“Two hands prepare your coffee, two hands prepare your meal, two hands work together to produce anything….” these thoughts were the beginning stages of Two Hands. As a new shop, the owners, Henry and Giles, wanted their own identity but also wanted to pay a nod to their native home Australia. “Two Hands” is the name of a popular Australian crime film which Heath Ledger starred in, someone they both admired as an actor and a restaurant owner prior to his passing.
Sam and I got wind of this lovely cafe on Instagram. The thousands of pictures lnstagrammer’s where snapping of their colorful acai bowl and the cheery ambiance enticed us to go in and experience it for ourselves. A few months ago we visited and shared our experience with our followers. You can read about it here. After such a delightful and delicious experience, we were curious to know the shop on a deeper level. We wanted to know the people behind this pleasant cafe, how did it rise to popularity as fast as it did and how it all started. Luckily for us, they were willing to meet and share some stories with us.
Meet César // Roaster
César is the founder and roaster of Cafe Integral, the coffee beans served at Two Hands. This small batch roaster imports his beans from his native home, Nicaragua, and always aims to produce the finest Nicaraguan coffee. It was interesting hearing him talk about the influence of coffee in his life. First drinking bad coffee from the necessity to stay awake in school, to growing into the coffee connoisseur he is now. It was evident it’s something he’s passionate and knowledgeable about.
Meet Aaron // Barista
You can spot Aaron behind the espresso machine pulling shots and embellishing your flat white with some flawless art. Aaron was a pleasure talking to, laid back and easy going; we’re sure his Californian roots had something to do with that. When we spoke to him he told us he had only been living in NYC for four weeks! So far he loves it and is adjusting to the lifestyle here very quickly. Like us, he heard about Two Hands on social media and knew immediately he wanted to be a part of this lively cafe.
Meet James // Barista & Cafe Manager
Friends with the owners turned Manager. James is the guy you’ll find everywhere around the shop, making drinks, preparing your food and “managing the madness”.
Meet Giles & Henry // Owners
After finishing his studies at a University in Australia, Henry (right) came to NYC with the intentions of simply exploring the city for a year. Owning and running a successful cafe was a distant thought at the time. Then Giles came to visit NYC. During a casual meet-up, they both decided to take on this exciting venture of opening a coffee shop. After two years of researching and growing ideas, they found their new home on 164 Mott St. The space was a mess, but that didn’t deter them at all. They immediately got to work and four months later, Two Hands opened its doors to the public. They started small, only serving coffee but were quickly pressured to start serving more options. That’s when the menu expanded and the coffee shop grew organically into the cafe it is now.
It was very humbling talking to them about their success so far. Never once did they gloat; they take it day by day and keep pouring their passion into every aspect of the shop.
“You can’t predict this stuff, you can’t have this attitude of what it’s going to be because it probably won’t be.” -Henry.
“We do it because we love it.” -Giles.
And it’s very obvious they do, everything in this cafe will meet your expectations. There’s a notable difference in the quality of a product when someone is passionate about it. It’s these qualities and humble attitude that will continue to keep them flourishing in the near future.
We asked, why NYC? Henry decided he wanted to stay in NYC longer than the one year he originally planned for. He felt a connection with the hospitality world here; the hustle and attention to quality service was something he appreciated. Customer service is of the utmost importance to them. They recently transformed into a sit down cafe with servers to control the crowd and better serve you, the customer. They had a ticket system in place, similar to Australian cafes, it was supposed to be informal and fun. People responded well to it. But once the word got out, they had to spring into action and make changes. The cafe opened up with only 12 seats…now they have 40 seats!
As a restaurant, you have to step up and present everything well “it’s more than just a meal now, it’s an experience.” It was never their intention to be an Instagram hit, it just worked out that way for them. Essentially, it’s the only PR they’ve had. Much thanks is owed to their loyal customer base; they extended their appreciation for all the captivating photographs everyone kindly shares on Instagram.
“When you think about Two Hands, it’s exactly what we are doing here. We built this place with our own two hands, make food with our own two hands, make coffee with two hands. Between Henry and I, it took two hands for a handshake to start the business. But it could be whatever you want it to be.” -Giles
On a side note: Two Hands NYC is partnering with Charity Water. It’s an organization raising money for those who don’t have access to the basic human need that is water. There’s a yellow container at the cafe were you can donate any dollar amount you’d like to help this organization fulfill their mission of providing clean, safe water to those in need. If you can’t make it to the cafe in person, you can donate here: https://donate.charitywater.org/donate. Two Hands NYC has almost 16,000 followers on Instagram, if everyone donates just one dollar, well…