Today the New York Times Magazine blog posted a mini bio-piece on James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee fame: The Nifty 50 | James Freeman, Coffee Maker – T Magazine Blog – The story behind their “Nifty 50” (did they hire a former 1960’s editor from Tiger Beat for that?) is to highlight “America’s up-and-coming talent.”

James Freeman: coffee alchemist or Tiger Beat pin-up?Since Mr. Freeman is not likely making an appearance on American Idol anytime soon — and since there’s still no word on the pilot for Clarineting With the Stars — the Bay Area coffee world fortunately can still celebrate him as one of our own talents. Of course, New York City has supposedly been calling for a while now, and the article claims James still holds some Gotham interest.

Sitting in James’ Blue Bottle Cafe this afternoon with visiting Hawaii coffee author and consultant, Shawn Steiman, we discussed Hawaii’s laggard status at quality retail coffee despite its notable coffee growing credentials. The conversation then turned to New York City’s laggard quality coffee status and how much its quality coffee culture had to be imported from places like Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco — including a number of coffee professionals who hail from these towns.

We previously knew of New York City’s challenges in establishing local roasters — given its commercial real estate environment and zoning laws. But what we didn’t know, and learned from Shawn today, was something he once heard from Gimme! in Ithaca, NY: that Manhattan has no roasters because the island has insufficient gas pressure to support them.

Today’s Times piece also exhumed the old $20,000 figure on Mr. Freeman’s Japanese siphon bar. Whenever journalists turn to price tags for coffee headlines, it reminds us of the old Oscar Wilde quote about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. $11,000 Clovers, $18,000 Slayer machines included. (Do they expect commercial coffee-brewing equipment to cost about as much as their $200 Krups home espresso machine?)

UPDATE: Jan. 23, 2010
As if we needed another example of New York City’s laggard coffee culture, the New York Times yesterday published an article on the New York arrival of pour-over coffee: Ristretto | Pour-Over Coffee Drips Into New York – T Magazine Blog –

Yes, pour-over coffee: essentially the same process prosthelytized by Philz’ Coffee for the better part of the past decade — and available in Bay Area outposts as remote as Monterey’s Plumes Coffee House since the previous decade. They obviously need a James Freeman in New York City fast, because at this rate Japanese siphon bars should arrive there around the year 2018.

UPDATE: Feb. 22, 2010
Sure enough, according to today’s New York Times, it looks like Blue Bottle Coffee will open in New York City with a Japanese slow-dripper bar: Blue Bottle Coffee to Open in Williamsburg – Diner’s Journal Blog – The siphon bar may still not arrive until 2018, however.

UPDATE: Sep. 23, 2011
This time it is Fortune magazine’s turn for the profile: Blue Bottle: The best coffee you may ever drink – Fortune Features.