The Magic of Little Bean NYC

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On the north side of Central Park, right on the border of Harlem, sits a tiny diamond in the rough: The Little Bean NYC. Known for its cold brew and homey atmosphere, this cafe is a heartwarming nod to California coffee culture.

When did you first open The Little Bean, and what made you pick that name?

The name Little Bean came about for a few reasons. Number one, the coffee bean. A tiny little bean with so much power. But also, the Bean has with it the elements of a seed, that is planted and grown with care and fertilization, water and love. A little bean can become something big. And finally, the Little Bean was the sparkle in our eye as we knew we wanted to start a family. Little Bean was the seed we planted so that our Little Bean, Theo could come into a world that has some roots beneath it. We got pregnant only two weeks after opening and little Theo joined the family in November of 2017. 

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Chris and Claire, you met at a coffee shop in LA. Was it love at first sight? Tell us your story.

Yes! Claire and I first met when she came into a coffee shop I was running at the time with a friend of hers. She says she liked me from the first, and noticed that we both have small hearts tattooed on our right hands. Serendipity. At the time I was coming to the end of a long, difficult relationship where I was living with another woman. So to hear Claire tell it, I “blew her off.” When from my perspective, I was respecting my current relationship. Either way, it didn’t go anywhere for another couple of months, when after my relationship was ended and some time was given, I asked Claire to lunch. At lunch that day I told her everything, that I was moving to NYC, that I was lost emotionally, that I had nothing figured out for the next chapter and that I didn’t want things to be hurtful when I moved away in a few weeks. That lunch turned into an 11 hour date which was easily the best date of my life. Slowly but surely over the next few weeks our bond got stronger and stronger and with only a week left in CA, we took a drive up the coast and I officially fell madly in love sitting next to each other looking out at the ocean in Santa Cruz. It was, “when are you going to visit?”, then “when are you going to move here?” She did, and we were engaged within the year and married a year later. 

 Harlem Sapphire + Vegan Strawberry Ginger Muffin

Harlem Sapphire + Vegan Strawberry Ginger Muffin

What elements of LA coffee culture did you weave into The Little Bean?

LA coffee culture taught me nearly everything I know about third wave coffee. Australian style milk preparation and Italian ristretto style espresso is common now in CA and getting more and more common by the day in NYC. In terms of style, I think we wanted to bring as much of the west coast with us as we could. Colors of the sea and bright blue sky, light airy walls, and a relaxed atmosphere so when people from the busiest city in the world came into our shop, that would feel like they disappeared to a Cali beach for a minute or two. The vibe in the shop is relaxed and friendly, like you walked into our home kitchen. 

Your location is so iconic! What made you decide to open a cafe right near Central Park? What’s it like?

Why wouldn’t we?! Central Park is so integral to NYC and yet, on the north end of the park there were no options to sit and have coffee before taking one of the many walking or biking paths available around the Meer or in the Conservatory Garden. 

It is the meeting point for all of NY, you have the community of Harlem who are your mainstays and then people from every possible corner of the world coming to see the park. There is never a dull day. 

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We heard your cold brew recipe is somewhat famous. We know you can’t tell us the secret recipe, but can you tell us what makes it different?

I have been working on my cold brew recipes for over 10 years now. What makes it special is that I’m never satisfied. I am constantly tweaking and testing new theories on how to get a richer, smoother cold brew. The specifics of course, I could never share...

What kind of beans do you use? What’s your personal favorite roast?

We use beans from all over the world and we use Red House Roasters just over the river in NJ. Richard, the owner there, is incredibly talented and our tastes are very much in line. My favorite bean that he does is an Indonesian from Bali. It is a natural, full bodied bean that smells and tastes like fresh blueberries. We offer this to order in a pour over style along with other single origin coffees from Kenya and Mexico. 

 Little Bean's signature beverage, the Harlem sapphire

Little Bean's signature beverage, the Harlem sapphire

Aside from cold brew, do you have a favorite or signature beverage that you personally recommend?

So our signature drink is called the Harlem Saphire. It is a triple strength, single origin cold brew, made from a beautiful Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. It is shaken and served in a frosted martini with a cinnamon stick garnish. The cinnamon stick is to add some spice and can help reduce jitters as this is an extra strong cold brew. If regular cold brew is a draft beer, this is a fine brandy. As far as I know no one else in the world serves this particular preparation as I invented it myself! 

How would you describe a Babe with Coffee?

 Michelle of Babes with Coffee

Michelle of Babes with Coffee

To me, a Babe with Coffee is an energy. It’s that twinkle in your eye as you have your first sip of the day. That feeling that finally, you have arrived and are ready to take on the world. Coffee is a meditation and a waking practice to place our minds in a state of readiness. For me, A Babe with Coffee is every woman, man, non-binary, trans or queer person with that twinkle of fierce readiness.

Follow the Little Bean NYC @littlebeancoffeenyc