Recently, I returned to the states from 5 months of studying abroad in Paris. One of the (many) wonderful aspects of living in Paris as a college student are the multitude of cafes that offer free wifi and a retreat from the bustling city streets.
My friends and I would rotate our preferred cafes before and after classes, feeding our caffeine craving and indulging in the pleasures of a handcrafted cup of coffee. Our ritual café crèmes were what we drew inspiration from while writing our midterm papers; they nursed us back to health after a long night out, and a really good café crème would spark long, somewhat philosophical debates. It’s remarkable what an extremely good cup of coffee can do.
Back now in Philly, I’m lucky to live in another city equally enamored of coffee culture. Philadelphians, like Parisians, are fortunate enough to have many high quality coffee shops to choose from and that list continues to grow every day. Below, I’ve compiled my six pack of the best spots in Philly to grab an exceptional cup of joe in an atmosphere that will deliver a jolt to your creative senses.
Philadelphia’s Most Intellectually Stimulating Coffeeshops
One Shot Coffee & Cafe
One Shot has been consistently serving up some of the best and most creative craft coffees in Philadelphia since their establishment in Northern Liberties in 2005. The cafe serves Stumptown Coffee, shipped from the Red Hook, Brooklyn roastery every week. The espressos and traditional drip coffees are good on their own, but the ever changing specialty drinks are what makes One Shot really special. The specialty list revolves around a weekly theme, consisting of the most inventive mixes of spices, flavors and coffees which, no matter how imaginative the combination it never disappoints. The upstairs library houses bookshelves, large couches and plenty of work space. One Shot offers free wifi and fresh house baked pastries that are worth the extra calories.
217 W. George Street
Cake and the Beanstalk
This small cafe opened up in 2011 between the Sartain Community Garden and happily ever after. The pastries are baked in house, behind the counter by owner Daniel Klein who has worked in some of the most impressive pastry kitchens in Philly, including Le Bec Fin, Circa and Morimoto. The cafe au lait tastes just like the ones in Paris and the caramel latte cannot be missed. This cafe is perfect for meeting with friends or hunkering down with the portobello and mozzarella panini to complete some unfinished work. Slip into this hidden gem for an afternoon and you won’t regret it.
1112 Locust St
It’s hard to not feel inspired working at a coffee shop, nestled into a nonprofit movie theater and film institute. Situated on the Mainline, Hot House serves Counter Culture coffee, known for their smooth espresso and sustainable practices. The simple iced soy chai latte is the perfect companion for a long study day, not over iced to the point of dilution. Another favorite of the locals is the seasonal maple latte, available in the fall and anticipated by many mainliners. The atmosphere is cozy and comfortable, furnished with couches for lounging and tables for working. The free wifi is great for students or anyone looking for an escape from the office, even if only for a couple hours.
824 W. Lancaster Ave
La Colombe at Rittenhouse
If you’re looking for a first-rate, no frills, just-business cup of coffee La Colombe has it. La Colombe doesn’t tempt it’s customers with fancy lattes or macchiatos. It is a place for the true coffee enthusiast. Although a chain, the La Colombe at Rittenhouse is especially wonderful because of the atmosphere. Art or photography of a lucky visionary is always featured on the walls and the coffee is served in ornate ceramic mugs which adds to the simple, but cozy decor. The baristas are always very friendly and efficient so there’s no need for ordering anxiety. There isn’t wifi, but grab some friends or a book, settle down with an espresso and relax.
130 S. 19th St
With 16 different loose teas, Higher Grounds in Northern Liberties might be the spot to trade a traditional coffee for a green tea latte. If you’re just looking for a good cup of joe, the coffee is always hot and flavorful. Go for the Bolivian blend and some fresh biscotti. With lots of comfortable seating, free wifi, later closing hours and evening acoustic shows, it’s not uncommon to find the place cluttered with college students cramming for their exams or even just neighbors catching up.
631 N. 3rd St
Looking for an expertly pulled espresso? How about a distraction from the busy city streets of Philadelphia? If yes, head to Old City and scope out a seat at one of the refurbished tree stump tables at Menagerie Coffee. The coffee is strong and robust. The beans come from two main distributers, the first is Ceremony Coffee Roasters of Maryland and the second from Dogwood Coffee Co. from Minneapolis. This hip cafe also features guest roasters to keep customers on their toes. The space is narrow, but artfully furnished. Plug in your headphones and immerse yourself in a double espresso.
18 S. 3rd St