I began thinking about the first coffee I would have during my spring break trip home on my flight to Rome. The green clad flight attendants were walking down the aisle, offering diluted coffee from a plastic thermos. Momentarily, I glanced up from Gli Indifferenti, and grimaced. I was exhausted with the onslaught of mediocrity. I needed a little uniqueness.
The decision of which cafe to go to, however, wasn’t an easy one. It never is.
While I was tempted to go to Abraço, I knew that my first cup had to be drunk sitting down. None of this Italian-style coffee business; just good, old-fashioned, slow-American ways of drinking the world’s favorite beverage. A new cafe, I thought, would be perfect. Innovation is, after all, one of my favorite parts of New York coffee.
I’m pleased to report that there are quite a few gems that have popped up in recent months. Betola is a new little coffee shop in the East Village that offers up quite a nice cup. The drinks weren’t textbook perfect specimens — my macchiato was more a macchiatone or small cappuccino — but that is precisely what I wanted to find in a New York cafe on that late March morning. It was a relief to be away from the rigid measurements of Italian coffee.
Betola is small. There are two tall stools at the window, two small stools tucked near a book case and a bench outside. You’ll probably want to get your coffee to go, but that’s okay. They have paper cups. You don’t have to down it quickly standing up. You can take as long as you’d like.
When I walked in I glanced at the board to see what drinks they were offering. The barista — an Asian guy in an awesome hat — told us that if we wanted something that wasn’t up there we should just ask. Seriously, awesome dude. I always, for some reason, hesitate to order something not listed. Despite this, I went for the macchiato that was written up there. My mother got a decaf cappuccino.
We sat in the window. My macchiato came in a glass. My mother’s cappuccino in a large ceramic cup. The smell of the freshly ground coffee was intoxicatingly nutty and deep. We weren’t in the land of bland illy any more.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my macchiatado (macchiato/cortado … okay it’s the exact same thing when translated), it wasn’t what I was expecting. I wanted a larger coffee flavor, less milk. It was still very good, but I couldn’t help but be a touch disappointed. If I went back, I would gleefully order a macchiato, just adjust my expectations. I guess this is why some places have switched from names to ounces for drink classifications on their menu. My mother’s cappuccino was sweet. It was so sweet it tasted as if sugar had been added. I don’t think there was, but it was surprising.
Betola is an adorable little coffee shop and one that I would gleefully return to, especially in the summer to sit outside. It’s the epitome of a little New York cafe and a very welcome entree back into my hometown’s coffee attitude.
Do you order drinks based on what’s offered on the menu or do you go for off-the-menu options?