Americans have a love affair with caffeine, don’t we? Not just with coffee-based drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos but we also love it in our sodas, teas, energy drinks and even candy.
Coffee makes up the primary way we get our caffeine – three-quarters of America prefers that method – with a whopping half a billion cups per day. Who can imagine starting the day without a cup? Each morning all over the country Americans brew it at home or make a pit-stop to Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, or one of the many other chains, gas stations, independent small businesses or convenience stores. In fact, you probably only don’t have to drive far from where you are right now if you wanted a cup – it’s always within reach.
While it’s grown all over the world, 67% of all the coffee in the world is grown in the Americas. Coffee is the most sought-after commodity in the world only beat by crude oil. We Americans spend $74 billion dollars a year on coffee alone – that doesn’t include all the other caffeinated products – comprising 1.6% of the nation’s GDP and employing 1.7 million people. We rank 5th in the world in terms of consumption and 50% of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee each day and on average we drink three and a half cups.
Yeah, we love the stuff!
Out of those hundreds of millions of cups of coffee, a significant number of those daily servings come in the form of one dear to my heart, the espresso. No – it’s not spelled or pronounced expresso, so don’t “axe” me again.
How is espresso different than coffee? Well, for starters its serving size is smaller, it is a bit thicker, has more dissolved solids and as every connoisseur knows, has a foam called crema on top which contributes to the tongue-feel and even flavor. In fact, the drink was originally called crema caffè. It is richer and stronger in flavor and has a bigger punch: more caffeine than regular coffee per serving. Espresso is part of many of the drinks you order including a Macchiato, latte, cappuccino, caffè mocha, or caffè Americano. If you frequent Portuguese restaurants, your Galão has it.
The term espresso refers to the high amount of pressure used to force the water through the fine grounds and it is done so very quickly when compared to drip brewing. The machine that does this was invented in 1884 by an Italian named Angelo Moriondo who just wanted to be able to handle the demand of impatient coffee drinkers in Italian cafes. His machine was a steam-driven “instantaneous” coffee beverage maker, and it originally made “pots” of coffee and not individual servings. That didn’t come until 1901 when another Italian named Luigi Bezzera patented a version that could produce single and double servings to a customer.
In the coming decades, Italian-Americans would serve espressos, but since necessity is the mother invention, they started to offer locals versions. Other Americans added ratios of ingredients or other ingredients all together and the cappuccino and latte were invented – the latter by Italian American Lino Meiorin in the 1950s. Thank goodness for Italian ingenuity!
Even the espresso has its variants and the best of all, in my opinion, is the café cubano or Cuban espresso. Typically using stronger roasts, the Cuban espresso cuts the strength and bitterness from the stiffer roasts by placing a bit of brown sugar or raw sugar in the cup that the steaming hot brew is dripping. This heat hitting the brown sugar “kisses” the flavor with a bit of sweetness – barely noticeable unless you are a regular espresso drinker. It is then vigorously mixed to get the afore-mentioned crema, which Cubans call espuma or espumita (baby/little foam).
In my opinion, there is no better caffeinated drink on the planet. Or solar system. Or universe. Or any reality even alternate ones. Ok, I don’t know that for sure, but it is certainly as good as it gets here on earth. I bet, even Giorgio Tsoukalos would agree with me.
Anyhow, who makes the best espressos in greater New Bedford? I don’t drink lattes, cappuccino, Macchiatos, or coffee – I only drink espressos and I have tried them anywhere and everywhere in the area. These are not the only spots that serve great espressos, just the spots I frequent most and who make the best. This, as stated earlier, is my opinion and if you disagree or if you know of a place I should check out because you think it should be on the list, please let me know!
Dartmouth’s Mirasol’s Cafe has been one of my favorite go-to spots in the region, since it opened. Owners Rich and Meegan and the entire staff are the pulse and life that make the cafe too irresistible to visit regularly. There are too many items on (and off) the menu worth mentioning – how about the whole thing? However, this isn’t a review of establishments, just about espressos and Sgt. Friday, wants us to stick to “Just the facts, ma’am.”
While locals are caught in a tractor beam that pulls people in for the beloved Chippi, I go there for the Cuban Espresso. You can get them in a variety of sizes and on ice. This is where I was introduced to the Cuban Espresso and had my first. Very few places make a better crema, so for you crema lovers, hop in your cars and race to Dartmouth. Ram through the traffic in the parking lot, push aside everyone in the line that wraps around the building and ends somewhere around Bishop Stang, and ride the winged llama over a rainbow until you arrive in one of the Seven Heavens. That’s just the first sip!
Sorry, you can have soy, almond, or hemp added to your drinks, but not ayahuasca.
Don’t let the name fool you. Those in the know, know. Holiday Bakery is actually a legitimate, genuine Portuguese bakery and cafe. The women behind the counter are all from Portugal and though I’ve never been in the bakery in the back, I imagine it is a team of avós with magic wands baking delicious breads and pastries for jaw-dropping low prices.
While Holiday Bakery specializes in breads and pastries, they do offer a few shelves of imported Portuguese goods and coffee and espressos. There is an indoor patio with 2-3 small tables, so you can sit and enjoy their amazing pastries while sipping some of the best espresso in greater New Bedford. While it may just be a standard espresso from Portugal, it is made perfectly and with the loves of a million avós. Name a better ingredient to a recipe that grandma’s love? You can’t!
The new kids on the block, Dartmouth’s Java Shack are doing a lot of great things from mouth-watering food, friendly service, devilish pastries, drinks which include Kombucha on tap, and much more. What matters in my life is the quality of espresso and whether they “pull” a decent one. Why, yes. Yes, they do.
Don’t be fooled: Java Shack might be the newest addition to the cafe scene, but the entire staff – owners, chef, and baristas – are veterans who know their stuff. They know the best bean to buy, the proper grind, and how to make it consistently perfect. With welcoming faces and equally warm decor, you can sip the world’s worries away.
Don’t hate me. Starbucks provides a great working space, always working WiFi, friendly baristas and rewards for free food and drinks. OK, I’m a sellout.
While I don’t order the traditional espresso here, I also don’t order the venti iced caramel unicorn Macchiato, 2 shots of vanilla creme, extra extra Stevia, 1 Raw Sugar, Sweet & Low, splash of soy, splash of almond Frappuccino, shaken, not stirred. This is the only place where I get my espresso iced. I get the iced Double Shot Espresso, which is actually 5 shots when you order it in the venti size. So, it’s like an iced quintuple shot espresso.
Outside of selling soul to the devil myself for rewards, this drink is actually delicious and I’ve convinced a few other souls to try it and sell their own souls.
Yes, Novo Mondo is not only one of the best restaurants, Portuguese or otherwise, in all of the region, they also serve a world-class espresso. I’ve never been to Portugal, but I’d imagine that walking into Novo Mondo isn’t very different from walking into a cafe or luncheon somewhere in Portugual or the Islands.
Walking in, you will hear Portuguese spoking more than you will hear English spoken. That’s always a good sign when visiting a Portuguese restaurant, because they want that slice of back home. While the small restaurant isn’t conducive to just ordering an espresso and then sitting down and relaxing, there is nothing stopping you from meandering up to the counter and slamming back a single or double or even lingering there for a “few.” You can close your eyes, soak in the aromas of master cooks, while listening to Portuguese banter and transport yourself to a cafe in Portugal somewhere. It’s a great experience! Hi Carla!
The Flour Girls Baking Company in Fairhaven is not only the best spot to get espresso…well, it’s the only spot. Don’t mean to shine shade on the chains, but Jill and company pull one of the best espressos in the area. And sandwiches. And smoothies. And breakfast. And scones. And pastries. And cakes. And…
Hands down, the Flour Girls is one of the best cafes around with an eclectic menu, friendly staff, and lots of pizzaz. An ideal place to chow down, get some work or reading done, and enjoy a stiff, rich espresso…or five.