Not your average cup of joe — W’burg cafe treats java as art

Not your average cup of joe — W’burg cafe treats java as art
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Just when you’d learned how to properly taste wine, pair beer, and distinguish a single malt from a blended Scotch whisky, along comes Australian transplant Toby’s Estate — revolutionizing Brooklyn’s coffee scene with high-altitude, single-origin beans, flat whites, and baristas that can expound on the merits of a mug of Costa Rica El Alto as if it were a glass of Chablis Grand Cru.

You can thank Toby Smith for that — an enterprising Aussie with a jones for java — who’s just opened up his first stateside roastery and café (he has others in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Singapore), in a 3,000 square foot space in Williamsburg.

“We needed enough room for our showcase roaster, a brew bar, a cupping and training area, a dispatch and warehouse space for our pallets of beans, and of course, a nice spot for people to sit around and enjoy,” said Smith.

“We’re very grateful to have found ourselves in Williamsburg, with a lot of creative people and a mixed demographic,” he added. “We have some very special coffees that we’re excited to share.”

Smith is also introducing a whole brew world of jargon to unsuspected caffeine seekers, although he insists that the uninitiated won’t be turned off — or away.

“It’s important not to isolate ourselves from our customers by rattling on about citrus notes in the Guatemalan — we’re just trying to make great coffee approachable,” Smith said.

“The industry is all about the latest toys and coming up with a new way of saying something, but an espresso shot is an espresso shot as it always will be.”

Be that as it may, we’re spilling the beans on Toby’s most oft-used terms — to help you get the most out of your next (elevated) cup of joe.

Single origin

A descriptive term referring to beans with a single known geographical origin. Estate coffees are a specific type of single origin, grown on one farm.

High altitude Arabica: High altitude conditions (weather, light, temperature, oxygen) allow these top-quality beans to ripen very slowly, concentrating their flavor.

Pour-over: A method of drip coffee in which the water is poured in a thin, steady, slow stream over a filter cone. Served at Toby’s special brew bar, with interactive barista service.

Toby says: “It’s a time old method, where each cup is freshly ground and weighed out and poured with the correct amount of water to coffee ratio. It’s that little bit of extra care to the delivery of the coffee.”

Chemex: A glass filter used for pour-over coffee. Produces clear, pure flavor without

bitterness or sediment.


A tasting of three distinct coffees.

Toby says: “It’s hard to find certain notes in coffee if you’re not experienced at it. Yet if you put a cup of citrusy Guatemalan coffee next to a Kenyan coffee, with black current and plum flavors, you can distinguish and compare much more easily. It’s quite a lovely sensory experience.”

Flat white

A single shot of espresso topped with steamed milk — popular in Australia.

Toby says: “It’s pretty much the same as a wet cappuccino.”


The practice of tasting and appreciating the nuances of coffee (involves sniffing and slurping, not unlike wine-tasting).

La Mazorca Strada

A top-of-the-line, pressure controlled espresso machine. Toby’s currently boasts the only one in the city.

Toby says: “We can calibrate the machine in regards to pressure and temperature, which produces the optimal cup of coffee. We’re giving ourselves every opportunity to get the best flavor we can, to give our customers something extra special.”

Toby’s Estate Brooklyn [125 N. Sixth St. between Berry Street and Bedford Avenue in North Williamsburg (347) 457-6160].