Coffee is the second most popular drink in the country — and the world — right after water. Although it is drunk in many different ways across the globe, Americans primarily prefer their coffee to be an on-the-go drink, although the seating areas in coffee shops are still popular for those looking to study, go on a date, or even have a business meeting.
Many of America’s best coffee shops are bastions of third-wave coffee — a movement in which coffee is more artisanal and the emphasis is on high quality over mass production. As a result of the third wave of coffee, more and more coffee shops are emphasizing their production process, making sure to utilize or partner with roasters and farms that demonstrate responsible methods of growing, harvesting, and processing coffee beans. [related]
Other important aspects of third-wave cafés include a direct relationship with coffee growers, traders, and roasters, as well as more skillful brewing, using high-quality beans, creating amazing latte art, and favoring single-origin coffee over blends. Along with the rising popularity of this movement has come the rising popularity of alternative coffee preparation methods, such as the use of vacuum coffee and pour-over brewing coffeemakers.
In order to determine which coffee shop was the best in each state, we started by combing through our own previous rankings and stories on local coffee shops. We then took a deep dive into existing rankings and review sites to get an idea of which cafés and coffee-focused restaurants are the most renowned and well-loved according to both locals and tourists. Above all, we looked for shops with a nice sit-in area, a high level of barista skill and creativity, multiple food options that vary throughout the day, a variety of specialty coffee drinks, originality, and a high level of service.
Most, we found, were small businesses with just one or two locations, although a few have managed to branch out into top coffee chains. Many are known for their friendliness and ease of ordering, so that you don’t have to learn how to speak Starbucks. If you’re looking to make a caffeine-fueled cross-country road trip, map it out so that you can make stops at the best coffee shop in every state.