Talking Bespoke Coffee with Chris Calkins of Gotham Coffee Roasters
I have to say, one of the greatest parts of writing about coffee is all the talented people I get to meet along the way, and, even better, having the pleasure of sharing their journey. I first learned about Gotham Coffee Roasters at the New York Coffee Festival, and have been dying to tell you their story ever since. So, without further ado, meet Chris Calkins, the brains behind New York's bespoke coffee brand.
You started as a consultant for existing brands. Can you tell us a bit about your
Actually I started on the West Coast. I worked for the original owners of Starbucks as well as Kent Bakke (La Marzocco). I co- founded Spinelli Coffee in San Fransico and was mentored by Alfred Peet. We sold Spinelli after 15 years with multiple stores. I then turned a hobby into a business by starting Destion Wines in Napa.
How was Gotham Coffee Roasters born?
In 2008 I moved East after selling the wine business and meeting my future wife Bebe Neuwirth. I met a guy who wanted to open a coffee bar and he asked if I knew anything about it. This was the brith of Prodigy Coffee on Carmine Street. From Prodigy I was introduced to The Pulley Collective by 9th St. Espresso, who I did a brief consulting job for. We started roasting for Prodigy and a few other customers as Gotham Coffee Roasters.
What is bespoke coffee?
Like a suit, you can buy off the rack or have it custom made. We offer what we roast in our store to wholesale customers but we will create custom coffee with as little as a 20 pound order.
Creating your own coffee brand is no small feat. What challenges did you face in
Getting back into the game finding great green coffee.
In your opinion, what makes a great cup of coffee?
It is all about agriculture as is wine. If you have great green beans the goal is to roast to represent what is inherent in the bean and not cover it up.
How do you choose the beans that you roast?
We buy direct from Nicaragua and the other coffees are from brokers.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a novice coffee drinker?
Know what you like and don’t be intimidated by some coffee geek. Coffee is personal, nobody is wrong. This said, keep an open mind and explore the many options that are out there.
Do you have any advice for readers hoping to open their own coffee bar or roastery?
Follow your dream.
Ok tell us: you walk into a coffee bar, what are you ordering?
Always an espresso. It tells me more about the roaster and their level of knowledge
than anyother clue.
Try it for yourself! Grab a bag of Gotham Coffee Roasters here, or, if you're in New York, visit the shop at: 23 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011