A “good” cup of coffee is relatively easy to find in our area. (Last summer, while driving through rural North Carolina, well, that was another story.) We’re lucky enough to have a few decent independent coffee shops, and even chains like Starbucks or Saxby’s will typically provide a reasonable cup. “Great” cups of coffee, on the other hand, are far more rare. Great coffee isn’t just tasty; it’s an experience that lingers for days, even years after the mere moments of consumption are past. Town Hall Coffee in Merion Station (Narberth) makes great coffee. In fact, they brew one of the finest two or three cups of coffee I’ve ever had.
After such a bold statement, I should qualify my coffee-drinking experience; if limited to Wawa and Waffle House, the assertion wouldn’t mean much. But that’s not the case. I’ve sipped while standing around the crowded bar at Sant’Eustachio in Rome, which was once called the “perfect espresso” by the New York Times (but has nothing on Town Hall). I’ve licked crema from the mug at Blue Bottle in San Francisco (which did live up to the hype). Town Hall is great enough to be mentioned with the best.
Espresso is my coffee drink of choice. Though rarer in this part of the world, for me, the best cups are always espresso. Even if you prefer the drip, or a milky latte, you’ll still love Town Hall. Espresso is the building block to coffee; if a coffee house does it well, they are sure to also excel at both drip coffee and espresso-based milk drinks. How can one be sure? It’s all in the preparation. The employees of Town Hall are obsessive (in a good way) about ingredients and conditions. Each step matters: picking the right beans, executing the proper grind, filtering the water and brewing at the correct temperature. They take it all very seriously, no matter what type of coffee is desired. Just ask one of the friendly baristas — they’ll be happy to tell you all about it.
One of the most common questions a Town Hall barista gets is about their hand-brewed method for making drip coffee. Instead of using a fancy machine, they have a small rack that holds a few small cones. For each cup of coffee, they ground the right amount of beans (measured by weight instead of volume, for consistency), then pour hot water over them through the cone. It’s a simple, old-time way to brew that allows each cup to receive a special amount of attention. (And, from the reaction of those drinking it near me, it appears to be worth every extra second.)
Town Hall doesn’t roast it’s own coffee beans, but it carries a wide variety of fair-trade, sustainable beans from roasters like Counter Culture, Ritual and Novo. At around $15 for 12oz, it’s not cheap, but it is high-quality stuff. They also offer a small selection of homemade pastries like scones, cookies and croissants.
There are lots of great coffee shops, but fewer great coffee makers. Town Hall offers both; it’s a great neighborhood spot that is welcoming and relaxing, and they just happen to brew world-class coffee.
Town Hall Coffee
358 Montgomery Ave
Merion Station, PA