Food News: Swallow, An Enlightened Coffeehouse
Call it the Starbucks Scream—that familiar screech that erupts from the espresso machine as hot steam blasts into cold milk, heating it and transforming some of it into fluffy foam. “It kills the natural sugars in the milk,” says Aaron Dibben, who with his wife Sarah, owns Swallow Coffee, a recent addition to the 400 block of Hudson’s Warren Street. At Swallow, Dibben instructs his baristas to “roll the milk, instead of stretching it, so it forms a smaller bubble.” That way, organic milk (they buy theirs from Hudson Valley Fresh Farms, a coop of local family farms) retains its fresh-from-the-cow sweetness.
If genius, as the saying goes, is a willingness to take infinite pains, then Aaron Dibben may be a coffee genius. Every week Swallow offers a featured coffee, in addition to their stand-by beans from Intelligensia, the legendary Chicago chain, now also in L.A. Intelligensia’s coffee buyers are a step ahead of Fair Trade, working directly with farmers in Africa and Latin America, visiting each, on average, three times a year, building trust and relationships and sharing with the farmers the best practices they’ve picked up from producers around the world. They reward the resulting superior crops by paying 25% more than the farmer would normally get from an exporter or other middleman. (By dealing direct, Intelligensia can also hold the farmers’ feet to the flames, requiring them to use sustainable methods and treat their workers right.) Intelligensia’s buyers follow the sun, so their beans are always fresh. Once those beans arrive at Swallow, they get used up within 10 days of their roasting date. Thus, according to Dibben, “the nuances of flavor are preserved.”
After an eight-year apprenticeship in some of the region’s better kitchens (John Andrews, Swoon, among others), Dibben, who is originally from Kansas city, narrowed his sights on coffee. For his shop, he chose the 400 block of Warren because he felt it was under-served. He also found an amazing space there. Swallow occupies a north-facing double storefront that, unusually for Warren Street, is wider than it is deep. Bright and airy, Swallow Coffee is the polar opposite of the typical dark, introverted coffeehouse. The decor, such as it is, is simple, light and bright. In fact, the only darkness and complexity at Swallow is in the brew.
433 Warren Street, Hudson
Monday - Saturday, 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday, 9:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.