In Greenwich Village is one of New York City’s coffee mainstays, the Porto Rico Importing Company. First opened in 1907, Porto Rico was founded by Italian immigrant Patsy Albanese. At the beginning of the century, the Greenwich Village neighborhood was home to a growing community of Italian immigrants, and Albanese was one of many who opened businesses along Bleecker Street to satisfy the culinary needs of the community.
Just across the street at 201 Bleecker Street, another Italian family, the Longo family, opened the Longo Sanitary Bakery on the ground floor of the building. In 1958, Albanese sold Porto Rico Importing Company to the Longos, and eventually the coffee store moved into the 201 Bleecker Street space. Current, third-generation owner Peter Longo still lives upstairs from Porto Rico, in the building he grew up in, his father Angelo was born in and his grandfather Frank had purchased in 1905.
The Porto Rico name remains a bit of a mystery however. Peter Longo told the New York Times that he suspects that when the first store opened, Puerto Rico coffee was extremely popular (even the Pope was drinking it), and Porto Rico is the Italian spelling of the U.S. territory.
Porto Rico now has four locations in New York City, but each retains that turn of the century feel, down to the old world signage out front and the open sacks of unground coffee beans on display. The Bleecker Street location, which is one of the stops on our Greenwich Village Coffee Tasting and Tour, is in many ways the soul of the company, so close to its original location and with many of the architectural elements from the early 1900s still visible including tin ceilings and old school ceiling fans. A handmade wall of shelving holds glass jars of loose-leaf tea from all around the world.
Porto Rico offers over 130 varieties of coffee from countries like Burundi, Kenya, Indonesia, Guatemala, and Brazil. On the menu is a 100th Anniversary Blend featuring six different coffees, rare Panama Finca Santa Teresa Geisha Natural Coffee grown at a high altitude, and a selection of organic coffees. Porto Rico also sells wholesale to over 350 restaurants. And if you like, each of Porto Rico’s locations has a coffee bar for instant gratification.
“The greatest thing about coffee is how it brings out the idiosyncratic nature of the people who drink it,” Porto Rico writes on its website. “It becomes part of our comforting daily ritual. It gives us all an opportunity to be individuals in a world gone mad with constraints.”
Additionally, Porto Rico also offers a selection of teas from oolong to chai to scented. New to the store is their Tanzanian Usambara and Assam Koilamari teas. Popular teas include their selection of white teas, house blends like Ceylon mint, Darjeelings, and rooibos, a red herbal tea native to South Africa. Additionally, they also carry a selection of spices like cinnamon, peppercorns, hibiscus, and lavender.
And in addition to a variety of chocolate-covered products like orange peels and espresso beans, Porto Rico also offers a selection of Torani Italian syrups used for Italian sodas. There are also a variety of coffee machines from brands like La Pavoni and Chemex as well as a number of coffee filters.
You can also find Porto Rico at St. Marks Place in the East Village, Essex Market on the Lower East Side, and Grand Street in Williamsburg. Visit the Bleecker Street store and get a tasting of the famous Porto Rico coffee on our next Greenwich Village Coffee Tasting and Tour (we’ve even got one tomorrow!).