Dangerous Grounds: Visit La Colombe Café
By Valerie Conners
Editor’s Note: Todd Carmichael, the host of our new series Dangerous Grounds premiering tonight at 10|9c, is the cofounder of La Colombe Coffee Roasters. La Colombe is known for its premium coffee, sourced directly from the farmers by Todd, who goes to often-dangerous extremes to make sure his cafes are able to serve some of the world’s most sought-after and flavorful coffee. Dangerous Grounds documents Todd’s coffee-sourcing expeditions, and after tonight, the show will air Tuesdays at 9|8c. Travel Channel contributor Valerie Conners shares her experiences enjoying a cup of coffee at La Colombe, and proves that Todd’s passion for the flavorful bean is felt by anyone who drinks his prized coffee.
Tucked behind a simple storefront in Philadelphia’s tony Rittenhouse Square neighborhood lies La Colombe cafe, which proffers what many devout coffee drinkers would argue is the city’s — if not the country’s — tastiest coffee. To call La Colombe a mere coffee shop would be like calling Tiffany’s a mere jewelry store; La Colombe has brought coffee roasting to a veritable art form, and anyone in the neighborhood looking for a stellar cuppa knows to head straight to the cafe.
The shop’s setting is straightforward. Table and chairs (and little else) beckon passersby into the store; the food offerings are simple and few, a handful of pastries you might dunk into your steaming drink. And yet, many mornings or afternoons you will find a line of customers snaking out the cafe door. Of course, people aren’t here to get cozy in an armchair or stuff their bellies full of snacks — they’re here for the coffee: The classic Corsica dark roast, the creamy and fragrant Nizza blend and the super-dense Phocea are among the shop’s most popular.
There’s something pitch perfect and bold about the scent of La Colombe’s coffee that can lead a novice coffee drinker like myself to sniff it from across a dinner table and know exactly what it is. Many of Philadelphia’s more epic restaurants, including those owned by star chef Marc Vetri, have La Colombe coffee on their menus. At many dinners, in many restaurants, I could smell that the delightful post-meal accompaniment was freshly brewed La Colombe.
And so, imagine my bliss, when upon moving to New York City last year, I discovered not one, but THREE La Colombe outposts have opened in Manhattan. The trend is ongoing. In fact, La Colombe cafes can even be found in Chicago and Seoul.
While my appetite for heavenly coffee can be sated away from Philadelphia, that flagship store, from where a trickle of customers could be seen meandering with their signature La Colombe cups into Rittenhouse Square Park, will always, always be held close to my coffee-drinking heart.
Check out Travel Channel’s Q&A with Todd Carmichael.
Swing by La Colombe Café during a day with Todd Carmichael.