As soon as you start complaining that something is gone that you already saw, you're a New Yorker... What I always say is no one can help where they're from. You can only help where you went. So if you come to New York, you're a New Yorker. Welcome.
- Fran Lebowitz
In 2001, we opened the doors to a coffee shop in the East Village, on 9th Street and Avenue C. We called the shop Higher Grounds Cafe. At the time, nobody was offering manual espresso service as their primary focus in New York and we thought it might be possible. We bought a Faema E61 Legend and coffee from Dallis Brothers Coffee Roasters in Queens and opened the doors. We learned how to build drinks, tinker with equipment, and started to refine our offerings. Around that time, we received a favorable write-up from the NY Times that ranked us among the best coffee shops in New York and brought coffee enthusiasts from all over to the East Village.
Our goals today are the same as the ones that started us on this path. They're more complicated now, the world has changed in the last twenty years, we've learned a lot, and our operation has grown; but the fundamentals are the same: make and sell great coffee. We're still at our original location on 9th Street and Avenue C. The space, too, has evolved over the years. In 2003, we changed the shop's name to Ninth Street Espresso, and we adopted a white floating cup and saucer on a black flag as our logo, a pirate flag for a coffee world. Then we opened a few more stores, worked with just about every roaster in specialty coffee, and ultimately started roasting for ourselves.
With sourcing and roasting came greater control and accountability. We started out by selecting coffee that we hoped would appeal to both the coffee enthusiast and everyday coffee drinker alike. Coffee that is round and accessible without being boring. We still use this metric for selecting coffee today, and at the roaster we treat all of our coffee with the same eye on balance and drinkability.
Our shops and aesthetic have been described as minimalistic, a term which imbues our approach with more intentionality than it deserves. In truth, we are a small, simple company. We are committed to being independent and local, with an enduring fidelity to both quality and service. We are all New Yorkers, here. Most of us have come from elsewhere, some of us were born and raised, but all of us appreciate our place in this town and know what Ninth Street Espresso is to it: a sanctuary from the day, a consistent, unflagging bulwark in a changing city.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years. We're happy to be here.