Monday, March 7, 2011 at 5:25PM
Leaf and Bean, on Seventh Avenue between Berkeley and Union, is one of the most quaint, charming, and best-smelling little shops in the neighborhood, with incredibly friendly and helpful owners to boot. They sell teas and coffees along with everything you might need to go with them, including mugs, kettles, and grinders as well as gifts, confections, and gourmet items.
Alan Mehlberg first opened the store in 1973, after the liquor store that was there went out of business. After retiring to Connecticut in 2003, he turned the shop over to two of his longtime employees, Vikki Cook and Karen Hue, and they can still be found there today, joking with each other, helping customers find exactly the coffee or tea they're looking for from among the over 100 varieties, and generally making the store an incredibly warm and pleasant place to spend some time.
Leaf & Bean has had a partnership with Queens-based White House Coffee since opening, but in recent years they've added blends from Illy and Moka d'Oro to their wide selection, which they'll be more than happy to guide you through or create a custom blend. They've increased their selection of loose-leaf teas, too, as well as hard-to-find gourmet items like Jameson (and Bushmill's) marmalade and fresh French macarons. There's also an emphasis on local products, like chocolate birthday candles made in Brooklyn.
It's clear that not much except for inventory has changed in many, many years. The old Deco-style doorway with curved display windows is still intact, and probably dates from the 1930s. The numbered shelves and rolling ladder all date back to its days as a liquor store. An ancient scale is still near the register, and Vikki tells me that a huge coffee mill is still in the basement, along with a peanut grinder that goes back to the store's earliest days, when Alan would sell homemade peanut butter.
So next time you're walking by, or in the market for some tea leaves or coffee beans, drop in and say hello to Vikki and Karen. If you ask nicely you might get a free candy from the jars by the register.
|Owners Karen Hue (l.) and Vikki Cook.|
Leaf and Bean, 83 7th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-638-5791.