I’ve been to Birch Coffee a few times and considered keeping it a secret. In a neighborhood that could be mistaken for Midtown because of an overwhelming number of chain restaurants, Birch stands out as a rare find. The cafe is connected to the lobby of the swanky Gershwin Hotel, and is hard to miss despite the construction out front. The facade is painted in a vibrant red and outfitted with horns protruding into the street (you read that correctly). While the attached hotel may be new-wave and trendy, Birch Coffee is a well-executed return to what makes a cafe ideal.
The baristas at Birch are remarkably friendly (the first sentence of their About page may explain why). It’s hard to walk away without leaving a tip, which they’ve made into a game by associating two jars with answers to a daily trivia question. Up a flight of stairs is The Library, a cozy atmosphere where there’s artwork for sale decorating the walls and a shelf with free, donated books. With every drink comes an hour of WiFi, but somehow students tend to stay for longer on the intimately arranged couches and seats. Over a game of chess, my friends and I wondered how a cafe like this could exist, and simultaneously asked why there weren’t more like it in the city.
Birch uses beans from Hudson Valley-based roasters, Coffee Labs. I asked for a Latte ($3.50) and wasn’t very impressed. I had the same experience the first time at Birch when I ordered a Macchiato ($3.00). There was a weak taste to the espresso, as if it was watered down. The complexity of flavors failed to come through and the drink lacked a crisp finish.
The latte (and macchiato) certainly weren’t bad, but I wouldn’t go around bragging about it. With that being said, what will keep me coming back to Birch Coffee is the atmosphere. It’s a great stop after a stroll through Madison Square Park (or the nearby Museum of Sex). I may someday regret sharing this spot with the world; it’s already a challenge to find a seat in The Library. Just don’t go to Birch when I’m there.
*Fun Fact: Coffee Labs Roasters uses 100% renewable energy and Birch Coffee has exceptional taste in music.*