Inside Caffe Vita — East Williamsburg’s ‘Villain of Coffee’

Brielle Schiavone 


Gustavo Ponce


Welcome to the Brooklyn outpost of Seattle-raised Caffe Vita. On a recent Sunday afternoon, there were three motorcycles parked out front, staff who just happened to be dressed in all black, plenty of tattoos to go around and metal music booming from inside the roastery as Gair Wissenbach and his coffee-roasting partner worked seamlessly through their everyday process.

“There’s darker vibes in general at Caffe Vita. We’re the villain of coffee,” Wissenbach joked, the warmth in his eyes reassuring me that he was, indeed joking. Not only is the shop’s ambience on the edgier side, but their signature matte black branding and their roasts, which are proudly way darker and richer than most, adds to their overall appeal.

Not only does Caffe Vita look cool as hell, but they are serious about their coffee and have been since 1995. Offering only seasonal selections and the highest quality beans, the independent roaster is extremely committed to the farm-direct movement. They source the best possible coffee available, while maintaining close relationships with coffee growers in more than eleven countries who are committed to sustainable practices.

The baristas are truly experts at their craft and as one Yelp reviewer put it, “pour some serious heart and soul into their drinks.” Caffe Vita’s most popular request is their signature espresso blend—the rich, sweet and nutty Caffe Del Sol. Wissenbach explained Caffe Vita has a traditional Northern Italian roasting style, which is why their coffee tastes so different from other brands.

Conveniently located a few blocks from the Jefferson L stop, the shop’s entrance is adorned with a gigantic, brightly-colored mural commissioned by the Seattle-based artist Ten Hundred. The location marks the sixth opening for the Pacific Northwest chain and their second New York City location.

Additionally, the Bushwick spot is one of only two locations that roast their beans on-premise, which accounts for the majority of their wholesale production across the country.

Wissenbach shared with me his roasting process from start to finish. Averaging a large volume of batches every week, his passion and expertise were noted within every movement he made, turning almost rhythmic as he continuously operated the most gorgeous piece of machinery I’ve ever seen – a 1937 Gothot roaster, which was one of the last of its kind ever made. The warm aroma from the roasting beans was honestly invigorating and added to Wissenbach’s meditative work.

And you can watch him roast beans, too! The shop has a great large window, so you can sit back and peer into the roastery. Go relax, have an espresso and watch Caffe Vita work its on-site black magic.


Caffe Vita

Coffee shop and roastery specializing in dark roasts and dark vibes.

 576 Johnson Ave. [Jefferson L]

 Mon-Fri: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
     Sat-Sun: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm


Follow Caffe Vita on Facebook and Twitter.

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