The move has received very little fanfare or gossip in the industry grapevine, but on March 24th Ninth Street Espresso switched from their long-time roaster (Counter Culture Coffee of North Carolina) to Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Oregon.
While it may sound like benign news to the casual reader of this blog, the arrival of Stumptown on the East Coast signals the changing tide in the area of specialty coffee. Stumptown has been a long-time stalwart of never bringing on wholesale accounts outside a 45 minute radius of their roastery in southeast Portland. Sure, they toyed for awhile in San Francisco and last year opened operations in Seattle, but shipping coffee across the continent? That's something different indeed.
Since we were in New York City, we decided to hike it over to Ninth Street's Chelsea location to have a taste for ourselves.
I've been a long-time fan of Stumptown since September 2003 when I had my first "real" coffee experience tasting that years' Ethiopian Harrar. A powerhouse of depth, complexity and the fabled "blueberry". It was a real eye-opener for me regarding the possibilities for coffee. Not to mention that we've modeled our french press coffee service on the Stumptown example, and their hardcore approach to quality.
Happily, former Washington DC barista Ryan Goodrow was working the bar and we were presented with some of the most exquisite coffees I've ever had from Ninth Street and a shot of Hairbender that I'll say was better than from Stumptown's own coffeeshops. That strong acidity was there with some nice fruity and chocolate notes. It was delicious.
Of course, a lot of that lies with the barista and I've come to realize that Ryan has got to be one of America's best. Humble, passionate and committed. There's no egotism or pretense, just focus. Then to taste what's in the cup and you can only be seriously impressed, or rather: blown away. In chatting with him, I realize we have similar ethos. Unlike other baristas who desire to be on the national stage performing at a competition, that is lost on Goodrow. He's focusing on the cup and customer in front of him and delivering a national-level performance for that jaded New Yorker or that tourist from Biloxi with the same passion and commitment. It's fantastic.
If you're in New York City, swing by and order a cup from Ryan.
Ninth Street Espresso
79 9th Avenue
New York, NY