11/14/2012 12:04:00 PM

Coffee Spotlight: Ela, Quality Espresso in Philadelphia

There are several great cafes in Philadelphia these days, and you can get your caffeine dose via all the trendy methods - pour-over, Chemex, siphon, you name it. However, if instead of American-style coffee, you opt for espresso, your chances of ending up with a gritty, bitter, mis-brewed sip are unfortunately high. We bring good news for espresso fans: take your coffee tasting palate to Ela in Queen Village to be rewarded with a velvety demitasse of liquid that nearly sublimates on the tongue, disappearing too quickly but leaving a sweet mocha aftertaste and the bonus of a seriously pleasant buzz. How did a modern cuisine restaurant end up with the best espressos in town?

Jason Cichonski does everything the hard way, from scratch, so he can control the quality and produce the best possible flavors, and the chef saw no reason to skimp on the coffee side of things. It took his suppliers in Italy no less than six months to find an espresso machine that matched his specifications, and when it was found, it cost nearly $12,000 (not including shipping). With three traditional hand cranks - which force staff to become well-versed in the art of pulling - the un-branded machine was worth the effort.

Beans are also sourced from Italy, a dark roast blend called Nero. “I love it because when it’s brewed at the perfect temperature it has a very full bodied aroma, creamy mouthfeel and notes of black sesame and orange rind!” Cichonski says, making no secret of his passion for coffee. In fact, “I drink an obscene amount of coffee on a regular basis,” he tells us, noting he usually makes a stop on his way in at Bean Exchange, just a few blocks up Bainbridge from his dining room. “There are so many good small coffee shops in the area but the brew there is perfect,” he explains, “Not too acidic or overly bitter, and never burnt. I start just about every day with an iced red eye from them.”

So next time you’re in the area of Third and Bainbridge, if you love a good espresso, stop in for a perfectly pulled cup, served with a house-baked miniature biscuit on the side. While you’re there, stay for a brunch, dinner or happy hour bite - after the coffee, you’ll have plenty of pep.


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