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Cornwall Coffee Co. & Mercantile Showcases Old-World Delights

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Photos by Oscar Dotter

More than just a coffee shop, this Cornwall business spans multiple storefronts and stocks German axes, English tweed hats, and more.

Oscar Dotter is fascinated by the past. More specifically, the New York City artist holds a deep passion for the quality yielded from traditional techniques.

“I do love more of an analog touch on something that you have to use your own craft to operate,” Dotter says. “And, I felt like the current trend that the coffee business was going in was more of an automatic, almost hands-free operation.”

In addition to his success in the art world, Dotter gained a variety of experience partnering several businesses across Manhattan. Of course, he’s also been in the coffee industry for over two decades.

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From his Hudson Valley farmhouse, Dotter scouted the region for towns to start something new. He wanted to focus on artisanal goods. Dotter thought back to his uncle’s mercantile, and remembered the allure of manual pull lever machine for espresso. “Above all, I wanted to go back to that system. I find the science of brewing, roasting, and the overall craft of coffee to be fascinating.”

While ruminating on this idea, he drove to Cornwall for the first time. Dotter enjoys spinning records at his place, just 10 minutes away from the Orange County locale. His turntable broke, and he found someone in town that could fix it. As soon as he stepped foot on Main St, a lightbulb went off.

Cornwall Coffee Co. & Mercantile belonged on this walkable street. In addition, Cornwall’s state of change inspired Dotter. He saw empty storefronts in a beautiful part of the Hudson Valley and envisioned a one-of-a-kind experience.

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So, he built the brand out of a 200-sq-ft shop to start. Cornwall Coffee Co. & Mercantile opened its doors in July 2020, amid the pandemic. Less than a year later, it expanded into a second, larger location with 14 employees.

Above all, its two La Victoria Arduino machines serve as the foundation of the entire concept.

“Victoria Arduino invented the espresso machine. And if you look at our machines, they have a family crest on them. They currently make a machine that’s called Athena lever, which is a replica of the machines that we have,” Dotter explains. In addition, he adds that there are only three of these exact devices in the United States today (including the two at Cornwall Coffee Co. and Mercantile).

Dotter found one of the 90-year-old relics in Napoli. The other was discovered in an old hotel lounge in Los Angeles. Both of their interior mechanisms run on steam pistons, and required servicing. Dotter brought the machines to Nuova Simonelli and had them completely gutted and restored.

Nicknamed “jawbreaker machines” in Italy, these beauties come with a learning curve. Operators must consider a variety of variables: the dryness of the beans, how much water goes through, and how to camp the espresso in the portafilter properly. If anything is off, the pistons won’t work properly—sending the handle flying back.

Dotter’s setup includes an electric gamma system. The Hudson Valley’s hard water quality would destroy the old copper lines and boiler, so he uses an eight-way Swiss water filter system. In addition, a reverse osmosis system further prepares the water.

Of course, the meticulous details are well worth it. Dotter is immensely proud of the old-world quality of Cornwall Coffee Co.’s signature espresso.

“We time everything at about a six- to ten-second pre-espresso infusion. So, that’s giving you this pure extraction—what I call the ‘best of the bean.’ [In short], it’s almost the pure resin of the bean. We extract the most we can before we lever up. And, when we lever up, that’s releasing the pressure that’s behind that shot,” Dotter describes. “Then, this adds water and steam through the capsule and through the espresso, creating a beautiful crema. It looks like gorgeous caramel floating on the top.” 

Dotter strives to create the same comfort and service you’d experience in Italy. And, he brought more than just the machines back from the boot.

Cornwall Coffee Co.’s menu changes every season. However, there is one very unique mainstay: Italian foam.

This concoction tops lattes, cold brew, and more. But what is it exactly?

Years ago, Dotter noticed the morning coffee service barista at a hotel in Italy offering “macchiato” to guests. The older man walked around with what looked like a whipped cream diffuser. He told Dotter its ingredients, and that he should aim for a shaving cream consistency. This foam blends Madagascar vanilla bean, light agave, heavy cream, and a touch of milk. It dissolves into drinks and brings delightful sweetness and texture.

And, Ronnybrook Farm dairy adds a Hudson Valley touch to this old European recipe.

Get the Italian foam on a pistachio latte at Cornwall Coffee Co. & Mercantile for an ultra-luxurious beverage. To make the frothy topper, Dotter and his trained baristas don’t use syrups, but make extracts instead. Little scientific lab bottles with stoppers line the counter, containing house-made elixirs. So, the pistachio flavor comes from real pistachio nut oil imported from Brazil.

Similarly, the jalapeno French chocolate cappuccino showcases incredible ingredients. A jalapeno puree plays with infused grated Guittard chocolate to create a must-try drink.

Cafe Koumei is another recent drink special. Dotter smokes shaved Russian white oak under a capsule with the coffee. “We’re smoking your drink, and we do it right in front of the customer. It’s pretty intense,” Dotter says.

Other recent creations include the elderflower latte, blueberry cortado, and real pureed pumpkin latte (which is served in October).

 

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Most importantly, it all starts with the quality of the bean. Dotter offers 19 different brewing methods to highlight the complexity of organic, fair trade coffees from around the globe.

“If a customer is going to buy something—as some of our beans are available for retail—we’re able to educate them which beans would be best for their preferred brewing method. After that, we’re able to troubleshoot with them and educate them on ways to get the flavor profile that they’re looking for at home,” Dotter says. 

Originally, he worked with roasters out of Brooklyn. When COVID-19 hit, Dotter turned his eyes to Hudson Valley experts. JB Peel in Red Hook roasts all of Cornwall Coffee Co.’s blends and single-origins. Dotter utilizes Peel owner William Jameison’s expertise, as well as his connections in the city, when working with international farmers.

We do our house blend seasonally, because different origins of beans are going to undergo certain climate changes [throughout the year]. We’re basically using what is peak season and peak quality growth in these regions,” Dotter explains. “Our goal is to get the best beans from the best farmers in that region in that particular season. And, generally, we’re always going to use a Colombian bean for our base in the blend.” 

This seasonal approach to coffee means a rotating list of roasts. Sometimes, he’ll blend the Colombian with Costa Rican beans for a medium to dark profile. The former brings rich cherry and cocoa notes, while the latter supplies mellow nutty and dark chocolate tones.

Cornwall Coffee Co. & Mercantile uses biodegradable cups, further demonstrating a commitment to the environment. Images of dapper figures grace each cup. In addition, the coffee shop serves drinks in specialty thermal mugs.

Further, Dotter brings in fresh pastries from Balthazar Bakery, previously only found in New York City and New Jersey. Savor delicious hot cross buns, croissants, cinnamon rolls, and more. In a similar vein, Dotter connects Hudson Valley shoppers with world-famous brands in the mercantile side of the business.

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I noticed there was no hardware store in town. So, I incorporate small hardware items [from the very beginning]…but also premium gifts that people couldn’t really get unless they drove to the city or imported them from Europe. So we used the leverage and the connections that we had Manhattan to really branch into the Hudson Valley,” Dotter says.

The mercantile sells extremely high-end goods from recognizable brands and lesser known master artisans alike. Shop watches, leather bags, and other accessories from Shinola. Or, opt for apothecary goods from New York’s C.O. Bigelow or the Florentine Proraso. Add to that handmade blankets from Ireland, soothing soaps from Portugal, vintage bicycles, and the list goes on and on.

 

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In fact, Dotter sells the tweed hats from Peaky Blinders. They’re by an old company called Bronte Moon, which makes everything with Harris Tweed, a high-quality Scottish wool.

Many of these goods can be found at the Woodsman Shoppe, Dotter’s second Cornwall business. This luxury men’s fashion and hardware store occupies that original Cornwall Coffee Co. space. In a similar vein, the eclectic store stocks Wolverine Boots, Grown and Sewn apparel, camping gear, men’s colognes, and everything in between. 

 

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“Nobody is selling axes that are handmade from Germany and coffee together,” Dotter says.

He, of course, is referring to Woodsman Shoppe’s assortment of Ochsenkopf axes. Dotter discovered the “Rolls-Royce of axes” in Germany, and uses them at his Hudson Valley farmhouse.

“They’re handmade in Germany, and the steel on them is insane. It’s all forged cold steel,” he explains. “If you compare it to like an American Hudson Bay Axe, the steel is anywhere from four to five times more dense.”

Moreover, as a licensed dealer, Woodsman Shoppe ships these axes all over the United States, and even a few to Europe. Lumberjacks, firefighters, and anyone with a fireplace benefit from wielding these tools. Find forestry axes, wilderness axes, bellowing axes, and splitting axes at The Woodsman.

Cornwall Coffee Co. now has three Main St storefronts. The third space, opening sometime in 2022, will be more of a family store, with upscale women’s products, homewares, and Americana staple clothing.

Dotter sees a different Cornwall these days: the seven other storefronts that were vacant pre-pandemic are now occupied by other new businesses. Locals and tourists alike flood the street, and he’s ecstatic about the town’s revival. 

Cornwall-Coffee-Co-Community

“Whether they’re visiting Storm King or going on a hike or they have family in the area, we want to engage them in a memorable way and show them things they haven’t had before. Let’s remind them of Switzerland, of Italy, and anywhere else they’ve had the best espresso of their lives,” Dotter says.

Related: Head to These Hudson Valley Coffee Shops for Your Java Fix

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