You can now sip single-origin espresso in the former mechanic’s garage that houses Supercrown Coffee Roasters (8 Wilson Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-295-3161), but that might not have happened if owner Darleen Scherer had gone with her original plan. Following her amicable departure last January from Gorilla Coffee, the roastery she’d founded in 2002, her main goal was to find a spot to experiment with the 1952 Probat roaster she’d been waiting to use for four years.
“I was looking for commercial space. I had that roaster, and I needed someplace to put it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do retail,” Scherer says. But the owners of Roberta’s, her new Bushwick neighbors, nudged her into it. “They came over and were like, ‘You have got to do retail.’ And yeah, we had to. So we did it. Yes, it’s a lot of work — it’s like you’re putting on a show every day. But there’s a lot of good to it. People can come here, and you’re not just coming to a roastery, you can try the drinks.”
In addition to that rotating single-origin espresso offering and seasonal selections of pour-over coffee, an incentive to visit the sleek, airy café is the coffee milkshake, which blends an Ample Hills sweet-cream custard base with espresso, Hudson Valley whole milk, and a bit of sea salt for a decadent treat — it might be foolhardy to wait until warmer weather to try it. And when that first heat wave hits, another unusual drink will land on the menu, a sort of Scandinavian-inspired Arnold Palmer mix of coffee and lemonade.
On the food side, partner Philip Hoffman (previously of Nick and Eddie and the New French) lined up pastries from Brooklyn’s Bien Cuit and Baked and worked with Roberta’s for a proprietary bialy with caramelized onions, red-pepper flakes, and (optional) prosciutto that baristas top with a poached egg. He says he was dreaming of something like Kossar’s, the city’s gold standard for bialy, and it’s already a hit: “When they’re lined up around the block for this, you can say you got in before the lines began,” Hoffman jokes. “I already bought the velvet ropes.”
While the mass appeal of a Roberta’s bialy might be easy to predict, Scherer admits that the beverage menu, which she currently plans to change weekly, may be more for coffee fanatics like herself than for the casual caffeine-hound.
“People want some consistency with things like espresso, or there are some people who just want good-tasting coffee and don’t want to think about it,” she says. “Not everyone’s like me.”
She’s hoping to create converts, though, largely through a coffee subscription service. Each week, customers will receive a new batch of beans — roasted in that German steel roaster, which is finally out of storage, and arranged like a showpiece in front of a hot-pink wall at the back of the café.
“The ideal person for this is just someone who makes coffee at home and who wants to learn,” Scherer says. “It’s like me, really. I’m just creating a thing that I wished was there, so hopefully other people want it, too.”
All the coffee roasted for subscriptions will also be available for purchase at the store, but subscribers can expect to pay a little less than retail for a selection of beans sourced from Rwanda, Colombia, Peru, and beyond. The range and quality of the coffee relies in part on those willing to invest in it — which in turn supports the sustainability of regional farmers and producers — but also on Scherer’s extensive experience in the business.
“What’s unique with Supercrown for me is the relationships,” Scherer says. “That’s the biggest thing that I’m bringing to it. Sure, I know how to roast coffee, but I know all these really great producers, and I know certain importers. It’s just knowing who to call.”
But while there’s no doubt she’ll benefit from the strong industry connections she’s formed, it’s Scherer’s never-ending curiosity about coffee that might truly set her apart.
“I’m really interested in what’s new right now,” she says. “I spend more than most people do on coffee, probably. But I really want to taste what’s most delicious.”