Philly coffee shop comes to Chicago

January 4, 2012 12:19:35 PM PST
Your morning cup of joe is getting some competition.

While most locals know about Metropolis and Intelligentsia, there's a new entry in the local coffee market all the way from Philadelphia.

La Colombe has hit Chicago, hoping to grab a piece of that caffeinated pie. They've broken into the market with a great little cafe in the West Loop where you can satisfy a caffeine craving just about any time.

If you thought coffee was just a matter of pushing water through dark beans, think again. There is science, politics, skill and yes, even creativity involved. Consider the 18-year-old Philadelphia-based La Colombe, which opened a branch in the West Loop about seven months ago. They offer a lot more than just a cup of joe.

"We serve cappuccinos, lattes, espressos, mochas, hot chocolate, drip coffee, regular hot, or iced or decaf," said Greg Smith, a manager at La Colombe.

And even though Chicago has its own, homegrown roasters, La Colombe goes for a different type of experience.

"We tend to go for a smokier, very balanced espresso, as opposed to a really bright espresso," Smith said.

Most of their beans arrive roasted from their main facility in Philadelphia, but they still roast some in house. They begin with the green beans, picked straight from the plant. They're dumped into a hopper, then roasted at a steady temperature for about ten minutes. Color is checked constantly, making sure not to burn the beans. When they're done, they're dumped onto a large, circular rack with an agitator, quickly cooling them down.

As orders come in, the beans are ground, pressed into molds and packed down, eventually locked into their positions on the espresso machines. Smith says their best coffees are actually combinations from several countries.

"Most of our coffees are blends, all of our signature coffees anyway. Nizza is Brazilian, Columbian, Honduras and Ethiopian," said Smith.

If you don't feel like an espresso or steamed milk but still want that caffeine, Smith recommends their cold-brewed coffee.

"The one in-bottle is actually new this year, it's cold-press, pure black, steeped for 16 hours, stainless steel wine tanks, double-pressed; result is a super-smooth, little smoky, very refreshing iced coffee pretty much without a hint of acidity at all," said Smith.

The store also sells some milk and dark chocolates infused with coffee.

La Colombe
955 W. Randolph St.