Philly cups of coffee are ... 'out of this world'

When it comes to food and drink, Philadelphia is the place to be. With iconic bites like cheesesteaks, soft pretzels and Italian water ice, and famous chefs like Jose Garces and Stephen Starr setting up shop in the city, it is not surprising that Philadelphia is becoming big on the food scene.


Not to mention the coffee. We love coffee. It is our addiction. We drink multiple cups in one day and spend way too much money on it. And too many of us know that if coffee were offered in IV form, we would gladly choose it.


Recently, Philly has seen the growth in small cafés. AL DÍA decided to find some of best local coffee shops and find out what makes them unique.


La Colombe (130 S 19th St.)


Since opening in 1994 in Philadelphia, founders Todd Carmichael and Jean Philippe Iberti have created a successful coffee company. La Colombe serves classic blends of speciality coffees, each bean type directly from a specific farm. Their coffee beans range from countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Ethiopia and Mexico.


La Colombe sticks with traditional European beverages like espresso, macchiato and cappuccino.


"We try to make it fast, smooth, delicious, and consistent with good service," David Ramsey, a barista, explained.


One special drink that La Colombe offers during the summer is sweet Vietnamese coffee. "We have strong, sweet Vietnamese coffee. It's double espresso on ice mixed with sweet condensed milk," Ramsey said. "A lot of our customers come in to get it."


La Colombe recently competed in a regional barista competition and Carmichael won first place in the Brewers cup category, which determines who prepares the best cup of coffee.


Iberti and Carmichael not only sell their coffee in Philadelphia, but across the country. In addition to another location in Center City and soon-to-be café in Fishtown, they have cafés in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, and even Korea.


Cafe Fulya (727 S 2nd St.)




Named after original owner Fulya Ugur, Cafe Fulya has been open since 2008 in South Philadelphia. New owner Tristan English took charge of the café two years ago because he said, "it looked like fun." Cafe Fulya sells a special blend of La Colombe coffee, but specializes in strong, highly caffeinated Turkish coffee and tea.


"Turkey discovered coffee beans in Ethiopia during the Ottoman empire," English explained. "They grounded the beans really fine, mixed it with hot water and drank it. When the Europeans found it, specifically Italy, they started straining it and that became espresso. And then the Americans watered it down and it became American coffee." And now, Cafe Fulya's Turkish blends are one of the most popular.


In addition to coffee, the café is a BYOB restaurant with a full menu of food items that it also caters. "We're also experimenting with a delivery service specifically working through GrubHub," English added.


On Wednesday evenings, customers can play board games in the café by either bringing their own, or selecting one from the café's collection. On Thursday evenings, customers can learn how to knit.


The Flying Saucer Café (2545 Brown St.)




Retired hospitality workers Werner Hoefer and his wife, Madeline, bought The Flying Saucer Café in Fairmount from the previous owner three years ago and have loved it ever since.


"I bought it because I wanted something to get me out of the house. I sit around, talk to the people here and it doesn't feel like work," Werner, a Fairmount resident, said.


This unique cafe was remodeled and given a 1950s-era makeover that includes alien-inspired artwork. Some light fixtures are shaped like UFOS, while others look like overhead lights in experimentation stations. Old sci-fi movie posters hang on the walls. The bathroom comes complete with stars and a rocketship so you'll feel like you're floating in the middle of space.


Werner exclaimed proudly that the front door of his cafe is from the movie 'Back to the Future'.


To accompany the decor, the café features coffee drinks with names like Galaxy, Dark Star, Lunar Eclipse and Flying Saucer.


To support local businesses, The Flying Saucer Café sells coffee from a nearby roaster, GreenStreet Coffee, and 26 loose teas from local suppliers. In addition to offering baked goods, the cafe sells homemade soups in the winter.


Ultimo (1900 S 15th St.)




This South Philadelphia coffee shop has boomed since its opening five years ago. This stylish coffee shop is owned by a couple, Aaron and Elizabeth Ultimo.


When Aaron started working in the coffee business 13 years ago, he didn't know much about coffee. "I fell in love with it," Aaron explained. "I really enjoy using my hands to create a quality product and the social aspect of meeting customers."


Ultimo shares a location with craft beer shop, Brew, owned by John Longacre of Philadelphia's Tap Room. The idea behind this collaboration was to have a communal space for the South Philadelphia community. The owners assert that a coffee-beer combo is the, "best of both worlds."


Ultimo's second location in Philadelphia's Graduate Hospital is shared with a coffee education center run by Counter Culture Coffee. Ultimo also serves Counter Culture Coffee, whose beans are imported directly from growers and roasted in the United States. Some of the coffee Ultimo serves comes from countries such as Colombia, Kenya and Ethiopia.


Each month, Ultimo features coffee from a guest roaster. All of their drip coffee is hand-poured using filtered water. Their espresso drinks are crafted on hand-made machines using Lancaster County milk from Maplehofe Dairy. Ultimo also sells treats from local businesses like Four Worlds Bakery, Betty's Speakeasy, Pure Sweets and some non-local businesses as well.


Ultimo's 15th street location offers free, public coffee tasting every Friday at 5 PM. These 'cuppings' allow people to taste and evaluate three different coffees with experts.


Most recently, The Daily Meal blog named Ultimo number 1 for best coffee in America. Aaron attributed the win to attention to detail and customer service.


The Ultimos said that they are looking into options for a third location in a different area of the city, considering West Philly, Old City and Fishtown.

Main Topic: 

La Colombe (130 S 19th St.)

Plain Text Author: 
Samantha Madera