This past Friday, I had the opportunity to review a newly opened café on 6th Avenue. The address, formerly home to Joe Jr.’s coffee shop that has been a mainstay of the neighborhood for years, is now open as a different breed of café called, O Café. Owner and operator Fernando Aciar’s vision was to create a unique space dedicated to sustainable and ecologically responsible practices, including sourcing coffee and other ingredients from fair trade and organic growers, as well as furnishing the café with reclaimed and energy efficient materials—all in an effort to minimize the environmental impact of business while empowering local farmers and food artisans. Certainly, it is not the counter and pie coffee shop of yesteryear.
But, although many people have grumbled and lamented the loss of Joe Jr.’s, O Café is a bastion of the new type of coffee shop—one that preaches carefully selected products to ensure the highest quality and freshness possible. When I met with Fernando, he explained to me his past working as a cook, until he started his own café in Rio de Janeiro, also called O Café, and how he wanted to bring the quality ingredients he knew local farmers were growing all around Brazil here to New York City. The Minas region of Brazil alone, Fernando went on, is the single largest exporter of coffee in the world, yet is unrecognized as a place known for growing gourmet coffee as most of it is exported at a cheap price to support a small amount of artisanal growers. In sourcing his coffee and chocolate from the finest farmers in Brazil, O Café hopes to expose all the great products of the region with local businesses and farmers alike.
But enough about the political ethos, and more about the actually coffee and goods you can enjoy at O Café. Two of the signature snacks at O Café are Pao de Mel and Pao de Queijo. Pao de Mel is a honey cake with Brazilian walnuts, and spices, and then is covered with chocolate imported from Bahia, Brazil. Pao de Queijo, or cheese bun, is a popular cheesy-bread snack that is typical from rural farms in Brazil, and offers a more savory bite compared to the sweet honey bread. O Café also offers an assortment of thin, crispy chocolate bars that are loaded with various nuts, as well as cookies and other pastries. Coming this spring, O Café will begin selling fresh fruits from Brazil like acai, and other goodies like iced-coffee and freshly squeezed juices.
But, the ultimate test of a café is of course the quality of its coffee. As you could imagine, O Café only offers the finest coffee beans grown from small, dedicated growers. There are two styles of coffee at O Café: French press and pour over. The pour over method involves an intricate system of continually pouring hot water into a cone filter with freshly ground beans—it’s like a handmade version of a drip coffee pot. Coffee varieties rotate regularly, but rest assured, the quality of the beans will always be exceptional
If you are looking for an alternative to the Starbuck’s nightmare that is quickly consuming every available block corner in this city, walk into O Café for a unique experience that will remind you of the finer things in life.
Written by Derek Parsons, Campus Clipper Blogger