A few weeks ago, Williamsburg’s newest coffee roaster and café quietly opened on the western fringes of Grand Street. But even if Bogota-based Devoción’s expansion hasn’t been as hyped as, say, Blue Bottle’s arrival from San Francisco, it’s attempting to do something equally — if not more — ambitious in a grand, gorgeous space.
Walk into the onetime meatpacking plant turned woodshop that houses Devoción and the first thing you’ll notice, high above, is a skylight that pours sun onto the leather couches below and onto a wall blanketed with 2,000 live plants. About 150 of those plants are Coffea flowers of the type that Devoción buys directly from farmers outside its Bogota dry mill.
Unlike many other roasters, Devoción doesn’t go through a middle-man to source the eight or so varieties of non-washed beans it uses for its coffees – and it doesn’t use the shipping process that can mean beans are roasted up to four months after they’re sourced. Instead, it buys coffee cherries directly from about 400 farms and, after dry-milling them, ships the beans via Fedex – currently in quantities of about 900 to 1,100 pounds a week – with the goal of roasting them within 10 to 30 days of their peak ripeness.
The result, says founder Steven Sutton, is a more mineral, complex flavor that’s “identical to if you were actually sitting in the farm with the farmer and having a cup with him – with the exception that our guy knows how to roast it and the equipment is super high-end.” (You can actually see the giant Probat roaster behind the counter, in a glassed-in area.)
Sutton, a native of Medellín who went to boarding school and worked in the music industry in the U.S., claims that his was the “first third-wave coffee company” in Colombia when it opened there in 2006. Every day, Devoción’s representatives drive around the country to gather beans from farmers in the jungle-like “inaccessible zones” where the “most original varieties of coffee” are. “Ironically that’s where in most cases the Colombian insurgency is,” says Sutton. “When I say ironically it’s because they have protected, in a weird sense, those amazing beans for us.”
Confining the operation to his home country proved limiting, since “Colombia doesn’t have the purchasing power of a first-world country in its population,” Sutton said.
Enter Williamsburg. But why expand to Williamsburg, specifically? “Your client cannot be this person that just goes and grabs a Frappuccino or puts caramel sauce in their coffee, because we’re not about that,” Sutton explained. “It has to be a very savvy consumer, culture-oriented and always looking for new things. Williamsburg is all about that.” (In addition to the local clientele, Devoción also wholesales its beans to restaurants like Mario Batali’s Del Posto.)
So what new things might Williamsburgers find here? Aside from the coffee (brewed via French press, pour-over V60, or on lever-equipped Rancillio and Kees van der Westen espresso machines), there are “aromaticas” (a Colombian version of tea made by steaming water with fresh fruit, chunks of which go in the cup), cascara tea made with sun-dried coffee cherries, and salpicon, a fruit-cocktail-esque mixture of orange juice and fruit chunks.
In addition to mini baguette sandwiches, more Colombian food will be added to the menu each week.
Though small take-home bags of the coveted geisha beans go for a whopping $60, Sutton says that for “super high-end” coffee, his is “not that expensive. You’re looking at $3.25 for an espresso, so it’s like Manhattan, pretty much. We do have more cost involved with everything – we’re doing everything ourselves, we’re going around the country every single day looking for these weird coffees.”
When you throw in free wifi and cheery Colombian music in a flower-scented, bright-lit space, that’s not a bad deal at all.
Devoción, 69 Grand St., nr. Wythe Ave., Williamsburg