You can smell it before you see it. Along Marin Boulevard, on the very edge of Jersey City just before Observer Highway in Hoboken, a roasted aroma hangs in the air, making Kobrick Coffee Co’s facility unmissable despite their modest signage. And even though their familiar logo includes NYC, Kobrick’s entire operation has been running out of Jersey City since 1983.
Started in 1920 in Manhattan by Samuel Kobrick, Kobrick Coffee Co’s commitment to the finest and freshest roast as well as superior customer service continues and it is truly a family affair. Samuel Kobrick’s great-grandchildren, Niki and Scott, work alongside their uncle and their ninety-year-old grandmother, too, and a friendly familial connection to the company and the culture of coffee among everyone working is keenly felt on a walk through the warehouse.
Everything happens at the Jersey City operation. Imported and certified (fair trade, organic, and/or Rainforest Alliance) coffee beans arrive from all over the world. Over 50 varieties of coffee from the House Blend to small batch brews of micro lots are available and all are roasted to order, packed, and shipped right away–nothing sits for very long. Also on-site is a workshop for fixing coffee equipment on loan or lease and a cafe set-up for training industry staff who serve Kobrick Coffee (and where Niki Kobrick makes a mean latte!).
The hub of production is a large open area where bags of beans from Kenya and Sumatra and Costa Rica are stacked high off to the side, roasters jingle, coffee cools, packages are packed tight, and the strong scent of the brew lingers.
The most interesting room in the facility is the coffee cupping (tasting) room. Lined with photographs of the colorful process and practice, it is a quiet spot where the history and culture of coffee is on full display and Niki Kobrick, not surprisingly a connoisseur, excitedly explains what’s behind each perfect Kobrick cup: coffee begins as a flower and becomes a cherry that contains two beans. In order to bring all the flavor forward, the beans are very lightly roasted and tasters sip and spit, just like a wine tasting, because of the high caffeine content.
Kobrick Coffee Co has built a wholesale and retail empire on Samuel Kobrick’s foundation of a superior product and superior service and forged strong relationships, mainly through word of mouth, with some of the biggest and best restaurant and retail groups.
But what was once an old school business is now a young hip industry and Niki and Scott Kobrick, the fourth-generation-brother-sister team, are more than keeping up. In September 2015, they opened a cafe in the heart of NYC’s Meatpacking District, serving not only coffee but cocktails with a coffee twist, using coffee either as an ingredient or inspiration: the Chemex Bloody Mary is a pour over but with vodka!
Kobrick Coffee Co brought an entrepreneurial, European-style ethos to the coffee business in New York City nearly one hundred years ago and in Jersey City going on 34 years ago. And with plans to increase direct to consumer exposure, the Canopy Tree Project–an initiative in Costa Rica to convert full sun coffee farms to more sustainable shade grown farms–underway since March 2015, and whispers of an on-site cafe opening in the future, Jersey City would be lucky to have them for another 34 years.