Saturday Series: The Rialta Coffee Tour, Part 8

The Ultimate Coffee Road Trip Across the United States.

This week:  Maryland to Pennsylvania

Editor’s note:  We began publishing reports from Don Niemyer about the cafes he visited on his cross-country coffee tour back in the summer of 2013, and we’ve loved following his journey, learning about amazing coffeehouses out there in the United States, ever since. We’ll be publishing reports from Don about his recent journey around the Central and Northern states every Saturday this fall. To catch up on Don’s earlier posts about his explorations of coffee culture throughout the Western United States, click  HERE. Following are links to Don’s posts from this current Saturday Series:

Part 1: Oregon to Amarillo, Texas
Part 2: Oklahoma to South Dakota
Part 3: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Part 4: Wisconsin to Michigan
Part 5: Chicago, Illinois
Part 6: Indiana to Washington, D.C.
Part 7: Virginia to Florida
Special Edition: The Big Central Coffee Competitions in Minneapolis, Minnesota

We hope you continue to enjoy Don’s reports as much as we do!

By Don Niemyer
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

Did you ever learn something you already knew? Boy, I have. Over and over again in this life, I am exposed to information that I actually was already aware of, but seeing it again brings another level of clarity to my understanding. That happened for me in a historical sense as we made our way up from D.C. to Philly. We took the obligatory trip down to see the Liberty Bell, and then made our way over to Independence Hall, where we œlearned  how Philadelphia was actually the first national capital, serving in that capacity until Washington, D.C. was established. Now, like I say, I actually had already learned this, but something about being there made it really come alive, and it seemed more like I was learning about it for the first time instead of hearing something I had previously learned. It was really fantastic.

Continuing on up the coast after our brief detour last week back to Minnesota for the Big Central competition. This week we'll edge on up the east coast into Pennsylvania.
Continuing on up the coast after our brief detour last week back to Minnesota for the Big Central competition. This week we’ll edge on up the east coast into Pennsylvania.

Truth is, the only way to learn something really well is to be repeatedly exposed to the information or experience until it works its way into the depths of your being. No one is an expert at something because they did it once. You become an expert by doing or studying a thing for years. Which makes me think about our experience this week on the Rialta Coffee Tour. Often we are visiting new cafés and reporting their existence to the world, which is a cool thing that we’re honored to do. But sometimes ”like this week ”we get a string of shops that are seasoned veterans. Folks who have been doing this for years and bring a really thorough understanding of coffee to the table for our collective enjoyment and benefit. Wanna see these excellent cafés? Be our guest!

In Annapolis, Maryland, we were excited to check out Ceremony Coffee Roasters, winner of the 2013 competition for America's Best Espresso.
In Annapolis, Maryland, we were excited to check out Ceremony Coffee Roasters, winner of the 2013 competition for America’s Best Espresso.
Ceremony has a somewhat minimalist approach in the café, but are maximalists when it comes to quality and excellence.
Ceremony has a somewhat minimalist approach in the café, but are maximalists when it comes to quality and excellence.
When we hit Philly, we headed straight to Ultimo.  Owner Aaron Ultimo is one of the head judges for the USBC, so we've worked with him a few times in competitions, and were excited to check out his shop. This beautiful space is his newest location and it was totally excellent.
When we hit Philly, we headed straight to Ultimo. Owner Aaron Ultimo is one of the head judges for the USBC, so we’ve worked with him a few times in competitions, and were excited to check out his shop. This beautiful space is his newest location and it was totally excellent.
Take this sign for example, with the Ultimo logo boldly carved out of a plate of steel. And you can't see it really, but above this sign there is an upstairs space that serves as the training lab for Counter Culture in the region.
Take this sign for example, with the Ultimo logo boldly carved out of a plate of steel. And you can’t see it really, but above this sign there is an upstairs space that serves as the training lab for Counter Culture in the region.
Ox is the exception to our trend of visiting long established coffeehouses this week, having only opened this new space somewhat recently. The exception to our exception, however, is that these guys are no rookies. That fellow there in the shot is co-owner Will Gross, former roaster for Stumptown Coffee.
Ox is the exception to our trend of visiting long established coffeehouses this week, having only opened this new space somewhat recently. The exception to our exception, however, is that these guys are no rookies. That fellow there in the shot is co-owner Will Gross, former roaster for Stumptown Coffee.
I do love me some minimalism, which means I love this condiment bar at Ox.
I do love me some minimalism, which means I love this condiment bar at Ox.
Next up is Square One and owners Josh and Jess Steffy. Josh and Jess bought Square One's original location in Lancaster, and have made it their own, and in doing so, have built a very loyal and large following. But our first visit to was to Square One's new store in Philadelphia.
Next up is Square One and owners Josh and Jess Steffy. Josh and Jess bought Square One’s original location in Lancaster, and have made it their own, and in doing so, have built a very loyal and large following. But our first visit to was to Square One’s new store in Philadelphia.
Square One's new Philly shop is bright and beautiful, with this canary yellow La Marzocco GB5 greeting you when you enter. And they did something here I haven't seen, which is how they cut the counter down around the machine so you can experience its full glory.
Square One’s new Philly shop is bright and beautiful, with this canary yellow La Marzocco GB5 greeting you when you enter. And they did something here I haven’t seen, which is how they cut the counter down around the machine so you can experience its full glory.
Later we headed out to Lancaster, parked the RV on the side of the road, and waited to head in to Square One's original shop the next day.
Later we headed out to Lancaster, parked the RV on the side of the road, and waited to head in to Square One’s original shop the next day.
When we finally did arrive at the Lancaster Square One, we found this scene:  Customers were quite literally lined up out the door! The other reason to include this shot?  Check out those gorgeous tables and chairs, presumably carved by magic elves from ancient timbers preserved by the munchkins of the forests.
When we finally did arrive at the Lancaster Square One, we found this scene: Customers were quite literally lined up out the door! The other reason to include this shot? Check out those gorgeous tables and chairs, presumably carved by magic elves from ancient timbers preserved by the munchkins of the forests.
No, this isn't open mic night at Square One, but stick with me a second. We like to ask the baristas everywhere we go what is special or interesting about their shop. At Square One, the girls on shift immediately began gushing about how great Josh and Jess are to work for. What a great affirmation! And I guess the positivity extends from the Steffys to the staff and right on to the customers, because we met this fellow in the shop who generously invited our family to his home for breakfast the next day and a little toe-tappin' guitar time in the parlor.
No, this isn’t open mic night at Square One, but stick with me a second. We like to ask the baristas everywhere we go what is special or interesting about their shop. At Square One, the girls on shift immediately began gushing about how great Josh and Jess are to work for. What a great affirmation! And I guess the positivity extends from the Steffys to the staff and right on to the customers, because we met this fellow in the shop who generously invited our family to his home for breakfast the next day and a little toe-tappin’ guitar time in the parlor.

Thanks for taking a look at some of the seasoned pros on the east coast with us this week! Next week we’ll edge right on up until we hit Portland, Maine, completing the Portland to Portland aspect of our journey. We’ll have that report for you right here next Saturday, so be sure to check back! Until then, follow us at our social media sites, or at DonNiemyer.com. See you soon!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

donandcarissa

Don Niemyer  used to own three coffee shops in Portland, Ore., where he and his wife Carissa spent 8 years immersed in the excellent coffee culture there, milking it like a dairy cow for every drop of expertise it would give them, making lots of friends, doing some USBC judging, and learning all they could. One day, they decided to move their kids closer to family, so they bought a tiny RV, moved into it, and have been œmoving to Colorado  ever since, visiting coffee shops, practicing minimalism, and having lots of fun. That was over two years ago. One of these days, they might even end up living in Colorado.

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