Over 10,000 miles away from the street that shares its name sits Darby Coffee Club, unassuming in the hustle and bustle of SoHo with small pink paper cups bursting with flavor and purpose.
Despite his British roots, Eddie van Heel had been on the hunt for a space to open his own Aussie style takeout coffee shop for years. When he stumbled across the space at 182 Mulberry Street just big enough for an espresso machine and barista counter with adequate wall space for neon signs and t-shirt displays, he knew he had found his place.
Fully submerged in the Aussie coffee scene in NYC, van Heel wanted to bring his own take on the down under coffee style to Lower Manhattan. So, what’s so special about Aussie style coffee? If you ask van Heel himself, he’ll say,
“It’s all about the coffee. There’s no large sizes, no real syrups or flavors, no whipped cream. It’s a lot simpler, less frills.”
At the heart of Darby Coffee Club’s menu and marketing is the flat white, shown most effectively in the “wtf is a flat white” sign sitting outside the entrance, enticing passersby to enter and find out for themselves.
The drink itself is quite simple- espresso with a thin layer of steamed milk sitting on top. After working in the coffee industry for about five years, van Heel had encountered his fair share of curious customers inquiring about the peculiar drink, causing him to center his marketing around the “quite cheeky” phrase. Thus, his mission became educating coffee drinkers about the Australian delicacy.
The name Darby comes from the street in NSW, Australia famous for its density of coffee shops, but that’s not where the relevance of the name stops. The key word in the new shop’s title is “club.” While the cafe only offers takeout drinks, van Heel wants customers to feel like they belong to a special and inviting community, or club.
“I want people to feel like they’re part of something,” says van Heel. Part of this initiative involves a “clubhouse wall” where patrons who join Darby Coffee Club’s loyalty program have their polaroid photo displayed on the wall among other regulars. Thus, while the tiny shop may not be a gathering place for SoHo natives, it can still create a close-knit community centered around good coffee.
In addition to the carefully curated menu of simple but flavorful coffee drinks, Darby Coffee Club is also on a mission to become known for their loaded banana bread. Unlike any made during quarantine, this will be loaded with the likes of chocolate and peanut butter, making the perfect accompaniment to any drink.
Darby Coffee Club aims to stand apart from other Manhattan coffee joints in its simplicity and friendliness. In the words of its founder, “Darby is a place where you can get coffee quickly, with good quick service with amazing quality products, served with a smile (behind a mask of course). We wanted to make Darby a really friendly place where you feel warm and welcome.”
Due to its proximity to NYU’s downtown dorms, Darby Coffee Club is looking to fuel students as they prepare for the upcoming semester, offering 25% off all drinks and banana bread just for showing your student ID, proving to be a great pitstop for morning joe or the perfect spot for a pick-me-up during an afternoon slump.
While NYC is no stranger to excellent coffee, Darby’s offering of quick, inexpensive coffee without sacrificing taste or service becomes rare in the bustling downtown area. Visit and taste the delicious drinks of down under and you’ll never have to ask what a flat white is again.