What’s better than pie, sweeter than espresso, and more cozy than a glass of milk?

The answer is called a Toffogato, and it’s only available at Ultimo Coffee in Philadelphia.

Though he doesn’t sell it directly, the Toffogato exists because of chef Sam Jacobson (who also came up with the name). A native of London who’s been cooking in Philly for some time now, he recently opened Stargazy, a tiny pie-and-mash shop on East Passyunk Avenue. In addition to the savory pies he’s been craving since moving to America, he also bakes one of his favorite childhood sweets: Sticky toffee pudding.

Studded with dates and topped with gooey, buttery toffee, the dessert quickly became a favorite of the staff at Ultimo, which has two locations nearby.

Credit: Danya Henninger

As could be expected from a group as talented and creative as the Ultimo crew — members are regularly top finishers at national barista competitions, and the cafe has been ranked the No. 1 coffee shop in the U.S. — they discovered a way to make Stargazy’s dessert even better.

According to cafe owner Aaron Ultimo, the mashup was the result of some beautiful group think by employees Brendan Boruch, Angela Ferrara and Kevin Smith.

To prepare a Toffogato (which goes for $3.50), baristas scoop a couple of spoonfuls of pudding into a glass — they keep some warm in a container atop the espresso machine, something Jacobson insisted on. That gets topped with an ounce of whole cream from Maplehoffe Dairy in Lancaster County, plus a 1-oz. shot of just-pulled espresso (the current bean in use is Bonta from Papua New Guinea). A regular espresso shot is usually twice the size, but Ultimo found that dialing it back provided the best ratio of bitter, sugar, buzz and spice.

Credit: Danya Henninger

Rich and decadent but filled with enough caffeine to keep you going, the it’s the perfect winter riff on an affogato, the Italian ice cream-espresso treat from which the Toffogato gets its portmanteau name. The fruity, bright espresso keeps it from being overwhelmingly sweet, and the texture is like what you get when your ice cream has melted into your last few bites of pie.

The combination might sound like a no-brainer, but somehow, it’s entirely new.

National coffee news site Sprudge saw the treat on Ultimo’s Instagram and wrote a glowing post about it, and the industry has started taking notice, with people from California to Hong Kong tweeting about it:

Seriously, this is much better than “Bulletproof coffee” (aka “butter coffee“). Head over to Ultimo and try it — you’ll score both bragging rights and a delicious buzz.

Danya Henninger was first editor and then editor/director of Billy Penn at WHYY from 2019 to 2023.