Take us back to Gare du Nord: the bustling train station in the heart of Paris. Somehow, it is a peaceful environment ridden with constant momentum around pockets of pleasant conversations. You can find that same feel on North 6th street in Williamsburg, which always makes it a pleasure to come to Toby’s Estate. Despite its massive interior, the elaborate shelving that bookcases the space gives it a warm and cozy feel. We can’t help but notice all the intentional design details, both from the customer perspective as well as the efficiency of the coffee counter layout that any barista can appreciate.
The mix of large communal seating and smaller round tables lends itself to being a good meeting space for the enormous variety of professionals and freelancers living in the area. You can undoubtedly find yourself sitting next to a film producer or sharing an outlet with a major fashion designer. But for a laid back cup of coffee, Toby’s estate is also the perfect place to people-watch and see everyone dressed in their best “Williamsburg casual.”
Even while we’re typing away we can’t help but be distracted by perfectly placed merchandise and decor. From antique coffee mills, to old ice skates, to countless stacks of books, the mismatched rectangle shelves that stretch from floor to ceiling are chock full of eye-catching antique store finds.
Our initial caffeine buzz came from a sip of the ‘Brooklyn’ blend cold brew on tap. This iced coffee is the same blend that we tasted as hot filtered coffee at AP Cafe last week in Bushwick. It gave us the impression of a ‘classic’ iced coffee just as it did when we tasted it hot, though it was a bit brighter with none of the roasty notes that we remembered. Our barista explained that although Toby’s Estate uses nitrogen in their cold brew tap system, it is not in the same way that many cafes are using it: to produce a velvety texture and a Guiness-like frothy head. This got us researching the origins of the latest nitro cold brew trend which was first introduced by Stumptown’s food scientist, Nate Armbrust in 2013. The idea behind using nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide when tapping a cold brew is that nitrogen slows the degradation of coffee compounds, whereas CO2 would oxidize the coffee giving it a more bitter taste. This method is commonly used in craft beer with darker stouts and al
es which produces tinier bubbles therefore giving the drink a thicker, smoother mouth feel.
We followed up with a ristretto pulled single-origin espresso, La Escuela from Honduras. A bright coffee with initial notes of toffee and orange blossoms that also reminded us of eating the baked edges of an apple pie.
We also got two V60 pourovers, the first from the Republic of Congo. Sourced from small-scale producers, this lot is the first washed coffee to be officially exported from the region in over twenty years. Similar to the experience of eating a pomegranate seed, this coffee started out with a juicy full bodied taste but left a dry feeling in our mouths. Contrary to the “fruit forward” description, the only fruit we could clearly distinguish was the flavor of a dried apricot.
Next we got to try something that wasn’t on the current menu. Recommended by our impressive barista, Tom handled a long line while simultaneously preparing our delicious Colombian pourover from Buenos Aires with notes of kiwi, apple and surprisingly of a juicy red sangria.
Already buzzing with so much caffeine, we finished our tasting with their seasonal drink, the Maple Sage Latte. It comes served in a smaller cup than their usual lattes, and was a nice treat with just a slight maple sweetness and sage undertones that combined well with their ‘Bedford’ espresso blend.
The aesthetic appeal of Toby’s Estate in itself warrants a visit, but the quality and complexity of the coffee and the variety of the menu completes the overall cafe experience.