Darleen Scherer may be, in many ways, the godmother of New York's third-wave coffee movement, but unlike many a bearded barista, she doesn't take coffee too seriously at Brooklyn's Supercrown Coffee Roasters.
Take, for instance, the fact that her weekly changing coffee selection is inspired by a blockbuster podcast or that she isn't afraid to pour her light-roasted coffee into a buzzy milkshake (see the recipe).
On a giant 1952 German roaster (a Probat UG22, to be exact), Scherer's roasting something different each week for her subscription customers, using beans that come from regions like Huila Department in Colombia, Cajamarca in Peru and Karongi District in Rwanda. The beans are roasted when they're in season, meaning they are picked at peak harvest, shipped to the U.S. and roasted within approximately six months of their arrival.
"[It's] kind of inspired by 'Serial,' the podcast, where everything has this hook of what's next. I love that idea of something that is a saga or a story," she explains. And fittingly, each coffee arrives with a little numbered card that tells buyers where the coffee came from and its flavor profile.
Scherer, who opened Supercrown earlier this year, launched the well-known Gorilla Coffee in 2002 in Park Slope, when there were "Starbucks and cafés, but no one who was really focused on coffee quality," she says. She put the roaster front and center, so that people would respond to seeing "the coffee go from the roaster into their cups," which they did, and put a big focus on social responsibility.
With Supercrown, she's hyper-focused on the flavor of the coffee, and the results are incredibly good. Oliver Strand, whose book on coffee, Clean, Bright, Sweet, comes out next year, describes it as a "clean roast, a beautiful roast."
Scherer is working with numerous farmers around the globe to source award-winning coffees, like the Finca El Faldón, which one first place in the Cup of Excellence in 2011, and Bella Vista, which is also from Colombia and won the Cup of Excellence in 2014.
Photo: Ellen Silverman
And unlike at Gorilla, Scherer is keeping her roasts light. "You want to highlight the stuff that's there," she says, comparing the process to how a steak is cooked to only medium rare at a good steakhouse.
Strand puts the transformation of Scherer's work like this: "It's like doing bistro fare, then doing really light farmers' market fare. What she's doing now is light and clear. She's completely transformed herself."
Scherer is a stickler on this: Well-roasted coffee doesn't need milk, leaving only one pitcher of whole milk out for guests. "I see so many people drinking our coffee black, really tasting the coffee," she says. A sort of personal coup.
And as for that creamy, lightly sweet and salty milkshake, it was inspired by one she saw at a barista competition. It just goes to show that even a purist can't resist a good blend every now and then.
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