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All words: Joey Schaefer
All photos: Stephanie Breijo

I’m not one to purposely stick out my pinky. I come from the school of thought where if it tastes good, it is good. McDonald’s Big Macs are delicious to me. I’m not in college anymore but I still throw back a Jäger bomb from time to time, and I’m not going to act like they’re not good because I know people want me to say that my favorite drink is a 25 year single malt Scotch whiskey. I’m open to trying new things, ridding of stigmas and letting my senses do their thing.

Coffee is a drink that doesn’t necessarily receive the same hypercritical reputation as alcohol. We’re like college kids more concerned with alcohol content than flavor. We’re sometimes more concerned with whether it contains tons of caffeine and less interested with the taste itself. While I can be satisfied with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, I can still take time to enjoy high-end coffee.

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Coffee brings a whole experience, bigger than just enjoying a coffee in a bath robe at home while reading the day’s edition of Brightest Young Things. We don’t always bring our coffee back to work or home. We bring our laptops to coffee shops for Wi-Fi so we can drink our coffee, enjoy the sounds of coffee beans grinding and the coffee shop aura. We develop relationships with our baristas so they know our orders. They make artistic designs in our lattes, which makes us happy.

I visited La Colombe, just blocks from BYT HQ, for a coffee and food taste-testing. I’ve visited the Philadelphia location, which changed my perspective on coffee shops because of its breathtaking view of Philadelphia’s City Hall, but had only tried their Pure Black coffee. Maybe Google Maps can be mystifying at times, but finding La Colombe in Shaw was somewhat difficult, as it is located in an alley, called Blagden Alley.

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While the delightful staff brewed our drinks I walked around the shop, examining and reveling in the space. The exposed brick, modern lighting fixtures and liftable glass wall were among the notable aesthetics. I was delighted with the cold and sparkling water dispenser they provided, because it’s the little things in life. The sign at the water dispenser read, “Everyone on Earth should have access to clean water. Almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean drinking water. La Colombe is committed to the long-term project of drilling 1,000 water wells on the African continent to ensure access to clean water in more areas.” For that, La Colombe, BYT salutes you.

La Colombe is interested in more than just coffee; they pride themselves on their ethics. They’re like the TOMS of coffee. The strictly Earth-conscious company subscribes to several Earth-friendly certifications (i.e. Fair Trade Certified, USDA Organic, etc) and proactively maintains relationships with farmers, so that their Strictly Earth Conscious and Five Principles policies are followed.

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Their Five Principles suggest Fairness: “All trading partners are to be treated fairly. No strike price is ever to be below that established by the Fair Trade Organization. Additionally, farm workers’ wages must be verifiable fair, working conditions must be humane and basic health must be made available.” Longevity: “Long-term commitments are to be established with all coffee sources, thereby providing a more certain future for our trading partners.” Opportunity: “Priority is given to nations, regions and farmers with the greatest need and where our purchases can make the greatest impact.” Water: “Access to clean drinking water must be provided by the farmer to the families associated with our supplier farms.” (The fifth principle being Strictly Earth Conscious.) You can read all about their great additional work HERE.

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NOW, onto the fun part: the taste-testing, the whole reason why you and I are here.

  • Cappuccino- The barista commented on how foamy their cappuccinos are, saying that she’s worked in many coffee shops in the city and their Cappuccino is foamier than any other. The cappuccino was simple. The coffee wasn’t too bitter and the hot frothed milk created a light, frothy sea.
  • Gibraltar- aka what I refer to as the Drink from Heaven, consists of two espresso shots and sweetened condensed milk. The expresso shots sit atop the milk like oil and water, which creates an interesting visual display. It’s like the 5 Hour Energy of coffee, except it actually takes good. It’s a strong drink but not too bold, perfect for dessert. A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Applebum” came on in the shop as I threw back the Gibraltar. Q-Tip started rapping, “Do I love you, Do I lust for you?” I felt like the Gibraltar was talking to me.
  • Latte- When I was taking notes for each drink, I started describing the latte as “Really baller. Super smooth; the Miles Davis of coffees,” to give you an idea of how smooth this drink is. The presentation was grand and the flavors all coagulated so beautifully; not too bitter, not too sweet, once again. The latte was undeniably great and serves as the drink for coffee connoisseurs and coffee virgins. Coffee veterans could enjoy the flavor and rookies could learn to enjoy the drink without being overpowered with boldness or flavor.
  • Macarons- La Colombe serves raspberry, lemon, chocolate and hazelnut macarons, all of which are delicious. They pair as a nice treat with the cappuccino and latte and are quite the minimal treat, yet the soft texture is so full of flavor.
  • Croissant- The croissant, very simple and winsome, wasn’t drowned in butter. The outer shell was perfectly crispy and the inner-croissant was fluffy. Unfortunately I arrived too late in the day, missing out on the ham and cheese croissants.
  • Chocolate bar Chocolate and coffee. Game over. The sweet, creamy milk chocolate with ground up coffee beans has this beautiful crunchy texture. Plus, what’s better than getting an extra dose of caffeine in your food? Don’t buy a full bar and expect to eat just part of it…

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