For a long time, Philadelphia has been one of my favourite coffee cities: understated (and underrated), easily walkable and with some really excellent coffee shops. Top of that list is Ox Coffee, which I visited on my first trip to the city in 2014. Back then it hadn’t long since celebrated its first birthday and was just finding its feet. I returned two years later, when the “new” back room and garden were open and, when I finally made it back to Philadelphia last week after another absence of two years, I made a point of calling in to see what Max and Will, the owners, had been up to…
I was on a bit of a coffee trek that day, having already called into the new Rival Bros as well as Plenty Café on Passyunk Avenue, so, with a couple more stops to go, I ordered a decaf Gibraltar. It was only then that I realised that since my last visit, Ox Coffee had started roasting. Naturally, I then had to try all the coffee…
You can see what I made of it after the gallery.
Let’s start with that decaf Gibraltar (that’s a cortado to you and me, Gibraltar being a west coast term, named after the glass that the coffee is served in). Roasted by Stumptown (more of which later), it’s an excellent coffee, which goes really well with milk. And what milk! Max made it for me and he’s always that touch when it comes to steaming milk, and this was no exception. Beautifully steamed, the milk held the latte art all the way to the bottom of the cup, which is always a good sign.
By this point, we’d got talking and I’d found out about the latest development. Will (who was also there that day) had spent five years as a roaster at Stumptown before opening Ox with Max, so moving to roasting their own coffee was a natural progression. Will started about a year ago, roasting (off-site, sadly) on a San Franciscan roaster, although Ox only started serving the coffee in the shop in September.
Currently there are two seasonal blends, conveniently named Ox Coffee #1 (on espresso) and Ox Coffee #2 (on filter). At the moment, these actually have the same components, but with different roast profiles, although that was more by accident than design. Along with the two blends, Ox roasts two single-origins, currently an African and a Central American, to offer a little contrast. One of these is always available alongside Ox Coffee #2 on the batch brewer.
Naturally, Max made me try everything, starting with the Ox Coffee #1. This turned out to be a really smooth, rich, well-balanced espresso which I thoroughly enjoyed. I followed that up with the Ox Coffee #2, a very drinkable, smooth, well-balanced filter coffee, although it didn’t quite hit the heights of the espresso.
The Central American single-origin (a Guatemalan Los Gigantes) was on during my visit, so I had to sample that as well. This was a fruity coffee with plenty of body which, on balance, I preferred over #2. I also picked up a bag of Ox Coffee #1 which I’m going to be enjoying through my Travel Press during the rest of this trip.
I had a great time catching up with Max and Will. They are lovely guys and have created something really special in Ox Coffee. I was chatting with the guys at Rival Bros early that day and they mentioned Ox Coffee as one of Philadelphia’s old hands, which brought a smile to my face, since I still remember Ox Coffee from my first visit when it was just one year old! Since then, I feel as if I’ve been on a journey with Max and Will, and it’s been a pleasure watching Ox Coffee evolve over the years. I’m looking forward to seeing what they have planned when I next return to Philadelphia, hopefully in less than two year’s time…
|616 S. 3RD STREET • PHILADELPHIA • PA 19147 • USA|
|www.oxcoffee.com||+1 215 922 2531|
|Monday||07:00 – 17:00||Roaster||Stumptown (espresso + bulk-brew)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 17:00||Seating||Benches, Bar, Tables, Bench & Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 17:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 17:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 18:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:00 – 18:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||08:00 – 17:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 9th March 2014|
|Updates: 11th February 2016, 3rd March 2018|
Liked this? Then take a look at the Coffee Spot Guide to Philadelphia for more great coffee Spots.
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