Eating along the 7 line: Sweetleaf serves great espresso in Long Island City.
Rich Nieto has coffee down to a science.
“The attention to detail and the quality that we give to our coffee program is unparalleled,” says Nieto.
The longtime friends were the first to bring specialty brews to the borough at their Long Island City espresso bar Sweetleaf, located two blocks from the Vernon Blvd.-Jackson Ave. station on the 7 line.
Nieto and his pal Freddy Arundel opened the java joint in 2008 after realizing there were no quality coffee shops in the area. Arundel has since moved on.
“His idea was, ‘What would I love for my neighborhood to have?’ and he thought a coffee and espresso bar would be a great addition,” says Nieto, who jumped on board a few weeks later.
With few roasters based in New York at the time, Nieto, also a Queens native, flew out to the West Coast to find the best beans.
That’s when he fell in love with Stumptown, a Portland-based roaster that has since built a strong following — and plant — in the city.
“We were only one of two accounts they had in New York three years ago,” says Nieto. “Now, they have over 100.”
What makes Sweetleaf different from other espresso bars is their approach.
Baristas measure grind not by tablespoons or cups, but by weight. They also use the best machine on the market — currently, the La Marzocco Strada EP imported from Italy.