Back in the day, there were all sorts of cute coffee houses. This coffee culture was epitomized on “Friends” with Central Perk. People loved the idea of getting cozy in a spot that was true to their neighborhood, where they could sit for hours chatting or working on their laptops. But, ironically, just as “Friends” was peaking, coffee houses like the one depicted on the show were becoming a rarity. It was alllll about Starbucks. They popped up on every corner; gotta give the people what they want.
The ‘bucks is fine and all, but it’s not for me. I think the brew itself is meh and I’ve missed the more intimate coffee houses of yore. I like when coffee is something you can enjoy leisurely in a place that feels unique. But recently I’ve noticed a shift. People want to rally around niche coffee brands (it’s that hipster mentality) and Starbucks is just too mass. They want to chill in a cute little shop where the baristas actually recognize them. When I moved into my Murray Hill neighborhood three years ago there was not a single independent coffee shop in the entire area. Now, there are four within a 10-block stretch.
The newest coffee café in my ‘hood, an outpost of Manhattan chainlet Birch Coffee, opened last week. Birch is small and simple with just a few chairs, but it’s got everything you need, including a small library. The menu is simple, with special coffee blends on rotation and a nice selection of Dough doughnuts and Liquiteria cold pressed juices. I thought the coffee was great, the baristas jolly, and the black/white/gray decor punchy. I really don’t think I can cheat on Perk since I’ve formed a relationship with that place and it’s directly across the street from my apartment, but Birch is a nice alternative and I’m glad there is a newfound love for local so I can have great coffee every few blocks.