes at its roaster in Eastwood.
Recess Coffee has several stores, including its flagship in the Westcott neighborhood of Syracuse and a more recent opening across from Syracuse's City Hall. The Westcott spot is a cozy hangout that occupies the first floor of an old Victorian, making you feel like you're in someone's living room. People Magazine ranked Recess number 4 on its lists of "24 Coffee Shops in America You Have to Visit." Kind Coffee Company has one location and you might overlook it in an unassuming warehouse on West Fayette Street. Be prepared to spend time talking with the owner, Doug Nicolaisen, a coffee fanatic who isn't shy about correcting an opinion. Doug roasts the beans in the shop, which is dog friendly. Here's Chris Baker, writing about the best coffee shops in Upstate New York: "Kind Coffee roasts a mean bean, offering rich, hearty coffee. It's Spartan in its offerings and the atmosphere is as casual as it comes - like an undergraduate living room. But it's a uniquely CNY experience everyone should try."
Read on to learn about more shops and roasters:
Try these shops for artisan-roasted beans and a freshly brewed cup: Salt City Coffee. Stickboy Coffee. Hyman Smith Coffee. Simple Roast Coffee Company is based in Auburn but its beans have spread all around the Syracuse area.
In a 2017 online poll, voters chose Cortland's Coffee Mania as the best coffee shop in CNY: It started in 1999 when owners Craig and Michelle Brooks moved from Washington to be closer to Michelle Brooks' mother. Michelle had owned a cafe out west.
In the Utica area, Fort Schuyler Trading Company is a small coffee roasting company. Then there's Utica Coffee Roasting Co., which is also known as "Wake The Hell Up!" Nearby in Rome, try Spressos Coffee House.
The Ithaca area has many roasters and shops. Don't miss Gimme! Coffee. Roast Magazine chose Gimme! Coffee as the Roaster of the Year. Need more proof we take our coffee seriously? The head roaster at Ithaca Coffee is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and brings an experienced chef's palate to the roasting process.
Another reason we love our farmers markets: At the Fayetteville Farmers Market, not only do we get to meet local farmers growing fresh food, we can sample and buy from small-batch coffee artisans like Fojo Beans, a roaster from Norwich. Forty Weight Coffee Roasters of Ithaca made its first sale at a Syracuse farmers market and now roasts for some of America's finest establishments.
A few more caffeinated notes: Strong Hearts Cafe is all vegan and intensely environmental with only sustainable products. Cracked Bean Roastery in Manlius, doesn't have a retail store or coffee shop, so order it online to see what you think. If you're shopping at Destiny USA and looking for a cup, try Finger Lakes Coffee Roaster.
Phoebe's Restaurant and Coffee Lounge, across the street from Syracuse Stage, might be best known for its dining before and after the theater. But, as the name suggests, it's a great coffee place during the day, especially for SU students and young professionals working in the neighborhood - or anyone wanting delicious food with a cup.
The Pewter Spoon in Cazenovia has the motto: "A darn good cup of coffee." Then explains: "That’s what we’re about. But one cannot live on great coffee alone, so we put together a menu that appeals to a variety of tastes and dietary needs including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options."
Finally, if you're in the riverfront village of Baldwinsville, try Shamballa Café and Coffee Roasters. It's good in any season, but on a warm summer day, don't miss savoring a cup strolling along the Seneca River and Erie Canal.