Charleston has experienced stunning growth in the number of places serving good coffee and in particular good expresso drinks, like real caffè macchiato as opposed to that mysterious caramel-flavored drink. (Unscientifically, there seems to be a correlation between coffee indulgence and MacBooks.) I have had a harder time finding good ones in Washington, DC, but am working on it.
- Hope and Union, Upper St Philip Street between Cannon and Spring: my favorite, anywhere. In addition to the espresso drinks, its signature is a variety of coffees brewers to order with single cup filter cones. That and the staff of young people with a passion for their craft. And that it is 30 seconds from home.
- Kudu, 4 Vanderhorst St, near King St. It was always fairly good, and with great atmosphere, but the espresso is better under the new ownership.
- City Lights Coffee, 141 Market Street between King and Meeting.
- Caviar and Bananas, 51 George Street, between King and St. Phillip: a Dean and De Luca inspired deli and lunch place, but also with good espresso drinks.
In case you conclude I never stray more than one block from Charleston’s King Street, I mention:
- Caffè Driade, 1215-A East Franklin St, Chapel Hill NC. A wonderful setting both indoors and outside, with a back deck looking down to the Bolin Creek Trailway. The only place on this list that lives up to the promise of the name “espresso”, by having it ready within about a minute of you ordering. (I am still in awe though of a caffè in Diano Marina, Italy where three espressos were made and served, complete with spoons and small sweet treats on the saucer, in about 45 seconds.)
- Peregrine (Espresso), 14th St NW near R St., Washington DC: mostly drink-and-go, but with a little space for sitting. (This is where the above photo was taken.)
- Buzz Bakery Ballston, 818 N. Quincy Street Arlington, Virginia.
- and finally, strange but true: Pitango Gelato, several locations in DC: also great, dense Italian hot chocolate. And good gelato, especially for the emphasis on direct relationships with individual farmers producing high quality ingredients.
But I drink more tea than coffee, so what about tea? The short answer is that it is easier to make good tea at home that to find it made well elsewhere; the opposite of the situation with espresso. So I start with just this recommendation:
- Upton Tea, a great online and mail order supplier of tea, based in Massachusetts, with prices far better than a fashionable national chain and online seller that I will not give the benefit of being named in this widely followed, trend-setting culinary site.
However, I mention a few fun places to take tea with friends, like the Gryphon Tea Room 31 Bull Street, Savannah, Georgia and Ching Ching Cha in Georgetown (Washington) DC.