On a bitter-cold Sunday afternoon, when a bad case of the drags and the more-errands-to-run blues has Roasted feeling down, there's no elixir that can jazz us up quite like a double dose of straight espresso. Oh, those hot oily-black and caramel-sweet shots of liquid lightning - don't even think about making it a solo.
But where to turn when so many area mud huts shutter their doors on Sundays? Google tells us that The Pearl Cup on N. Henderson is Roasted's nearest java option. But upon arrival, a quick glance reveals that the place is SRO. Apparently, Roasted isn't alone in our coffee cravings.
But who knew the place was celebrating its one-year anniversary, having opened on Valentine's Day 2009? The shop is filled with party regalia: balloons, special pastries, live music, happy people. But the real surprise comes when it's time to order and our request for a doppio espresso is met with a question that Roasted doesn't ever recall being asked by a barista: "Which espresso would you like?"
The small dry-erase board near the entrance announcing "The Pearl Cup is 1yr Old Today!" may account for some of the elbow-to-elbow traffic, but The Pearl Cup is packed with coffee hounds any day of the week. With its trendy Henderson Ave. location (a few blocks west of Ross Avenue and cattycorner from Barcadia) and wide-open hours (from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends), The Pearl Cup quickly caught on with a diverse cross-section of Dallas' java junkies.
And, for the shops' V-Day anniversary, the usual mix of urban professionals, students, hipsters and families all drop by to show their love. And that love is returned in the sugary shape of the coffee shop's vast selection of pastries, signature "secret recipe" Pearl Lattes and warm environs.
With plenty of seating and communal tables, it's a squatter's paradise, as long as you don't mind being surrounded by other squatters. Because patrons have to buy a drink to use the shop's WiFi, the drink to laptop ratio is high.
The baristas say the clientele stays eclectic all day long, but the mornings tend to bring in the professionals in slacks and button-downs, before transitioning to more students, retirees and people using the café as their office. By evening hours the diner crowd stops by for coffee and a treat, or some shots for before they buzz out for a night on the town. The clientele, according to the baristas, is a coffee-conscious bunch who "like to come in and talk shop."
Which may explain why Roasted, upon ordering, was asked the question about a choice of espressos. In recent weeks, The Pearl Cup upped its customers' espresso options from one to three--a rarity in most shops, where a variety of drip offerings take precedence over stocking different espresso roasts. "Most places don't offer a second option, much less a third," one barista told Roasted.
But are the differences between espressos too subtle to notice? Absolutely not.
Think of the espresso as the flavor framework on which cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and Americanos are built. And while some roasts are suited for sipping straight, other roasts taste better when paired with freshly-steamed milk. At The Pearl Cup, the baristas typically recommend their espresso from Spicewood, Texas' Cuvee Coffee Roasting Company for lattes, while the beans from Dallas' Coffee Eiland or San Antonio's Brown Coffee Company are recommended for those wanting to sip their espresso straight.
These recs proved spot on, because Roasted ordered up shots of the Cuvee and the Eiland. And, while the Eiland tasted bold and creamy, the lighter-roasted Cuvee was fresh and fruity but too acidic for the casual demitasse sip.
This morning, a return trip to sample Brown's "Cottonwood" espresso proved another plus as a dark-roasted bean that pulls a smooth, buttery shot - perfect until the final savor. Now, if Roasted only could find a coffee shop that offered free refills on espresso. That would be a coup.