Why This Coffee Sourcer Risked His Life to Travel to Yemen

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Provided by Matt Swenson
Last December in Yemen, an American photojournalist held hostage by Al Qaeda was killed during an attempted rescue mission by U.S. Special Forces. Less than two weeks later, a bomb killed over a dozen schoolchildren on a bus. In early January, an explosion at the police academy in Yemen's capital took several lives. And last weekend, two French citizens were arrested on charges of being members of Al Qaeda. The U.S. State Department, not surprisingly, characterizes the security threat level in Yemen as "extremely high," and months earlier had urged all U.S. citizens to depart the country immediately.

Yet Matt Swenson, director of sourcing, education, and quality control at the coffee company Nobletree, was undeterred by the State Department warning, and, perhaps justifying the risk through some curious calculus of the mind, found himself on a 31-hour flight pattern (which in itself could be considered crazy) from New York to Yemen on the same day as the rescue mission. Swenson's life-risking mission? Tasting coffees from one of the founding countries in the history of the beverage.

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Manhattanites Can Now Go Sip Matcha Tea at the West Village's Chalait

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Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
Last year, New Yorkers saw the first shop dedicated to matcha (a powdered green tea from Japan) open up in Williamsburg. While matcha hasn't taken the city by storm — yet — we've seen the product creep on to the menus of national chain brands (Teavana, Peets) as well as into foods (matcha-infused pastries) and health food drinks (Liquiteria has added a matcha smoothie to its roster of seasonal concoctions).

And now, in a bright, windowed corner space straddling the intersection of West 4th and Christopher in the West Village, has come Chalait (224 West 4th Street), Manhattan's first matcha-focused tea and coffee shop.

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Caffeine in 2015: Here's What to Expect in NYC Coffee and Tea Shops This Year

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Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
New York coffee and tea lovers enjoyed accelerated growth in the caffeine world last year: The Aussies continued to sweep through the city with their avocado toasts and flat whites (plus the first stateside location of tea brand T2 opened); Scandinavia made it's mark, especially as a Manhattan-born but Swedish-styled coffee, chocolate, and restaurant chain called FIKA quietly mushroomed around town; and the number of specialty coffee shops rose at an unprecedented rate, with many electing to take control of their brand and beans by roasting their own coffee.

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10 Great Last-Minute Gifts for Coffee and Tea Lovers

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Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
It's now Monday before Christmas (!). Are you still desperate to fill the stockings of coffee and tea lovers on your list? Here's a last-minute guide to 10 presents you can buy ASAP, including a certificate for a roasting class, a set of premium teas, and an earth-friendly reusable mug.

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Toby's Estate Expands to the West Village, and Is Already Crowded

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Lauren Mowery for the Village Voice
Due to the hyper-local nature of coffee retail, "build it and they will come" is a perfect maxim for the response every new coffee shop that opens in the West Village receives. And thanks to the Australians, the Aussie coffee invasion of New York is now so widespread that there are two significant Australian cafés in the West Village just over a block away from each other, both completely swarmed with patrons. Like Bluestone Lane, Toby's Estate has several spots in the city, though the most recent outpost is more squarely focused on coffee than the Australian café experience.

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Pastries Infused With Tea and Love at Tiny Pinecone Teahouse

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Lauren Mowery

Pop-ups continue to proliferate around the city, as rents remain absurdly high and storefronts vacant. Greenwich Village newcomer Tiny Pinecone (58 West 8th Street, 732-977-8775) fills the area's void in high-quality teas, which are here paired with pastries that outshine the usual baked goods found in local cafés. But be careful of falling in love: For now, the cute Japanese-inspired spot plans to remain in its 8th Street location (a woefully cursed block for retailers and restaurants) only until February 2015.

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Want to Drink Better Coffee? Think About It as You Would Wine

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Lauren Mowery

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a respected wine journalist and Master of Wine that left me incredulous for this person's surprising attitude towards coffee. Asked to expound upon the significant parallels between both drinks, a nascent but certainly timely topic, this industry luminary quipped, "The only thing I care about in my coffee is that it is scalding hot." It wasn't a joke; it was declared almost indignantly. This writer might as well have told me their favorite beer in the world was Bud Light. Maybe this Mad Men-era opinion was earned after multiple decades in the wine industry, but I like to think not; and if you think this way, you are woefully out of date as well.

How could a wine lover and educator, a connoisseur of flavor and devotee to complexity and origin, nonchalantly dismiss another comparably complex, fragile, and nuanced liquid gift from the earth?

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The Elk Helps West Village Regain Its Mojo Via Coffee

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Lauren Mowery

For all the acclaim the West Village receives for its charm -- (dilapidated) cobblestone streets, (expensive) historic townhouses, and (overrated) Sarah Jessica Parker sightings -- the far western edge of the neighborhood has been surprisingly underserved in a multitude of realms, including coffee (and groceries, and gyms, and ethnic food). But this week, a new coffeehouse opens with the ambition of bringing quality beans and locally sourced goods back to the hood: The Elk (128 Charles Street, 212-933-4780) has (softly) debuted in the former Mojo space on Charles Street.

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Why You Should Go Taste Joe's Micro-Lot Coffee

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Lauren Mowery

One of New York's original coffee shops, Joe, is now offering three different Central American micro-lots every Monday and Saturday morning until sold out, but only at particular locations. As the name "micro-lot" implies, there are only so many bags of these unique coffees, so tasting these beans requires a little planning -- but Joe wants you to sip them all.

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Greenpoint's Champion Coffee Heads West to Meatpacking

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Up towards the north end of Greenpoint, Champion Coffee (1108 Manhattan Avenue, 718-383-5195) has been a neighborhood fixture, serving espresso-only coffee drinks and a fairly broad breakfast menu, since 2006. It's a great hangout for those working (or pretending to work) while utilizing wifi inside, or a good spot for actually relaxing out back on the patio.

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