Dear friends, I have a confession to make: I'm a coffee addict. Yes, I am. Don't worry, though. It's not that bad. My hands aren't shaking (yet) if I don't have my dose of caffein and I am not getting particularly angry without my cup of coffee in the morning. Anyway, one of the first things I was concerned about when I came to Philadelphia, apart from having my documents ready :), was finding a nice cafè with a good coffee.
I've been living in Italy during the past 9 years and I must admit I became pretty Italian as far as drinking coffee is concerned. In Italy, having coffee is a ritual. It starts in the morning with a cup of creamy cappuccino or espresso and it repeats in several other occasions during the day, like a prayer. Sometimes a bartender may draw something on top of your cappuccino to make your day start with a smile on your face. There are places where you can have coffee everywhere in Italy, called simply a bar. Everyone has their favorite bar near the place of work or home and they start a day in their familiar place having a little talk with bartenders or other customers who share the same cafè (and the morning ritual). Even if Italian coffee is usually a small shot of espresso and it might seem that the Italians don't give any importance to drinking coffee itself, the opposite is true. They are much more concentrated on the taste and quality of coffee, the way milk is foamed or the exact "length" of the coffee than anywhere else.
Who would ever say that cultural differences can also be found in such simple gestures? In Slovakia, on the other hand, people meet in the afternoon to have a cup of coffee together and they spend a couple of hours talking over their Turkish or Vienna coffee. So it's normal to say to your friends: let's see in the center for a coffee. In Italy, this kind of an appointment would be rather short :).
And what about the US? In the US people like drinking coffee while doing something else. They go to a cafè, ask for a large size coffee planning to do a refill later, they sit comfortably and start working, studying or reading a book. The second option is to grab a large coffee in a paper cup and take it away while you walk to work or to the subway. Although this habit requires a certain level of expertise otherwise you scald your tongue with a hot sip of coffee as a result of your childish impatience and the desire to enjoy immediately the things that belong to you.
Anyway, since I'm a very flexible person I'm getting used to the American style of drinking coffee, too. And I like it! I love discovering new places where I can enjoy my coffee while working on the laptop or reading a book. Many places have a wifi and a refill service. Here is the list of my favorite place in Philly:
1. One Shot Cafe - Northern Liberties - beautiful place and a very good coffee. Not only that, they make sandwiches, salads, have a great choice of pastries and, of course, wifi for customers. Distinctive feature: an appealing second floor with a living room style design.
2. Cafe Ole - Old City - in and out tables, free wifi, large coffee and tea selection. Fresh brewed ice teas are the must. Wonderful for lunch: delicious sandwiches and big combo plates and salads. Distinctive feature: particular attention to music selection - Spanish and Moroccan rhythm.
3. Cafe Twelve - Center City - another place where you can comfortably work or read and have a good coffee. Their sandwiches are also a reason for stopping in. Distinctive feature: hidden but worth trying.
4. La Colombe Torrefaction- Center City - with their two locations, one in Penn Square and another in Rittenhouse square it becomes a must when walking in the center. Try their cappuccino or buy a blend of various good-quality types of coffee. Distinctive feature: Raffaellesco pattern cups !!!
5. Elixr - Center City - another center city place for a good coffee or tea. You wanna grab something for lunch, too? No problem, Elixr sandwiches are just as worth tasting. Distinctive feature: looks like a students' library with a plenty of young guys studying at the large wooden tables.
6. Philadelphia Java Company - South St., Christian St. - cappuccino foam is one the best and closest to Italian cappuccino. Distinctive feature: Delicious croissants and outdoor seating make this place perfect for a breakfast in the sun.
7. Le Pain Quotidien - Center City - very good espresso, delicious sweet and salty croissants, French style cafè. Distinctive feature: a piece of France in the US.
8. Max Brenner - Center City - much more than a coffee. When you really want to treat yourself good and or make yourself a sweet gift. The place offers chocolate in all its possible forms, also with coffee or cappuccino. Distinctive feature: Willy Wonka's major competitor.
9. Good Karma Cafe - Schuylkill Banks - if I lived near this place, it would soon become my everyday cafè. Nice atmosphere and Italian style coffee. Distinctive feature: contemporary Zen style.
So, in the end, it looks like I have a great variety of places to chose from while many other new place are yet to be discovered. Try one of my favorite ones and share your impressions with us or give us new tips on places you love the most.
Enjoy your sip of coffee!