Thursday, July 12, 2007

CC: Academia Del Cafe

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Academia Del Cafe
- a subsidiary of Hausbrandt -

Location visited:
Philadelphia, PA
(1039 Chestnut
Free WiFi ? : no
Rating: 3+ [see key]

One area of contention I have with the coffee world is the over-infatuation with coffee things of Italy. Not wanting to be misconstrued here as I am of partial Italian background, allow me to clarify. Espresso and all that one could consider part of the specialty coffee industry stemmed from little espresso cafes in Italy. I cherish the ground plowed ahead in the earlier portion of the twentieth century by Italians (and some other Europeans, as noted here).

But what amazes me is that people still think that coffee roasted in Italy holds superiority to that which is roasted here in the States (or anywhere else for that matter)! This claim simply does not float, as the rise of the specialty coffee industry in America has left us with many amazing coffee roasters that can roast coffee just as well as the finest Italian roaster, with the key being to find a good one nearby. One can also easily deduce that coffee roasted in Italy will never arrive here fresh (unless expensively rushed here), though there are some who believe that vacuum sealing will keep the coffee just as fresh as the day it was roasted (call me skeptical...)

So given my leeriness of coffee-related things labeled fantastic simply because of an Italian affiliation, I really took painstaking steps to be objective when Hausbrandt, a local Philly chain bent on all things Italian, decided to open up a number of small "authentic" Italian cafes, each called Academia Del Cafe. The claim is that each cafe will give the consumer a true cafe experience, complete with imported Italian furniture.

One day, I was picking a friend up at the bus station and so made a side trip to one of the locations nearby on Chestnut. From the outside, it had a bland corporate look and inside was crowded small shop with all the amenities of a cafe (including paninis) but the feel of a hot dog cart (small is small, unless you manage to pull off "cute").

Given their claim to excellence being espresso, I would have to say the barista upheld the claims that they know how to pull a shot. But what I would contend was the quality of the beans (all roasted in Italy by Hausbrandt), for my shots tasted a tad charred.

The coffee on the other hand was ugly, with a hyper-fierce bite on the front and a bleh finish. They also offered two teas, which are Two Leaves and a Bud as well as Kronen Tea.

In the end, Academia Del Cafe came across predictably; a small cafe with know-how on how to pull decent espresso but not the tools (in this case, the coffee I predict). I would venture that while the company has the right idea on small cafes, I don't know if the average American is ready (or ever will be) for the stand-up espresso bar instead of the spacious sit-down, free WIFI coffeehouse. The years will tell...


Peter said...

I have been searching for decent espresso and espresso drinks in Philly for some time. Based on other reviews, this sounded like it had good potential.

I ordered a cappuccino in case the espresso was only mediocre. Milk covers many sins.

I was disappointed. First, there was way too much milk in the drink, drowning the espresso. The milk was overfrothed. And what I could taste of the espresso was not good - char plus some off flavors of sourness and, I think, cardboard. The latter is a flavor I associate with stale coffee.

One tasting doesn't mean much. The machine might not have been fully warmed up ( hence the sourness). The barristo could have pulled a bad shot. The particularly bag of coffee he was using could have been open too long leading to the cardboard taste, etc.

I don't know. But I will probably not go back again.

Giovanni Caffarella said...

My good friend, humbly I can not agree with the statement said about the roasting. I have lived here in America for some quite time. My fiance is Puerto rican and recieved her second culinary degree in Italia. With due respect to peoples tastes, there can be no doubt in my mind that Italian food and coffee has one of the greatest tastes in the world. Yes, I honor the passion and love for coffee for all the world, but also I stand my ground for my beloved country without being overly nationalistic. I do apologize for this bold and rude statement, but I hope all is taken well with a passionate heart.

Grazie mille..


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