by Stephen Varady
If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, Parlor Coffee’s new roastery and tasting room in the Brooklyn Navy Yard offers one the most refined coffee experiences in New York City. Because Parlor is focused on just one thing: making a perfect coffee, which we can attest to since sampling the newcomer’s beans last year.
This refreshingly basic approach was born out of necessity in 2012, when the operation began as a tiny pop-up in the back room of Persons of Interest barbershop in Williamsburg. The diminutive space forced founder Dillon Edwards to operate his business through a one-group Kees van der Westen Speedster espresso machine. But what began as a constraint soon became an opportunity, enabling Parlor to focus their entire process—from roast to cup—on producing the perfect espresso for that machine. They succeeded. “I would see customers get that look on their face like they just tasted coffee for the very first time,” says Edwards, “And I wanted to keep giving people that ‘aha!’ feeling.”
Even as Parlor’s wholesaling business grew and their access to resources increased, Edwards fought the natural tendency to expand their offerings. “The idea of having more coffees, or more brew methods, just seemed like a distraction from doing that one thing well.” Now, with the opening of their own sizable roasting and tasting space near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Parlor has a dedicated venue to further hone their obsession. But this time, the simplicity is by design.
The focus on what goes into your cup is evident from the moment you walk in the door. The deep, brick-walled space at the north end of Vanderbilt Avenue foregoes the typical superfluous elements of a third-wave coffee shop and instead invites the public directly into Parlor’s operation. Sure, there’s a small bench and a stack of reading material that could constitute a seating area, but beyond that, everything is reduced to pure coffee function. Most of the space is occupied by operational bits, like storage bins, packaging materials and pallets of green coffee that await their transformation in the pièce de résistance: a refurbished 1965 Probat roaster. So it’s no mistake that even as one approaches the long, marble tasting counter, you feel more like you’re in a factory than a Stumptown.
Once at the counter, the offerings are expectedly spare. There’s only drip coffee, via an industrial-sized Fetco or, if you’re sticking around, a carefully poured Chemex. It’s an unconventional approach, but in Edwards’ mind, eliminating choice presents coffee in a simplified, more accessible way. It’s “the easiest way to get people to understand what great coffee tastes like.”
In keeping with the theme, Parlor’s tasting room hours are also limited but of the highest quality: open to the public only on Sundays from 10AM-4PM, with a free cupping at 3PM. Edwards places particular importance on the cupping, in hopes of cultivating a community as well as passing on his passion for coffee. “It’s hopefully the kind of place where no one feels estranged, but just interested and delighted in learning what they like.” For the rest of the week, the space is dedicated to roasting and shipping beans out to Parlor’s growing list of wholesale clientele.
Parlor Coffee’s new roastery and tasting room is located at 11 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205. For more information on all aspects of Parlor’s operation, visit their website.
Photos by Stephen Varady