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September 17, 2012

Our Guide To Coffee-Drinking In Philadelphia: Local Roasters, Sustainable Sips, Award-Winning Espresso And More

Philadelphia's coffee scene is steaming up more than ever, with spots like La Colombe and Old City Coffee on the fore of the national scene and local roasters bringing Philly-bred beans straight to coffee lovers' cups. (Photo credits: bottom left by M. Kennedy for GPTMC, all others by G. Widman for GPTMC)

Calling all caffeine addicts: coffee in Philadelphia is having a moment.

From national-headlines-making and celebrity-partnering La Colombe to unique coffee-roaster-cum-recording-studio Milkboy Coffee, coffee shops in Philadelphia really surpass the average. Even the New York Times has taken note.

As summer wanes and cold weather hovers over the (far, far away) horizon, check out our guide to coffee-drinking in Philadelphia.

Signature Premium Beans

Rival Bros Coffee: Jonathan Adams, executive chef of both Pub & Kitchen and The Diving Horse in Avalon, NJ, and Damien Pileggi, an artisanal coffee expert, teamed up this time last year to launch Rival Bros Coffee, a small-batch, custom coffee roaster that encompasses an e-store and mobile coffee shop, The Rival Bros Truck. The Rival Bros Truck, a “coffee shop on wheels,” features built-in pour-over stations, a La Marzocco two-group espresso machine with pre-infusion paddles, a Fetco extractor brewer and Italian-made Mazzer espresso coffee grinders. Catch them at 33rd and Arch Streets in West Philly Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 7 a.m.-3 p.m., and Wednesday 7 a.m.-1 p.m. See inside the truck in this Philly 101 video.

Old City Coffee: This Arabica coffee house can be found in the Reading Terminal Market in addition to its namesake location. With more than 25 years experience, these guys know the secrets of fine coffee farming, shade tree growing, roasting, grinding, etc. — they follow their beans from the seedling to your cup to ensure you receive only the best.

Federal Donuts: Thanks to the fact that two of its founders are BODHi Coffee owners Thomas Henneman and Bob Logue, Federal Donuts, the supremely popular donuts and fried chicken shop in Pennsport, also offers up finely crafted coffee. They’ve got custom-blend Federal Donuts beans, available by the cup and as wholesale. Happily, they’re just around the corner from opening a second location right in Center City at 16th and Sansom Streets.

Chestnut Hill Coffee Company: Passion, devotion and commitment: all words of love by true coffee craftsmen. This upscale espresso bar prides itself for meticulously home-roasting what they hope will be the best coffee you can find in Chestnut Hill.

Garces Trading Company: Celebrity chef Jose Garces’s Euro-style cafe hits the hammer on the head for authenticity. If it wasn’t the customized coffee blend, the extensive cheese menu, the charcuterie, or the mouth-watering meat and fish menu that gave it away, the full bar was the key indicator that these guys mean business. Check out its Philly 101 stardom.

La Colombe: Machiattos, cappuccinos, espressos — the best of the Italian caffeination. La Colombe does it traditional and doesn’t stray from its strict brewing principles and environmental standards. Bonus: there are now two locations in Philly, Rittenhouse Square plus Dilworth Plaza across from City Hall. La Colombe supplies top coffee roasts to the best restaurants and gourmet outlets in America. Co-founder Todd Carmichael, who’s brought La Colombe’s deliciousness around the planet and was named one of Esquire’s “Top 20 Americans of the Year” in 2011, will host a new TV show on Travel Channel, Dangerous Grounds, premiering Monday, November 5 at 10 p.m. Boom.

Rocket Cat Café: Fair trade roasting by Green Street Roasters, a fair trade certified roasting company, meets delicious vegan food options, a gorgeous Shepard Fairey mural and support from local artists — it’s no wonder they have such a regular following.

Burlap and Bean: This is a coffee house, not a coffee shop. They stress the difference: they have an anti-stress remedy for you that works on comfort, hominess and fine, Fair Trade coffee.

Nook Bakery & Coffee Bar: Coffee is available via French press or hand-pour, using freshly roasted local or regionally-roasted coffee. Nook’s house coffee and espresso blend is micro-roasted in 20 pound batches, utilizing meticulously sourced and freshly harvested coffee. Um… yum.

Sustainable Sips

BODHi Coffee: Featuring local organic foods and the direct trade coffee of Stumptown Roasters, Bodhi Coffee in Society Hill nails it with an extensive list of pour-over selections and artisan salads, sandwiches and decadent baked goods.

Good Karma Café: Lucky you, this total bo-ho coffee house has a serious dedication to Fair trade and certified organic. Owner David Arrell stresses social responsibility, green construction and corn-based plastics. Bonus: they offer fresh-squeezed juices and protein shakes. There are two locations, in Rittenhouse and Fitler Squares.

Grindcore House: Simply offering soy is so outdated, and this Pennsport vegan-friendly hangout has done more than point that out. They also serve rice milk, almond milk and coconut milk. That and a slew of vegan pastries and sandwiches. This place has a serious following, and it’s no wonder why.

Mugshots: Located in Brewerytown and its fresh new Fairmount home, Mugshots sticks to sustainability by using recyclable packaging and supporting local agriculture. In fact, their philosophy is pretty much flawless, and many will say the same for their vegan, vegetarian and organic snacks as well as the fair-trade coffee.

One Shot Coffee: This coffee shop was literally built on sustainability. No Libs’ One Shot Coffee leisure suite is made of reclaimed wood and tile and of course offers Stumptown’s direct trade brew as well as exquisite, often locally-grown organic food. Hint: the brand new fall menu they just launched is a winner. Check out the Philly 101 video!

Much more, below.

Mocha and Music

Gryphon Café: This is the quintessential coffee house experience in Wayne: open mic-nights, live bands, cozy couches and friendly baristas, not to mention the super caffeinated and delicious coffee.

Milkboy Philly: Center City has fallen in love with Milkboy in the last year after its Ardmore and Bryn Mawr outposts branched into downtown. Not sure what’s most impressive — the coffee, the vegetarian options, the full bar or the phenomenal live music acts. Philly 101 star alert!

Sip and Snack

Odd Fellows Cafe: Renowned and beloved Spruce Street Espresso relocated from 11th and Spruce up a block to 12th and Spruce, and became Odd Fellows Cafe. Counter Culture is the house roaster, and the new spot (open since February) has a spacious kitchen that makes for a full, delicious menu of perfect-for-coffee-pairing eats. Think pumpkin pecan biscott, Cuban sandwiches, fish tacos and more.

Chhaya Cafe: Working off the organic, fair trade, small-batch, hand-roasted legacy, East Passyunk’s Chhaya has the perfect ingredients for metropolitan cafe charm. And not only do they have brunch of weekends, but the mouth-watering daily menu offers a deliciously eclectic mix of sweet and savory breakfast and lunch, vegan-friendly or non.

High Point Café: Quiches, croissants, made-to-order crepes and coffee are just a few of their favorite things at this charming, French-inspired cafe off the beaten path of one of the most beautiful drives in Mt. Airy.

Town Hall Coffee Co.: This coffee house prides itself on its expert espresso-making. You can be the judge any time your commute takes you out to Merion Station. Pear and chocolate scones, croissant bread pudding and New York-style bagels are the ideal accompaniment.

Capriccio at Cafe Cret: Capriccio at Cafe Cret on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a great spot to grab a cup of coffee, panini or ice cream cone along one of this season’s hottest streets. Capriccio Cafe, launched more than 20 years ago, is proud to be one of Philadelphia’s longest running locally owned and operated cafe brands.

Express Espresso

HubBub Coffee: The shiny red caffeine truck known as HubBub Coffee purveys Stumptown espresso drinks drawn out of swank La Marzocco machines, as well as muffin tops, cinnamon rolls and cookies. Catch them at 38th and Spruce Streets, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Lovers and Madmen: We might not know exactly what it is or how it works, but we do know that A La Marzocco FB80 knowns something about how to whip up a short-pulled espresso. If you need a nice chill spot in University City, ignore the crazy name and enjoy caffeinated relaxation.

Shot Tower Coffee: The unique-to-Shot Tower La Marzocco machine churns out the best of Queen Village coffee while keeping the place happening with events like latte art competitions, artist talks, story-telling and more. Grab and go for a quick kick in the pants.

Ultimo: Craig Laban last year voted the espresso here to be the best the city has to offer, and this mom-and-pop shop gets a vote from us not only for coffee perfection but also for their partnership with BREW, a boutique bottle shop located just a short walk away.

Elixr Coffee: Elixr, which gets its magical beans from a secret location in Kansas and is the exclusive supplier for Sbraga restaurant, has recently relocated to a new bigger and better location between 15th and 16th Streets below Walnut. Whether foamy, dripped or iced, the coffee at Elixr is divine. We like the espresso best. Bonus: Elixr won “KRUPS Best Brew Awards 2012.” Huzzah!

Multicultural Brews

Ants Pants Café: Australian coffees in Graduate Hospital? And brunch? Ants Pants is easily missed; the dining room is about the size of the average bedroom. But it shouldn’t be; you will taste the love in everything from the espresso ice cubes in the iced coffees to the crème brulee-battered french toast.

Café Fulya: The go-to spot for Turkish coffee, manti and pastries serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Another fun fact: Cafe Fulya is a BYOB. No fooling.

Ray’s Café and Tea House: They skipped about a dozen amazing authentic Asian menu items with that title, but this Chinatown gem serves international by-the-cup Hario siphoned coffees and exotic teas from here to Taiwan.

[Note: this roundup is an updated fall 2012 version of our Guide to Coffee-Drinking originally published in September 2011.]

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Jen says:

The concept is weird (it’s owned by the realty company), but OCF Cafe brews Counter Culture coffee (high quality and very delicious) and they are cheaper than Odd Fellows. So, worth visiting once in a while if you like that roaster and want to save dollars. (1745 South St and 2001 Federal St)

Marcus says:

Only took Philadelphia 17 years to catch up to where Seattle, Portland and San Francisco was in 1995.

Lauren says:

I think the other Good Karma Cafe is in Wash West not Rittenhouse…

Jay says:

Great list. You forgot Volo Coffee house in Manayunk. The only coffee shop in Manayunk and the baristas are excellent. Serves la Colombe as well :)

Brit says:

Good Karma has two locations – Wash West and Rittenhouse. Also I was disappointed not to see Gavin’s Cafe (26th and Pine) on this list! Delicious La Colombe coffee, friendly service and made to order empanadas by Jezebel!

LMD says:

What about Cafe L’Aube?

Fred Glick says:

You forgot Pure Fare on 21st near Walnut that is the only Philadelphia place that sells Blue Bottle coffee from the Bay Area. Individually dripped cups taste so good and so fresh.

Ken says:

One Shot in Northern Liberties is a destInation shop in itself.

Becca says:

Odd fellows was bought by a new owner and renamed “YOLO”. Still, they make a coconut water americano that keeps me awake after a good hangover.

Ron says:

Can’t believe you missed Cafe L’Aube. They roast their own, developed their own single-origin pico-batch roasting, AND sell in some of the city’s best cafes and restaurants.

Laura G says:

Toast! You forgot about Toast at 12th and Spruce! Also, the new Green Street Cafe at 11th and Spruce is great and they roast their own coffee here in the city (although this is their retail location).