Panther Coffee is definitely a welcome addition to Wynwood, and discerning caffeine addicts (ourselves included) patiently wait its arrival. In the meantime, though, it may be worth heading southwest in the quest for a quality brew. For the past couple years, coffee aficionados familiar with markedly less hip parts of town have quietly been filling Pasion del Cielo, a 100 percent organic, 100 percent independent coffee shop in Coral Gables.
Most impressive is its increasing success considering its location -- at the corner of Giralda Avenue and Galliano Street, just a couple blocks from the always-crowded Miracle Mile Starbucks.
In a place with few gimmicks -- only a few milkshake-type drinks to appease, no cutesy names for sizes -- the drink "gimmick" is this: First, pick your drink type. Then, pick your beans, and they're ground and brewed fresh for you.
There are some 11 different types of beans represented from around the world, from Brazil to Peru, all ranked on a four-stare scale for acidity, aroma, flavor, and body. (These only serve as a guide, though, and are highly subjective -- Honduras' beans score straight twos for all four categories, although they're not necessarily any more acidic than, say, the Brazilian beans, which scores just one star for that.)
Coffees here are brewed espresso-style, which means an "American" coffee is really an "Americano," in which hot water is added to an espresso shot to approximate the volume of a cup of drip brew. As such, there's the usual selection of espresso drinks -- lattes, cappucinos, and so on -- as well as a selection of iced drinks, teas, and, wisely, Cuban-style cortaditos and coladas. (Okay, they're more expensive, and with the artfully swirled foam, definitely fancier-looking than the usual ventanita cup.)
Add free Wi-Fi which requires no code or card to access, a pretty decent spread of metered parking (for downtown Coral Gables, anyways), and a sweet, popular skateboarding spot across the street for free entertainment, and there's little reason to visit the green mermaid on the Mile. To pat yourself even harder on the back for supporting independent businesses, you can also hoof it around the corner to Books & Books, or to the Coral Gables Art Cinema.
To pile on some final words of praise, the staff here is friendly, knowledgeable -- and generous. On our last visit, for reasons unclear (test cup or something) we were gifted with a free cortadito! And if you want to be that person and sit for hours "working" on your Macbook, nobody will tell you to move it.
Pasion del Cielo is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. 100 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables. pasiondelcielo.com; 305-448-0007
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