Has anyone else noticed how many cafes take up residence in hotels around town? Stumptown at the Ace Hotel, Knave at the Parker Meridien, and then there’s Birch Coffee located behind the weird facade of the Gershwin Hotel. Birch is undoubtedly cool in that young, laid back, tech-savvy way. They’re on Facebook and Twitter (and prolific!), co-owner Jeremy is really into music (ergo Trance Thursdays every week and the occasional Beatles Sunday), plus there’s personality crammed in everywhere from mismatching novelty mugs to a daily trivia question on the tip jar. Best of all they have a library upstairs full of couches, books and art for sale. It’s a brilliant corner to escape to for a few hours and on Friday mornings you can even dump the kids (sorry, I meant bring the kids) to Story Hour.
They’ve got the digs. They’ve got the vibe. They’re sustainable, fair-trade, bird-friendly and all that (wonderful) jazz. So how about that coffee?
Birch gets an exclusive roast from the Hudson Valley-based Coffee Labs, a sustainable business run on 100% renewable energy. You can pick up their coffee from Wholefoods but otherwise it’s not widely available at cafes around the city. As if to emphasize that, Birch crams a double (or is it triple?) ristretto into every coffee and by god it is strong! Both times I visited I left the place buzzing, jittery and with slightly blurred peripheral vision. Kids, don’t try this at home.
Despite the ridiculous caffeine content, the coffee is quite tasty if you know how to order. Be aware that the mugs are larger than usual, which means a regular cappuccino is much too milky for someone like me. They don’t serve cortados or anything of that in-between size, so the best bet is to order a macchiato. They can always give you extra milk if it’s too strong too handle.
Some fine tuning wouldn’t go astray: the milk froth could be less aerated and more creamy, the espresso could be an espresso instead of two or three ristrettos. But overall they’ve got a good thing going and I’m happy to come back anytime.
TIP: If you need wifi, tell them when you order. With each purchase you get a card redeemable for one hour of internet access.
- Coffee: 7/10
- Service: 3/5
- Ambiance: 4/5
- Total: 14/20
5 East 27th Street (near 5th Ave)