Coffee Chronicles: Weekends at Hester Street

"I have a Yugoslavian mini folding bike that we want to fashion into a grinder."


[Photos: Liz Clayton and Kickstand]

Maybe it doesn't take that much to make a cup of amazing coffee—great coffee, a water source, a little electricity, and some decent equipment. And perhaps, just perhaps, a little shelter from the rain.

Among the great food fair fare at the Hester Street Fair are two of the city's newest coffee ventures: Kickstand and Dora, operating on Saturdays and Sundays, respectively, at the petit-craft-flea on the Lower East Side.

Tucked in beside the fish-shaped waffles, sock monkeys, old bikes and jewelry made of dirt are some of the most enthusiastic newcomers to NYC coffee. Kickstand's clever cart, with custom pour-over coffee setup fashioned out of sawed-off Chemex brewers. Kickstand, a fantasy project of three baristas—Neal Olson, Pete Castelein and Aaron Davis—came to fruition earlier this year at Markets at McCarren in Williamsburg.

"We had pitched the idea and told them we were a mobile coffee company," said Wisconsin native Olson, "And they said yeah. So we had to actually do it! We built the carts in a week and a half."

Olson and Castelein found shop space to build their cart-coffee-bar, and soon enough were pouring by the cup to New Yorkers en plein air. Their shop at the Hester Street Fair serves coffee from Stumptown and Café Grumpy—the latter roaster's only wholesale client outside of their own shops—with that special geek-gear aesthetic forged by the kind of coffee nerds who are also bike nerds.

"We don't have bikes integrated into the actual coffee production process yet, but we are working on it." said Olson.

"I have a Yugoslavian mini folding bike that we want to fashion into a grinder."

On the more feminine side of the spectrum is Sunday's coffee service, offered by Manhattan native Nicole Slaven at Dora. Slaven, who will open a bricks-and-mortar Dora café (named for both her great grandmother, Dora Cohen, and the park adjacent the café space on East Broadway) later this fall, is a longtime NYC food veteran, winding her way through chocolate, cheese and spirits before landing in a love of coffee. The Dora stand's Stumptown by-the-cup (brewed in adorably appropriately sized one-cup Hario V60 cones) and cold-brew takeaways are, like Kickstand's, powered by minimalism—a power strip, grinder, an electric kettle, and a portable jug of water—but the customer interaction at the market is Slaven's connection to an underserved coffee community.

"I've never been able to shake wanting to work at a counter. With coffee, I can be in my own shop, make drinks, teach, people about coffee and brewing, share stories, and help make their days great."

20100915coffee2.jpgThough last Sunday's autumn rain slowed down the fair somewhat, both vendors plan to continue to brew on Hester Street until the fair winds down in December.

"We're going to keep doing it until winter comes," said Olson. "The audience is really great and people are super interested."

And after Hester rolls up the sock monkeys for the year? By then Dora should be open at 221 East Broadway, and for Kickstand's portabar, it's on to the next one.

"We're about bringing awesome coffee to different parts of town, and essentially pop up in the middle of a field and make good coffee," warns Olson. So look out!