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Further adding to the enigma of Philadelphia coffee is Crescent Moon Coffee and Tea. At least two tips pointed me in the direction of Crescent Moon as a great spot to go for locally roasted coffee. What’s odd is that for a Philly destination, it’s anything but. Crescent Moon is located way out in the boonies of southern New Jersey, smack dab in the middle of a not so attractive strip mall, right as you’re starting to leave town. Even knowing where we were supposed to be going, and having spent years growing up in a small midwestern town, D and I almost missed it.
The inside of Crescent Moon is quaint and comfortable with a mix of couches, sofas, tables, boardgames and wifi. Their purpose is clear: to serve coffee to as wide a variety of customers as they can – both those in the know and those who know little. It’s a meeting spot that beats Starbucks for its coffee, and has tried to differentiate itself aesthetically by looking less like pottery barn and more like a suburban rumpus room.
D and I surveyed the menu taking in the usual array of coffee drinks. They had Kenyan AA for their drip so I ordered a cup as well as a macchiato. The barista asked me whether I wanted a traditional macchiato or a Starbuck’s style macchiato. This threw me since I hadn’t heard of the Starbucks variety and wasn’t sure how it could still be called a macchiato if it wasn’t made the same way – you’ve got to love the chutzpah of corporate America. I ordered the traditional, but for those of you who are curious, Starbuck’s version apparently has more milk. The best I could figure is that it’s closer to a Gibraltar or cortado?
The Kenyan was good. It had a full body and the characteristic bright acidity came through while absent of any pronounced citrus notes. At this point, I don’t remember too many other details, but remember thinking that it was solidly good, without being anything special.
I didn’t pay particularly close attention to the espresso machine or how it was made, but my macchiato seemed to be well-pulled and the drink well-assembled. It was neither bitter, too strong nor too week and overall seemed to have a flavor that D thought was good, but not better than either Brew Ha Ha!’s or Chestnut Hill’s. I personally wasn’t all that enamored of it due to the pronounced taste of toasted banana.
About this time a man approached the counter and asked what they were pressing. The barista replied, “the Brazilian.” French Press? There was no French press on the menu. The barista clarified this for me as well: in addition to their drip they do a rotating French Press. I ordered a cup which was good – with a few subtle hints of cinnamon and something more complex, but was generally a pretty simple and straightforward, medium-roasted coffee.
I started to realize that Crescent moon was a little like a Chinese restaurant in China town. It has two menus: the English one for the tourist off the street complete with quality versions of dishes more typical of Panda Express, and the otherwise “secret” Chinese one with the truly authentic dishes that only the regulars know about.
Fun as this was to figure out, I can’t say I was blown away by Crescent Moon even if I didn’t try, as was suggested to me, their Amaro Gayo. I did stop to smell it and I have to say it had a wonderful nose of blueberries and cream. I think with places like Brew Ha Ha! and Chestnut Hill, it would be hard for any Philly resident to find a reason to go all the way out to Crescent Moon when these other two cafes do things better and in a more attractive space. That said, for those in the area, Crescent Moon is almost certainly the best spot and freshest coffee around.
At the same time, Crescent Moon is not all that different from its fellow Philly coffee counterparts. Each of these three cafes serve as a kind of bridge between the mediocre coffee that surrounds them and the full-blown third wave that lays just beyond Philly’s grasp. Their collective mission is to uplift the masses. Crescent Moon simply does this with a different demographic than do its two counterparts.