Third Rail Coffee

240 Sullivan Street | 159 Second Avenue

Our 1st Cup of Excellence® coffee now available at Third Rail!

In what will be the first of many we’re sure, we’re pleased to say we’ve got our hands on a Cup of Excellence® coffee from 2009’s El Salvador competition.

From the farm of Jose Guillermo Alvarez on the slopes of the Santa Ana Volcano, Finca Malacara’s COE lot is full of stone fruits and molasses with a distinctly chewy mouthfeel, a nice citrus/apricot acidity and a dark chocolate finish. This one’s a real killer and will only be available for a short while as quantities are extremely limited. Come in for a hand poured Chemex or take
home some whole beans as a special Holiday treat or gift!

If you’ve never heard of the Cup of Excellence (COE) program it’s a great idea that began in Columbia about 10 years ago. In a nutshell, the COE is a competition of sorts in producing countries. Individual farmers submit lots of their most special coffees to their country’s COE committee. These coffees, several hundred lots typically, then enter a rigorous 5 stage selection process that culminates with an international jury of the finest cuppers (i.e. tasters) on the planet assigning the ultimate list of “winners”. It varies from country to country and year to year but usually there are about 2 dozen coffees in any given competition that are awarded the Cup of Excellence designation. At this point, roasters and importers from around the world vie for these special coffees via an online auction.

We could go on and on about the virtues of the system and the benefits that everyone involved, from the farmer to the you, the coffee drinker get out of this. Instead, we’d just love to have you over for a cup and we can talk about it some more down at the Rail.

For further information check out

Ecco at the Rail

Photo 'courtesy' of ConfusedBee

As anyone who’s ever had the pleasure to meet the man behind Ecco Caffe knows, Andrew Barnett is one heck of a guy and a top notch coffee man. We’ve always known we wanted to have ‘guest’ coffees come in and out of the shop and we always knew that we wanted Andrew’s to be the first to really get that slot. So this week at Third Rail we’ll be pulling shots of two of his espressos. We’re going to alternate somewhat but right now we’ve got a very special single origin espresso (another first for us):
La Maravilla from Guatemala.

This is a stunning coffee and a wonderful espresso. It's very clean and crisp, with a wonderful cherry hard-candy flavor, light chocolate notes in the foundation and a ton of juicy fruit, including nectarine, apricot, and sweet grape. It has incredible floral and fruit aromatics. The aftertaste is long lasting. This is one of those espressos where 75% of the pleasure comes after you drink it.

This espresso has a medium to light body and is gorgeous as a straight shot and very nice as a macchiato. This is not an espresso for people who like the “massive” or “intense” espressos (syrupy, hyper-concentrated), nor is it for people who drink milk drinks. But if you're in the market for something more delicate and layered and expressive, this might be your coffee.

…and then the Ecco Espresso is going to be on tap as well.

Gorgeous notes of bittersweet chocolate begin the cup. Vanilla and sugarcane transition seamlessly into a lingering caramel finish. This coffee exhibits a rounded acidity and silken mouth feel creating a classically balanced espresso.

Ecco Caffe's Espresso was designed to deliver an abundant, luscious, and syrupy crema that is perfect for cappuccinos and caffe lattes. When blended with steamed milk, notes of cocoa enhance its elegant caramel-toned soul.

…Andrew tells me this blend is currently made up of about 85% of the Cachoeira Yellow Bourbon and the rest is the Finca Maravilla.

Hope to see you there and just a heads up – we’ll only have it in this week!

PS: We have both of these available in 8 oz. bags

Third Rail Locked Down

Originally uploaded by BoweryBoogie
This was the scene outside our store today during the President's lunch around the corner at Il Mulino. We dared to dream we could open this business and we dared to dream we could elect him. We'd of never guessed both would happen and that one day those two things would collide and absolutely KILL the business (for a few hours anyway) !!

We did get to serve coffee to some Secret Service guys though, maybe they'll recommend it to their boss next time ; )

From London to DC to NYC!

We're excited to kick off our guest coffee program with a seasonal espresso blend (Summer Espresso) from London's Square Mile Coffee Roasters. From now (noonish - 9/1/09) until we burn through the one kilo we've got.

"...Currently the blend is composed of 2 different lots of coffee from 2 different origins. It is a very sweet and clean espresso blend with notes of caramel, toasted nuts, treacle with a soft, buttery texture and a berry juice finish. Excellent in milk with notes of caramel, chocolate and a little fruit.

Similar to Spring this is a very simple blend, in terms of components and ratios. Both farms have Cup of Excellence pedigree – Las Nubes winning the Guatemalan competition in 2001 and La Carol placing 6th in Colombia in 2005.

The wonderful natural acidity in these coffees keeps the shot fresh and juicy (perfect for summer) but their strong natural sweetness keeps the shot in balance and it could, in fact, be our sweetest espresso yet when you really nail the shot."

Many many thanks to our great friend Nick Cho down in DC for sharing and special thanks to Katie Duris for hand delivering it to us!
And of course to Square Mile Coffee : )

New Coffees IN!

We’re pretty excited to rotate in some new coffees at Third Rail this week. First and foremost is my all-time favorite coffee, Flecha Roja from Costa Rica. This coffee is truly sensational in my book. Super sweet and juicy, like pure cherry juice at some points, snappy acidity, and did I mention it’s SWEET – dear God this coffee is sweet.
Sidebar: We passed on Intelli’s first release of this coffee as it disappointed us on the cupping table. I actually could not believe it was the same coffee I remembered so fondly from years past. It turned out it was the first shipment and I’m thinking this coffee just needed a little more time in ‘reposo’ to fully develop into the superstar it is. Cool learning experience!
Our second rotation in is ‘Los Inmortales’ from El Salvador. This was almost everyone’s favorite on the cupping table. A savory aroma gave way to some chocolate with hints of tobacco. The body was super silky and we got lots of white grape juice and some honeydew melon in here as well. This super clean and delicious coffee held up throughout the entire cup, it cooled the best of anything we cupped that day. In fact there was another coffee everyone had as the best UNTIL it cooled where it got unpleasantly woody and salty.

That’s it for now, the Tanzanian stays on not only to represent it’s part of the world but because it rocks. We’re kicking around the idea of holding a semi-public ‘tasting’ to pick the next coffee to come in, stay tuned for details and/or let us know what you think.

3 weeks and change

Things have been going really smooth at the Third Rail. It’s not too surprising given the talent at work there. With VERY little direction from me (hi this is H btw) everyone took ownership of the place and did all the little (and not so little) things that need to be done to make a shop run smoothly. Unbelievable and not, all at once. I’d say the only major “snafu” has been the AC situation. I’ve received a major lesson in just how much heat is generated by fridges, ice machines, brewers etc. Many thanks for sweating it out and still staying “sunny and serious”!

That apt description of our approach came from Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite from New York Magazine who broke the news of our opening on Grub Street and then followed it up with a feature listing in the July 20-27 edition of the print mag! Special shout out to BoweryBoogie for being the first blogger to cover us from our very earliest stages through to opening, the invite to come in for a cup still stands stranger ; )
We were then fortunate enough to be introduced to Mike Hess who is a contributor to True/ Mike was great and he and photog Ben Trivett came in one Sunday for a little chat and demo of how we’re brewing up our single origin offerings on the Chemex. They taped it with a neat little camera and have it up on the site now along with some photos (man I REALLY need a haircut!!!) I just hope the Dept. of Health doesn’t see it, but if they do, that dog is NOT in the shop, it’s an editing trick. Really.

These past three weeks have been among the best in my life. It’s been a lot of hard work and lord knows it was a real test to get here but it was all worth it. We feel really honored and blessed to be working with the people we do. We’ve received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the community and from our customers. The support and well wishes we’ve received from our friends, families and the overall coffee community has been really great as well. It’s been cool seeing some old friends who’ve been rooting for us for some time now (looking at you Barnett, Clayton et al) and meeting some new ones, like Ben Kaminsky from Barismo who I owe a special thanks to for coming in and doing some work with us using his Extract Mojo (I know what I want for xmas now!) and Stephen Morrissey just yesterday who showed us a preview of a great video he just did on our favorite brewing method, the Chemex. The best part of it all, is that this is just the beginning and I truly think it will only get more interesting (and fun) from here on in.

TRC Rising

After more than a year of searching the New York real estate market we finally found a spot to plant our coffee roots at 240 Sullivan Street. It was a total gut job but we were smitten by the possibilities of the location. The first weeks were spent with H plotting an optimal layout in a very tight space and me immersing myself in the design possibilities. Once set, we began interviewing and hiring an architect and GC to build what would become our flagship location.

Like so many stories of small business owners we hit obstacles at every turn. Deadlines were missed, time lines were ignored, contractors were MIA, mysterious stop work orders, missing paperwork and a lack of communication i.e. radio silence was brought to a level that we could barely comprehend. If it were not so painful and expensive it would be aptly described as a farce.

To keep it short, we had to cut our loses and start again. That meant interviewing, screening references, sorting bids and hiring a new team to build and even rebuild what was incorrectly done the first time. This of course only fueled the naysayer’s who we politely ignored.

Of course, we had a huge support system, in our friends and families. And we had a few superstar standouts in the coffee world that were always willing to answer questions and steer us in the right direction.

I could go on and on with the boring details of our trials and tribs but would rather fast forward to June 2009. Like the last inning of a World Series where your team could win if they could just shut out the opposing team with three quick outs, we could taste the celebration all the while nervous of the possibility of extra innings. To bring it home we needed the right team and so we went to the bullpen.

Our ringer, Battery Dan, AKA Danger Dan who has always been waiting in the wings was ready when the call came in. Dan a southern gentlemen from Alabama brings years of coffee slinging experience from his Seattle and Portland days. Danger is serious about coffee and is driven by his passion for presenting coffee at ever higher levels.

Soon after, we were lucky to recruit the Lady Jessica Blauvelt. Jessica, our secret weapon, formerly of Murky Coffee has kick ass strength and determination both behind the bar and in life. Oh and did I mention that she spent the last few years saving animals. Your basic Saint who wields a fierce tamper.

Our third team member, Laura Dipaola, is our coffee charmer and phenom. Her bright personality and contagious laugh charms everyone in the room including our Marzocco who we have yet to name. Laura has decidedly adopted us all, always baking us cakes and buying sweet things for us to taste. Her frenetic energy can short out an AC so watch out for this electric lady.

Next, we brought on Texan Hector Coronado. Hector has a thirst for coffee knowledge and for life. He is starting his PHD in the fall in Spanish Lit, training for the marathon and has a love of reading and music ranging from classical to hip hop. This cerebral Texan is ready to talk coffee, among many other things, when you are.

To round out our urban family, we have the talented Jennifer Goma, who can bike from here to Arizona without breaking a sweat, sing her ass off, bake almost anything and craft a beautiful menu board. If your looking to meet Jen, you can find her biking to a farmers market near you.

Over the last few weeks of June, the team worked hard to bring the inning to a close. We still have some fine tuning ahead of us but today as we ripped down the paper from the windows and hung out our A frame offering free coffee to our neighbors, we were all filled with a sense of accomplishment and excitement.

Our first coffees went to Jordan and Flemming who were waiting patiently for us to open the doors.

Within moments we caught the attention of locals walking by...

shortly after that we had a line to the door.

We were welcomed with open arms by the neighbors and we received a blessing from Steve the Mayor of Sullivan Street.

While people waited for their drinks they commented on the beautiful design of the space, the photographs taken by my friend Guillermo and most importantly the aroma of coffee. Then as they sipped their first taste, they sighed, smiled and gave us the reassurance we were looking for..... that we had created a great neighborhood spot, where you can come for a great cup of coffee, chat with your friends or visit other countries through the cup in your hand.

Posted by Rita as Wired Scout.

240 Sullivan Street   |  159 Second Avenue