Here at The Daily Meal, we’re all about patronizing mom-and-pop coffee shops and sipping cappuccinos with the cool kids at trendy, one-off cafes manned by ruder-than-requisite baristas (preferably with comfortable, shaded alfresco seating options because the weather’s warming up) — just say the word “caffeinated” and we’re there. But, we also understand that it’s important, nay, necessary to give props to the big fellas as well. After all, no massive mega-chain became the success story it is today after brewing up a single batch of beans. In fact, all of the companies in this round-up came from modest beginnings, far surpassing the goals their respective founders had in mind when they purchased their first Probat roaster, so it would be foolish (read: hater-ish) not to give credit where it is due.
Despite what some people may argue about there being a lack of consistency and quality once a coffee company moves past a certain number of franchises, there’s something to be said about the magnitude of accomplishment that these businesses have savored — and selling lousy liquids to the discerning American public simply wouldn’t allow for such commercial achievement. (And, you know you love it when you’re fiending for ‘feine and you can easily find your favorite coffee chain...on every other block in seemingly every major city. Right? Right?)
If you’re not well-traveled within the States, chances are you may not recognize all the human-fueling stations on the list; that’s because the majority has yet to expand even close to having stores in every state — with the exception of our number one, of course. (Yep, you already know.)
Most of the establishments that made the list have West Coast roots. We feature a triple-shot of companies from the great state of Washington and another from Oregon that’s the largest privately-owned drive-thru coffee company in America. More than one coffee chain that made the cut was started by a pair of bean-lovin’ brothers, and one of the top three doesn’t even mention coffee in their name.
There’s a spot based in the Dirty South (and we say that with utmost affection) that made the list -- here’s a hint: it ain’t Café du Monde, y’all. And finally, here’s the most interesting factoid of them all: Number three is a wholly owned subsidiary of number one, which just illustrates how much of a corporate powerhouse this once-humble Pacific Northwest coffeehouse (and our clear choice for “Best”) has become since its inception in 1971.
No more time to waste — slam down that espresso shot and let’s get this java jam started. Take a look at our slideshow to find out which of your favorite chains made it on the list.
This post was originally published on March 20, 2014