Coffee Chronicles: World Bean, First-Class Coffee at LaGuardia Airport


[Photo: Liz Clayton]

You're still out of luck at the Marine Air Terminal, but travellers passing through LaGuardia's Delta Terminal D are charmed to have the brand new, nearly-inexplicable state of the art World Bean coffee bar to ready them for their next trip—or revive them for that brutal NYC re-entry.

Boasting an exclusive Slayer espresso machine and a wide variety of roasters—Intelligentsia, Counter Culture Coffee, Ecco Caffè, Caffé Vita and Olympia Coffee Roasters were on the menu board last week—World Bean may be the city's coffee-geekiest and most ambitious cafe going right now.

Jesse Kahn, director of coffee for the airport concession, says, "I think that specialty coffee deserves to be everywhere, and the best I can do as an ambassador for specialty coffee is to put it in places where people least expect to find it, where people are NOT looking for a great experience and it catches them off guard."

And for a coffee bar hidden in the clutter of all the overpriced yogurt pretzels and low-rent black and white cookies of a Cibo Express shop, it's better than fine. Olympia Coffee Roasters Big Truck espresso was great as a shot and a macchiato, and Ecco Caffè's Finca Malacara was delicious as filter brew (and also available as a single origin espresso!). How the cafe will handle the needs of busy travellers may be its second biggest challenge after staffing: Thursday morning saw nearly two dozen people in line for slow-crafted espresso and pourover by-the-cup v60 brew, winding into the concourse with wheelie bags in tow. There's also the issue of the cash register being practically in another concourse (and I didn't even see the tip jar).

But the appeal of the unusual space for Kahn is that volume of traffic.

"I have a lot of great coffee in a lot of small cafes that serve not a lot of people a day, and the opportunity to serve a ton of people every day is sort of the grail of specialty coffee, at least for me."

So far, World Bean is living up to Kahn's dream of blowing away everyday cafe expectations, much less the lowered standards of humanity one has come to expect at an airport.

Too bad you have to have to take your belt and shoes off to get there.