Toby Estate Coffee, Brooklyn. Bustling with people. Espresso machines and indie rock music mix, filling the sound space. Sun floods through the tall front window, spanning the front of the store. There are wooden communal tables and vintage trinkets scattered throughout the floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves.
Before I enter, an Ethopian man soaking up the sun on the long black bench stretching the length of the store front engages me in conversation. He tells me he’s trying to open a coffee shop. He runs a popup from his van right now and is working as an artist. He’s interested in sustainability and asks for my contact details.
Inside, there’s a line. As I wait, I look around. I see many for-here cups, but also a few plastic cups and water bottles. I’m greeted by a man with a gray baseball cup – Josh. He seems familiar. I ask if he was at the NYC Coffee Festival. He wasn’t. I told him I spoke with Jessica when I was there.
I ask about the store practices. Josh tells me management encourages them to ask customers if they want their drinks “for-here”. They don’t do cup discounts. Josh is not sure why. They sell branded reusable containers (Hydro Flasks), but are out of stalk right now.
They don’t compost their grinds. I find out (on a second visit – October 23, 2017) that their stores donate “old beans” to local charities – this shop donates to City Harvest – a food rescue charity.
I see a KeepCup behind the counter. “Good job for using your own cup” I say. The barista working the bar, Chrislyn tells me it’s hers. She says she’s been inching in, listening to our conversation. She’s right there with the sustainability thing. She expresses dislike handing out drinks in “to-go” cups and tells me she practices sustainability at her house.
I see josh drinking out of a water bottle, also commenting how that’s nice to see. He tells me these are given to all the employees. They are double insulated (so can be used for hot or cold drinks), personalized with labels, and are for store use only (they can’t be taken home). What a great idea!
In the bathroom inspection, I see eco-friendly soap (Method) and TP. There’s no paper towel, just a hand blow-dryer. I notice they have plastic reusable cups for customers by the water.
I am given a taste of the Brooklyn blend – a mix of Latin American beans. I head to a wooden communal bar where I park myself for the next two hours.
What stood out to me at Toby’s, Estate they offer employees reusable bottles. This is a great example of effort to minimize waste within stores. I hope other shops take note. I like what they’re doing with their old beans, donating them to a local charity rather than throwing them away. I think they could do a bit more to encourage customers to bring their own reusable (e.g., offering a discount and making that offer obvious) and work on finding an alternative way to dispose of their grinds. Other than that, well done! I like this place. I’ll be here again.
*A note to the store owner. Nothing to do with sustainability, but three people have hit their head on the low hanging lamps since I’ve been here. Maybe you guys want to raise these? Also, myself and other people are pulling instead of pushing the front door. An eye-level “PUSH” sign might help this.
Original visit October 19, 2017.