Coffee drinkers beware: a bold new cafe has come to town to entice you with a unique caffeinated experience. EspressoNEAT, owned by Rachel Haughey and Lori Kirchen, will be opening at 20 Grove St. during the last week of August.
Both women are passionate about coffee, but not just any coffee will do. The coffee served in their shop will be outsourced from Counter Culture coffee, a roaster based in Durham, North Carolina that's known for building relationships with organic farmers all over the world.
"We're sourcing some of the best quality coffee beans in the world," Haughey said. They are fresh on a seasonal basis, but also in terms of the roast date. Coffee served will never be more than two weeks off the roast.
Haughey, a self-proclaimed coffee fanatic, quit a job in consulting to work at a cutting-edge coffee shop called Gimme! Coffee in Brooklyn in 2006 to learn all that she could about the business. Ever since she worked there, she has had the idea to open her own shop.
When she met Kirchen last year, they were both "crazy enough to give it a go," she said.
Kirchen has always wanted to open a retail business in Darien, where she has lived for almost 23 years. The cafe business has always intrigued her, but since she doesn't have a food background, she didn't think that she could open a restaurant.
"The cafe as a gathering place has always appealed to me," she said. She has been learning about specialty coffee including the craft of it and the science behind it.
In addition to the cafe being independent and locally owned, there will be many differences among EspressoNEAT and other coffee shops around the area.
"The major difference here is the barista, the training and meticulous attention to detail," Haughey said.
The baristas will have trained for weeks or even months at Counter Culture Coffee's facility in Manhattan before they are allowed to prepare drinks for customers.
Haughey had to train for two months while working at Gimme! Coffee before she was even allowed to steam milk. "You're trying to create a certain consistency," she said, which she compares to wet paint.
"It becomes creamy and sweet and entirely different from what you typically find," she said.
In addition, the coffee preparation will be much less automated (than other shops) because the espresso machine is manual and the coffee will be prepared to order in a hand-crafted way.
Customers may choose from the methods of pour-over, Chemex, or siphon.
"The coffee preparation requires a lot more attention to meticulous detail," Kirchen said. "We're not just pouring coffee out of an urn."
Customers may also choose whether to add chocolate or a homemade vanilla syrup to their drink.
But, they may not choose a size. The cafe will offer traditional sizes, which will be one size per drink.
This means that a cappuccino will be 8 oz., a regular cup of coffee will be 10 oz. and a latte will be 12 oz.
"We're really focusing on the flavor of the coffee and trying not to dilute it with other things," Haughey said.
This philosophy was the inspiration for EspressoNEAT's name. The word 'neat' is a synonym for pure, unmixed or unadulterated, which is the way their coffee will be served.
The quality of the input and the focus on preparing in the right way is what sets EspressoNEAT apart from other coffee shops, Kirchen said.
All of the food served at EspressoNEAT will come from companies in Connecticut. Pastries and sandwiches will come from Sono Bakery and Cafe, an assortment of chocolates will come from Chocolopologie, and other baked goods will come from dough*girl baking company.
Their milk will be from The Farmer's Cow, a group of six family-owned dairy farms in Connecticut.
EspressoNEAT will not be carrying bottled water. They will offer their own filtered still and sparkling water on tap and encourage customers to bring their own water bottles.
The most exciting thing about their new cafe is introducing people to the product, Kirchen said, who has taken friends to New York to try specialty coffee.
"I love seeing the reactions when people first experience this kind of coffee."
Haughey agrees that the best part will be pleasing customers. "I get excited," she said. "I believe that we will delight our customers with a product that they've never experienced before."
EspressoNEAT will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m, Monday through Saturday.