While on sabbatical, I made it a point to sample all the espresso at as many shops as I could. My many trips to Metropolis Coffee earned me the moniker Coffee Spy by the staff there. Here are my findings
In the many shops I tried in Chicago, I only found three different espresso blends: Metropolis “Red Line,” Intelligencia “Black Cat” and a blend by Coffee and Tea Exchange, a Chicago company.
|A pour-over at Metropolis|
Metropolis Coffee was perhaps the most impressive shop I visited. Metropolis’ roasting operation extends to many shops and retail locations. Yet Metropolis has but one location, fiercely committed to the Edgewater neighborhood, without the common aspirations to franchise. Their commitment to detail makes me as happy as a giddy Quixote gazing on his peerless Dulcinea. I so enjoyed my experiences here, I returned many times in spite of there being so many coffee shops and so little time. Whether it’s starting an iced coffee with a bit of velvety steamed milk, or putting five minutes of attention into a pour over drip coffee, it is the preparation excellence that makes this shop shine. Their Red Line espresso, named after the train line that takes Edgewater downtown, is intensely mid-toned, chocolaty and resinous with bright tart sparkles in the end. I think modern day vampires might also find this exquisite espresso a nice substitute, as it reminds me a little of the sanguineous flavor for which they so pine.
|New Wave Coffee|
While at the Milwaukee Ave arts festival, I went to this shop a couple times. They served Metropolis espresso in a festive and artsy atmosphere so appropriate to the neighborhood. The hipster vibe was pleasant and their treatment of Metropolis’ offerings was nicely done.
On afternoon a walk down Clark Street brought me to a couple more coffee shops, Koppi and Coffee Studio.
Walking in this shop transported me some mid-oriental market place. In the front windows were low tables with cushions to recline by. They focused on their world food offerings and their espresso from Coffee and Tea exchange was on the upper end of adequate. The atmosphere was so killer there, however, that I can see why it is an area favorite.
Back up Clark toward Edgewater I found Coffee Studio. They were serving Intelli’s Black Cat espresso. I had a friendly conversation with the barista about my espresso experiences so far in Chicago. We both agreed that the Black Cat was strangely mellow that day. Black Cat has a deep low end and usually has a tobacco smokiness.
Today that earthy quality was muted. We could only speculate that it was because of the extraordinary humidity that Chicago was subjected to during that heat wave. The atmosphere was more refined here than most of the other shops I visited. Clean lines and modern finishes gave it an upwardly mobile feel.
|My doppio and cortado at Caffe Streets|
On our way home from Minnesota, I was able to hit one of the many shops I missed during our stay. I chose to go to Caffe Streets, which is the progeny of Barista Champion Mike Philips. This is the most refined coffee shop I have ever visited. Rich woods are layered on every surface from the counters to the ceiling. They serve Black Cat along with one or two single origin coffees as espresso every day. I sampled the El Salvadoran Santa Anna from Handsome Roasters as a single origin espresso. While lacking the roundness of a blend, it held up quite well to the extraction. It produced a tart flavor in the mid to treble range. I also tried the Black Cat in a cortado. The Cortado is a Chicago standard that I haven’t run across elsewhere. It is about half espresso and half steamed milk (espresso cut with milk or a very short and strong latte). Caffe Streets uses a local low-temperature-pasteurized milk steamed into a velvety micro-foam that melds exquisitely with Black Cat’s harsh sweetness. It is served in a short breakfast tumbler with beautifully wrought latte art.
A specialty I didn’t have
time to try, the Neat, is a cold slow drip iced coffee produced in a tower of
beakers and tubes the sight of which geeked my poor heart out.
|Caffe Streets bar with drip tower|
Next time I’m in Chicago I need to remember to try Wormwhole (the home of Mocha Puffs), Chava, and Ipsento. Have any others I need to try? Leave a comment.