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"Long Island City's Sweetleaf wins Krups' 'Cup o' Joe' coffee contest for Queens"

A Long Island City java joint has taken top honors in a competition to see who brews the best coffee in Queens.

Sweetleaf on Jackson Ave. was selected by appliance giant Krups in their national "Cup o' Joe" competition after polling coffee drinkers in each of the five boroughs.

Co-owner of the shop and master barista Richard Nieto said he's spent the last three years perfecting his brew.

"Coffee is my life. Coffee is what I think about every morning and every night," Nieto said.

The 1,000-square-foot shop has three different areas where coffee drinkers can enjoy their brews. There's a general sitting area, a laptop room where patrons can surf the Web and the "vinyl room," where Nieto spins some of his classic vinyl records.

Nieto serves more than 400 coffee drinks a day and attributes his success to precise measurements of coffee grounds.

"There is a small range where coffee tastes best and the only way to hit the bullseye consistently is by measuring it," he said.

Nieto uses 220 grams of ground coffee for a gallon of brew and 20 grams into each cup of espresso.

"I know that they're tasting what I taste, and that's great," he said.

Scott Rao, 39, has written two books on how to make good coffee. He said Nieto consulted him on how to get the best brew and Rao told him the secret was being exact in the preparation.

"It takes precision, experience and care to really make a great cup of coffee," Rao said. "It's gratifying to see people take it seriously and do a good job with it."

Meagan Bradley, marketing director for Krups, said Sweetleaf's brew shared something in common with other winners in its 10-city competition - unique in aroma, bean and taste.

"The award acknowledges a great spot within a neighborhood that should not be overlooked," she said.

Nieto said he plans to expand to another location, either in Astoria or Manhattan, and doesn't care that a Dunkin' Donuts is opening up around the corner.

"We're not doing what they're doing. If you want a quality drink, you're going to come to us," he said.


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