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Gravitas: Decor: Cost: Proximity:
(Updated June 2017) We’ve always admired Trenton Coffee House & Roasters (THCR), starting when it consisted of a bicycle-pulled trailer. Now that it’s moved into a spacious and attractive location on Cass Street, it’s a fabulous addition to the Trenton scene, and a “must experience” stop. You may discover the best cup of coffee you’re ever had! And while you’re at it, you can buy a record for yourself or a friend, or just to leave it in the house collection.
TCHR’s proprietor is Abdul-Quadir Wiswall, who might best be described as a coffee artist/activist rather than a businessman. “I love roasting coffee,” he admits readily, “but I’m not so much into the business stuff. Everyone has a right to good coffee! I try to serve a superb cup at a price anyone can afford”.
In mid 2017, Abdul added a series of record bins and installed a 1970s-vintage Zenith stereo console. It’s partly to make money, but as Abdul put it, it’s mostly to put “music into the forefront of the conversation here”. The bins start at 50 cents, and the majority of records are a buck or two. But there are also a fair number of collectors items, such as classic Jamaican reggae and ska albums that fetch as much as $70. There’s also a bin where regulars purchase a favorite record and then leave it for “house collection”, where it can be played by anyone who wants to hear it.
About a year ago, Abdul opened up a shop with regular hours on Cass Street, on the second floor, a couple of blocks west of S. Broad St. Late in 2016, he opened up new larger quarters in the same building on the ground floor. It’s a pleasant, welcoming space, causing us to up TCHR’s gravitas to 5 hearts. Parking is on the street, but usually not an issue.
Every morning Abdul serves his extraordinary, small-batch-roasted coffee by the cup: brewed coffee is only $2.00/cup, and espresso drinks are available. The quality is out of this world: better than you’ll get almost anywhere on the planet and half the price that most cafes will charge you.
Currently the food is minimal: toast, a few packaged pastries, and cups of instant oatmeal you mix yourself. However, you’re around the corner from Chenche y Chole and Johnny’s Deli. You can pick up a cup of coffee to go and grab breakfast there, or vice versa. Chenche has Mexican-style egg dishes and chilaquiles for breakfast; Johnny’s makes a killer pork roll egg sandwich.
Abdul purchases the highest-quality beans in small batches (50-100 lbs). He delivers bagged coffee to a few restaurants around town (Champs Bar & Grill, for example, which is where we discovered his wares), and will drop off your order within Trenton City limits as he makes his rounds on a bicycle. When he is not serving coffee on Cass Street, he visits other locations (check his Facebook Page). His bicycle pulls a trailer that contains a complete setup for brewing coffee by the cup.
Hanging out with Abdul is like a master-class in coffee beans and roasting techniques. “I try to find the roast where each different bean ‘wants to be’!” Abdul is happy to converse on any aspect of coffee, and will educate you about the “dark arts” and provide detailed advice on brewing. Check out the narrow spout on the kettle in the header image: it’s purpose is to deliver the water to the coffee at precisely the correct temperature. You can be sure Abdul is measuring it!
Bottom line, of course, is the flavor. To date, I’ve only tried two of Abdul’s beans. Both were superb: complex, subtle, and rich-flavored. By the pound, this excellence doesn’t come cheap, since Abudul uses only the BEST beans that are fresh (harvested less than 15 months previously, and usually fresher). These beans are expensive, and the cost is reflected in what you’ll pay for coffee by the pound. Still, it will cost you no more than other super-premium coffees of lesser distinction. And here you have the satisfaction of supporting a neighbor!