In Philly, it’s pretty hard to go too far without seeing the iconic green siren of Starbucks on a corner – especially in Center City – but after being a regular for six years and a Gold Member for two, I’m drinking coffee on a new corner now: 33rd and Arch, home of Rival Bros. Coffee Roasters. In fact, I’ve been doing so for about four months now. My kitchen cabinet may still have a shelf full of Starbucks Via, but I haven’t touched it for quite awhile now. Instead, one shelf down sits the bag I do use: Whistle and Cuss. There are only two other coffees in the world that I’ve had that I don’t add sugar to: the Kona coffee that was at the Westin I stayed at in Hawaii, and Revolver, another Rival Bros. roast.
From first sip, it’s immediately evident that what Rival Bros. serves is their own. There are a couple other local coffee shops here in Philly I visit, but none roast their own coffee. Rival’s coffee doesn’t just smell like a freshly brewed cup of coffee, it tastes like one too. I’ve had many cups of coffee at Starbucks that tasted like the beans were weeks, if not months old. And they were burnt. Rival Bros delivers a consistant, crisp taste. And if you’re drinking their Revolver roast, chocolatey too, but only so much so that you notice it, but it doesn’t overpower the rest of blend’s taste.
Rival Bros also has some specials from time to time as well, such as an Affogato or a French Press in-a-cup. Yes, I just said French Press in-a-cup. It’s something you won’t see at Starbucks despite the fact it’s pure genius. It’s the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. While my “usual” is an iced latte, which is very good as well, Rival Bros’ French Press in-a-cup isn’t just one of those things you have to see to believe, it’s one you have to try.
While I wish I could talk about their history, I honestly don’t know that much about it. I found Rival Bros simply by walking past the truck one day after returning to Drexel for Spring term classes and – I kid you not – having the Pay with Square sticker catch my eye. Five minutes later I was back, ordering an Iced Mocha and paying with my iPad.
Plain and simple, Rival Bros isn’t just one of those places you know is local because only one of them exists, the experience is local, the roasts are small-batch local, and the taste is local. However, you can order their coffee online. And good thing too. Sadly, this coming September, my regular visits to Rival Bros (including on the other side of the city at events) will be put on hiatus for six months while I complete my second co-op for Drexel in Princeton, NJ (and funny enough, five minutes away from where my first was too). Nonetheless, if you’re ever on Drexel’s campus from 7a-3p Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday or from 7a-1p on Wednesday, stop by the truck at 33rd and Arch. It’s worth the walk up from Market (and for me it’s even closer than Starbucks). I’m no longer a “Medium” roast nor a “Tall Pike in a Grande”. I’m the Whistle and Cuss in an Iced Latte.