Toby’s Estate in Williamsburg is an impressive roasting company that is putting out some of the best local coffee in New York City. Many argue that it is the best in NY, but I believe it is one of a few truly amazing businesses providing the community with a great product.
When I arrived at the shop, I knew this place was a hit ; it was packed with locals and folks from all over the city. It was so crowded that I had a hard time finding a seat for about 10 minutes. Toby’s is definitely a communal space to chat with a friend or sit down to some comfy work. Though there were a few people on their computers, most were with colleagues having a good conversation. The shop had a purposefully vintage design and eclectic decorations; vintage record players, paintings, taxidermed animals, gold “antique” light fixtures, and other little knickknacks that were appropriate albeit a little too implicit. That is just my tiny bias.
Aside from that, the warehouse motif was incredibly well executed. There were also some very unique touches that stood out. The front of the store is almost entirely glass, allowing tons of natural light to shine throughout the store, allowing patrons to easily watch the quaint neighborhood surroundings. Behind the counter, customers can see the cupping room with its chaotic assortment of coffees, notes, and samples that demonstrate the immense level of work Toby’s staff puts into sourcing and roasting. Coffee displays throughout the store are accompanied by in-depth literature, providing explicit details about the coffee, sourcing, suggestions for brewing, and other useful tidbits. I think one of the nicest and perhaps most difficult nuances to notice were the pillows, which were essentially used coffee sacks stuffed with fluff, which had literally been used and marked for Toby’s Estate. Great way to recycle and give the shop a personal touch. In addition, Toby’s has a full kitchen and on-sight roasting facility, rounding out their beautiful shop with top notch amenities and markers of a solid roasting company.
I was thoroughly impressed with their training as I was enthralled by my barista’s technique; it was not a style I had seen in quite a while. Rather than being a chatty, showy, “slow and methodical” kind of bar-man (who seems to thrive off such a display), his technique was incredibly tuned, fluid, precise, and efficient. I watched for a good 5 minutes as he pumped out drink after drink in quick succession; purge, dose, level, tamp, clean, bleed, pump on, milk, all finishing on the dot to get the freshest shot and most consistent milk possible. He was not trying to show off, looking to see if people were watching or smiling hoping to capture an audience. Not that this is bad, but his style is a mark of professionalism that says, “I just want to do my job well and the product is paramount.” Thus, we get the best. It was almost as if he was in his own separate little bubble, a pure space of work, separate from the roasters and other customer service workers.
To round out this professional technique, Toby’s staff are absolute professionals. Even for such a busy place, they were extremely cordial, professional, and accommodating to their customers and myself. They were very helpful in providing options and information about their different offerings. It was almost too official, like I was being waited on at a restaurant, though I prefer this. It’s a good style of management and service, one most people probably don’t expect. Seeing as coffee is moving in a more professional direction, perhaps we should.
The first thing that struck me about my cap was the artwork. For a place that is incredibly attentive to detail, I was a little surprised at its simplicity. But, Toby’s reminded me that I should not judge caps on appearance alone, despite my beliefs about art being a marker of technique and quality; it was one of the best caps I had in NY. The temperature was perfect and it had an incredible level of cohesion between the foam, milk, and espresso. It was definitely not a “milky” cap as the heavy, woody, deep espresso flavor took precedent in the cup. This cap was for sipping and savoring, definitely not a 6 oz cap you “gulp” in three or four sips; one you must enjoy slowly for its rich body and ubiquitous flavors that lasted from start to finish.
While one could argue that the clientele of a store has nothing to do with the business, it is somewhat of a paradox; what is it that a store does to attract such a crowd? Why would it appeal to certain people? I try very hard to avoid talking about customers in reviews, but Toby’s does seem to attract a certain type of customer, ones that ultimately detracted from my experience. During my visit, there were hardly any places for customers to sit. Groups of young folks were crowded around tables, on their Macbooks, busy in their own little enclaves. Some were taking up seats with their bags, refusing to let others pass, talking so loud that other’s couldn’t help but hear their opinions about “things you’ve probably never heard about.” Some were pretty darn rude to the baristas when they were greeted. At least they know good coffee.
Toby’s Estate reminds us that the little details count, that they are what make up the “big picture” of a shop. From the level of technique to the literature on the coffee to the little pillows on the seats, Toby’s pays attention to the little things customers will notice and appreciate, not just what “face” will sell. They are in it for the quality of the coffee, and it is plain to see.
- Natural lighting, atmosphere
- Woody espresso flavor
- Literature and information
- High level of professionalism
Toby’s Estate125 N 6th St
(between Berry St & Bedford Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11211