PHL Coffee Tour

This weekend I did a coffee tour of Philadelphia with a friend and it was so fun. It wasn't an official tour, which I think was better because we were able to pick the cafés to include, it was cheaper, and we could go from one shop to another at an unhurried pace with plenty of time for chit chat. The only down side was that we had to rely on my piss poor sense of direction to walk from one cafe to another, resulting in many wrong turns and back tracking. BUT this allowed more time to talk and we found some seriously beautiful residential streets I didn't know existed. Pictures included below. 

Although we had chosen the date for the tour a month plus in advance, we didn't decide the details until the day we met for the tour, bringing only a list of five to seven cafés we had researched. Starting at Reading Terminal Market, we picked up breakfast and reviewed each of our top cafe choices. Several of the cafés we chose were the same, but we needed to take some of them off the must go to list partly because of distance and partly because we could only drink so much caffeine in one day. While at Reading Terminal, we also picked up our first cup of coffee at Old City Coffee. We bought a large and split it between two cups, which was the method we used at all of the cafés we visited. To start, we went with a standard drip coffee using the bean of the week, Bali blend. It was ehhh at best. Obviously brewed at too high of a temperature, it was bitter when hot and nearly undrinkable once cooled. 

Next was Ray's Cafe and Tea House at 9th and Race Streets in China Town. I got us lost a couple of times on the way, but it was worth the journey. The shop was like a coffee alchemist's lab, complete with a half dozen Bunsen burners, beakers, and glass siphons. We went with the 12 hour cold brewed iced coffee with (soy) milk. It was incredible. By far the best coffee on the tour and one of the better cups of coffee I've had ever. It's an experience just to watch Ray and his mother work to brew each cup of hot coffee individually. Just don't take too many photos. "I don't want to be on everybody's Instagram, so can you not?" said Ray after all the photos the large group at the table behind us were taking. That was the only thing bitter about Ray's Cafe. 

GreenStreet Coffee on 11th and Spruce followed. This time we went with a Chemex brewed cup using Ethiopian beans. The barista (is there a male version of the word?) was great and explained everything about the beans, the Chemex brewing process, and the other brewing processes the shop uses. It was educational and definitely worth another visit. The coffee was also great, with undertones of blueberry and chocolate. 

More post-coffee wandering ensued and we stopped at Tria for a quick lunch. I love this place. We opted for the warm mission figs stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese over a bed of prosciutto, the Tuscan white bean dip with paprika toast, the ricotta pistachio bruschetta with lavender honey, and the goat cheese bruschetta with pesto. Lunch was both light and filling, but at this point I was getting shaky and my mind was fogging from all the caffeine. I guess I'm a caffeine light weight. Who knew?!

After a short walk through Rittenhouse Square, we cut the tour short and finished at Elixir. With the way I was feeling, I just couldn't do anymore without getting sick. We opted for another Chemex brewed cup but this time using beans from Costa Rica, supposedly with stone fruit undertones. I loved the decor of the cafe, which featured a lot of reclaimed wood. The barista also took the time to walk us step by step through the brewing process, despite the cafe being busy. Unfortunately the drink was more hype than quality coffee. The coffee was far too bitter and not in a good way. I couldn't finish the cup. 

All in all it was a fun experience and I would absolutely do a coffee or other DIY tour of the city. With coffee though, I would lower the amount of coffee per shop to a small or medium split between two people and I would drink water at each stop. Have you done any food or beverage tours in your city? Did you find any gems?

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