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% Arabica’s Global Guide to Coffee Beans — and What You Can Expect From the Brand’s New NYC Location

By Nina RuggieroMar 6 2024
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Specialty coffee roaster % Arabica has 200 shops around the world, but the Kyoto–based brand opened its first U.S. store in Brooklyn in 2020, beckoning New Yorkers with its unique design. “We look for inspiration in the local geography,” CEO Mieke Fonteyn says, pointing to the windows of the DUMBO store, which mirror the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge. “We want to demonstrate a connection and feel relevant to the environment we’re in, but not in an overt way. The goal is to feel like we were always meant to be there.”

The newest location opened at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in January, and Fonteyn aptly describes it as a “beautiful golden cocoon.” Not a square edge is in sight, and its glowing bar almost appears to be floating. “Our 30 Rock store is a balanced inspiration of the New York subway line, the golden center of a coffee bean, and the Art Deco style that 30 Rock has long been known for,” she says.

“Our founder personally goes and cups every potential purchase himself in every origin country.”
— Mieke Fonteyn, % Arabica CEO

And while the aesthetic may be what draws people in, it’s % Arabica’s commitment to serving incredible coffee that keeps them coming back. Fonteyn, who has worked in the coffee industry for 25 years, says she’s never seen a more rigorous system dedicated to serving a top-quality cup of caffeine. “We have the most aggressive freshness standards, so customers never get a cup of our coffee that’s more than 72 hours from roasting,” she says. “Our founder personally goes and cups every potential purchase himself in every origin country. He tries every cup before it makes it to a customer.”

Founder Kenneth Shoji coined the brand’s slogan, “See the world through coffee,” and that’s exactly what he’s done — and what he allows every customer to do as they sip beans sourced from the world’s top coffee-growing regions.

Many of % Arabica’s bean offerings vary based on what is best in season, but the signature % Arabica Blend is used for espresso in every store around the world, says Director of Operations Molly Berger. The best-selling blend is rich, full-bodied, and has notes of chocolate, nuts, caramel, and wine. “This blend is a world blend made up of coffees from Africa and Central and South America,” she explains.

Below, Berger talks us through four sources of single-origin coffees served at % Arabica stores and the tasting notes to expect in each.

Colombia

Much of Colombia’s world-famous coffee is grown on family-owned farms across its 20-plus coffee regions, according to the National Coffee Association, and small production makes tight quality control possible. With high humidity and moderate rainfall, the country’s climate is ideal for growing Arabica beans with well-balanced acidity, from its mountains to its rainforests. % Arabica serves Colombia Huila Monteblanco, which Berger calls “medium- to light-bodied, with notes of passionfruit and a floral aroma.”

Guatemala

Coffee has been exported from Guatemala since the mid-19th century, according to worldcoffeeresearch.org, and the Central American country is home to eight coffee-producing regions. Its beans tend to be more acidic and more full-bodied than Colombia’s, and its volcanic soil creates a distinctive, rich flavor. % Arabica pours Guatemala Santa Rosa, San Antonio, which has notes of “caramel and grapefruit, with hints of strawberry,” according to Berger. Some Guatemalan coffees also carry a hint of spice and chocolate.

Ethiopia

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) cites Ethiopia’s Kafa Biosphere Reserve as the birthplace of the Arabica bean. Today, the reserve still has almost 5,000 varieties growing wild. Ethiopian coffee is complex and often contains fruity, citrusy, and slightly earthy flavors. % Arabica sells Ethiopia Adado Natural, which is medium- to light-bodied and has a “dried mango, cocoa, and jasmine aroma,” Berger says.

Indonesia

The word “java” has become synonymous with coffee, but many forget this moniker comes from a coffee-growing island in Indonesia. Java beans, like those from neighboring Sumatra — another Indonesian island producing some of the world’s most popular coffee — are low in acidity and ideal for coffee drinkers with sensitive stomachs, according to The Coffee Chronicler. Berger says % Arabica’s Indonesia Sumatra Karo Simalem is medium-bodied and tastes of “lychee syrup and cocoa tea.”

% Arabica is open at 30 Rockefeller Plaza daily from 7am to 7pm.

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