It's not that your coffee is bad. It's just that you don't know better. Yet.
21st Street Coffee and Tea wants to help.
The independent coffee bar opened its new Downtown space a couple weeks ago in the ground floor of Three PNC Plaza, Pittsburgh's newest mixed-use high-rise. And owners Luke and Alexis Shaffer are busy getting Downtown caffeine-seekers up to speed. Everything is made-to-order, including that regular ol' cup of Joe. Customers can order by bean type (all Direct Trade), and by preparation method (pour-over, Chemex, espresso machine or the super hi-tech Clover).
Orders are more like conversations. Noticeably absent from the dialogue are phrases like "sugar-free frozen caramel mocha with extra whipped cream." Instead, the Shaffers discuss filters, temperatures, how long to let black tea steep versus green, the farms from which the beans come, and how coffee, when grown, roasted and served expertly, tastes more like a naturally sweet fruit than the astringent stuff you drip brew in your kitchen before full consciousness.
The Shaffers, who started 21st Street when they returned to Pittsburgh from New York City, are both former engineers. They bring the same precision and seriousness of constructing a bridge to constructing the perfect cup of coffee.
21st Street maintains its flagship location (established 2006) on 21st and Smallman Streets in the Strip District, and before opening the Three PNC spot, served coffee in the Frick Building, Downtown.
Like its Strip location, the Downtown 21st Street serves a selection of baked goods from Priory Fine Pastries on the North Side and Colangelo's in the Strip. The small street-level Downtown storefront -- with light blue walls and polished concrete floors -- faces a concrete courtyard that edges Fifth Avenue and Larrimor's clothing store, which recently relocated to One PNC Plaza. Architect Todd Demangone assisted the Shaffers with their design concept.
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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Luke and Alexis Shaffer, owners, 21st Street Coffee and Tea
Photograph copyright Caralyn Green