Up towards the north end of Greenpoint, Champion Coffee (1108 Manhattan Avenue, 718-383-5195) has been a neighborhood fixture, serving espresso-only coffee drinks and a fairly broad breakfast menu, since 2006. It’s a great hangout for those working (or pretending to work) while utilizing wifi inside, or a good spot for actually relaxing out back on the patio.
This fall, owner Talitha Whidbee finally decided to expand in a big way with a second coffee shop. Champion is heading west to the Meatpacking District, where it’s slated to open on September 23 with 20 other food vendors in the 7,500-square-foot open-air Gansevoort Marketplace (52 Gansevoort Street).
Uniquely, Whidbee also owns a wine shop, which makes perfect sense when one considers the parallels between wine and coffee. We tracked Whidbee down to chat about her shared interest in both beverages (she owns Williamsburg shop Vine Wine, recently featured for its selection of Pet Nats), her daily coffee habits, and the changes she’s observed in her Greenpoint customer base since opening.
What came first for you: coffee or wine?
Coffee definitely came first. I grew up in Seattle, and like every native, working in a café while you were in high school was the most natural thing to do. After high school, I moved to New York City and helped open up a few espresso bars, which is where I really learned how to taste and make coffee and how a beverage could have so much more to it. Once I turned 21, that interest naturally progressed to exploring wine as well.
How did you decide to get involved in wine?
I was very fortunate that my first restaurant job boss had a great palate and a particular passion for small, West Coast American wine producers. He had a fantastic cellar and was more than willing to take me under his wing and give me a great opportunity to start choosing wine for the restaurant’s list.
What roasters are you working with at Champion? How did you decide on them?
Champion Coffee has partnered with El Dorado coffee roasters; they roast all of our coffee. I chose them because we have similar philosophies on coffee and believe that this incredibly important beverage does not need to be precious or over styled. They are a second generation NYC coffee roaster. I like that they are local but also large enough to be able to make new products, change blends, and continue to be flexible to the changing coffee market.
What’s your coffee routine at home?
My routine at home is constantly changing, but it certainly has some seasonal patterns. During the summer, I love nothing more than cold brew. I’ll either make my own cold brew or buy pre-made cold brew and mix it with coconut water. In the wintertime, I am a big fan of the cortado. I’ll use my steamer and either make espresso with my stovetop espresso maker or use my Nespresso.
Having been open for eight years, what changes have you noticed in your customers’ tastes and preferences in coffee?
I feel like interest in both coffee and wine has grown in the last 10 years in NYC in the best possible way. My customers know more about coffee and feel more comfortable with the whole coffee world, which, in turn, gives them the confidence to order coffee the way they like it. NYC has also seen an increase in great local products within the caffeine world. For example, our Chai concentrate is now made locally and hand delivered by the person who makes it, which is such a change. We’ve also got a great range of local roasters and tea companies making great products, unlike ever before.
For Champion Coffee and our Greenpoint store, the biggest change we have seen is, obviously, a change in the demographic that lives and eats here — it has gotten a lot younger over the years. It is exciting to see the neighborhood change, but we love having our regulars who have grown up with us and drank Americanos from us since the very beginning.