Bringing Specialty Roasting to the Big City
When did you open the very first Toby’s Estate location in Brooklyn, and what inspired you to start a small batch coffee roaster in NYC?
Our first location opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2012. We noticed that a number of great specialty roasters had popped up on the west coast, but didn’t see anything equivalent in NYC. We felt that New Yorkers deserved the same quality coffee that was available in these other markets, and saw an opening for Toby’s in Brooklyn. We knew that if we wanted to provide the absolute best specialty coffee experience possible here, we had to stand out from start to finish. We’re obsessed with delivering the highest quality in coffee sourcing, roasting, education, and customer service, and we were lucky to have found a great space in Williamsburg that allowed us to do this by housing not only our café, but also our roastery and education facilities.
What led you to expand to five locations, and which is your favorite?
We were so excited by the warm welcome our Brooklyn café received and were encouraged to create more spaces across New York City to share our passion and build a community around specialty coffee. Each of our locations is meant to be a neighborhood spot, so from shop design to our pastry and food offerings, all five of our NYC cafés have unique elements that are a nod to their surrounding neighborhood. There’s no way to pick a favorite when it comes to our cafés! Each location has defining elements, all while offering the consistent experience of exceptional coffee and friendly customer service.
We noticed the co owners are Amber and Adam...what inspired Toby’s?
Amber and Adam are childhood friends who were interested in starting a business together. Their shared love of coffee and diverse backgrounds gave them a unique ability and opportunity to establish Toby’s in New York. Six years and five locations later, Amber and Adam continue to lead Toby’s in their original commitment to being a specialty coffee destination that offers sophistication and friendliness by providing guests a coffee experience of the highest caliber without any pretense.
I’m new to the city (from California!). What makes coffee culture in NYC different and unique? What do you think New Yorkers want from coffee shops?
Everything moves faster here, and New Yorkers expect the highest quality in everything. Coffee is no exception, so it’s a fun challenge to keep up with the relentless pace of the city. Our cafés are also built to serve their neighborhoods, so being an active member of our community is really important to us. We want to be a space that our guests can walk into and feel at home, whether they’re a local or just visiting the city.
We noticed you have a Brew School that offers classes in everything ranging from home brewing to more advanced latte art. I love it and want to take a class. Can you tell us a little more about the school and why you started it?
Coffee education is one of our biggest priorities. We started Brew School because we wanted to provide our customers—both retail and wholesale—with all the tools necessary to make our coffee. Whether you want to brew the perfect pot of French press for your next brunch gathering or learn intricate latte art, our education team offers hands-on practice and theory with private and public classes that are geared at all levels. We pride ourselves on fostering a culture of openness and knowledge, and the education team is the largest department within our company, providing a thoughtful and focused forum for learning.
What’s your most popular roast and why?
Our most popular roast is the Brooklyn Blend—it’s a perennial filter classic that’s served in all of our cafés and available in retail bags for customers to brew and drink at home. The Brooklyn Blend is brimming with flavors of creamy cocoa, sweet toffee and rich dried fruits, brews beautifully on a French press at home, and is equally tasty with or without milk.
We love the aesthetic of your coffee shops (I’ve been to the one in LIC). What inspired the design of your interiors?
In designing each location, we take into consideration the unique attributes and overall vibe of the surrounding neighborhood. Our flagship Williamsburg café and roastery is located in a light-filled warehouse space, while our West Village café is inspired by its landmark 1920’s building, an artist’s studio townhouse on the corner of Charles Street and Seventh Avenue.
When you think of a Coffee Babe, what comes to mind?
In our mind a Coffee Babe is someone who values integrity, but is never pretentious. They’re confident and ambitious, but always friendly.