New Haven Diary: The best coffee hangout you’ve never heard of

There’s watching the leaves fall on the green, wolfing down a slice at Pepe’s, and now, drinking coffee? Yes, it just might be worth a daytrip to stop in New Haven for some joe, especially if you find yourself riding Amtrak between Boston and New York and you’re feeling sleepy. I recently visited a West-Coast-hip all-organic / all-fair-trade coffee shop, one of a handful in the Northeast, and the coffee here is possibly worth the pilgrimage.

But first, if coffee isn’t your thing, see my series from March on what to do, see, stay, and eat in New Haven.

Now then.

Apart from his duties at Bare Beans Coffee in Fair Haven as owner, barista and floor sweeper, Mark Orintas holds a part-time job as a perfume salesman. His keen nose for fragrances bestows a sommelier’s touch to what may otherwise seem like a rather pedestrian drink. He’s fond, for instance, of describing his signature concoction – a blend from Sumatra, Peru, Bolivia, and Guatemlala – as having “oaky aftertones” with “floral notes.”

“This place is for organically minded people who like the finer coffees and teas,” Mr. Orintas said. As one of the state’s few organic and fair-trade cafes, Bare Beans, open only on weekday mornings, exudes an understated West Coast hipness. There is no flashy sign, the brick walls stand exposed, and patrons must satisfy themselves with two simple tables and a few more bean chairs.

But when it comes to coffee, the selections are eclectic and often as hard-to-find as the establishment itself: Mexico El Triunfo Biosphere, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, Dominican Republic Barahona, among others.

Organic teas from SerendipiTea, which include Darjeeling Green and Mango Magnus, and biscotti (lemon-cranberry, pistachio, coconut macadamia), scones and muffins, at $1.95 each, are also available. A 12-ounce cup of any tea or coffee (equivalent of “tall”) is $1.65; 16 ounces (“grande”) is $1.95. One-pound bags of any beans, which are roasted fresh to order in the back, sell for $12 to $14.

And don’t even think about that quad-shot latte with extra foam. Bare Beans caters to the purist at heart, where even synthetic sugar is banned in favor of agave, a succulent nectar from Mexico.

Mr. Orintas hopes to offer light lunch fare soon, but for now he’s sticking to monthly cuppings (like wine tastings, but with coffee) that are free to the public. One recent cupping attracted a dozen enthusiasts, who were reluctant to leave. “I like good coffee and good people,” said Garrett DiFazio, 36. “Here, there’s both.”

Bare Beans Coffee, 14 East Grand Avenue, New Haven; (203) 260-1118 or (online orders). Open Monday to Friday, 6:30 . to 10 a.m.