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Subject: Ray's Cafe and Teahouse
Location visited: Philadelphia, PA
Free WiFi ? : no
Rating: 3+ [see key]
Vacuum press coffee. Not just a recent fad but a coffee method that's been going on since the 19th century yet for some reason over the years, not a lot of coffee businesses have bothered to use them.
Oddly enough, a small cafe and eatery in Philly's Chinatown called Ray's Cafe and Teahouse has been doing it for years. Ever since I got into coffee research, I've heard various people rave about the amazing coffee obtained from Ray's vacuum presses. Naturally, when my parents wanted to grab lunch in Chinatown, I figured I could kill two birds with one well-aimed stone.
Unfortunately, Ray's was packed when we showed up to their small cafe and we ended up trying out a different spot down the street for lunch. But when we finished our very authentic Chinese meal, we then made a sweep past Ray's so my dear mother and I could get some coffee (mom made the sweep much easier).
The exterior of Ray's demonstrates an ordinary storefront (with lots of pink!) and the inside lays out in a cute cafe setting with dim lighting and a very compact counter. True to form, they have several vacuum presses lined up on their coffee counter and offer quite a selection of coffee, though much of it looked like it came roasted from afar (like their Japenese charcoal-roasted coffee). I had an African coffee (I believe it was Kenyan) and my mother had Ray's Blend. Both were painstakingly prepared in the vacuum press (they knew what they were doing) but to my dismay, the coffee was old. Sure both coffees had a smooth characteristic and little char, but the stale quality made it hard to label. They do also serve espresso, but as the espresso wasn't something that had been mentioned and the espresso machine looked a little inactive, I decided to pass.
Despite the good vacuum press techniques, the not-so-great coffee put a bit of a damper on my experience. If Ray's had fresh coffee from a local roaster, I think the place could really begin to shine even brighter then it already does.
Thus, if you're looking for a good display of vacuum pressing skills, stop on by Ray's.