The 10 Best Cities for Coffee in America

Third-wave java is having its moment in the sun, especially in these 10 cities

The 10 Best Cities for Coffee in America

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“Cool beans” is the least cool but most appropriate way to describe the home-grown coffee culture in many American cities. More and more Americans are willing to pay more money for good coffee; according to CoffeeReview.com, of the roughly 100 million daily coffee drinkers in the United States, approximately one-third drink gourmet coffee. And what are the best cities to enjoy said gourmet coffee? That’s for us to tell you. Here are the 10 best cities in America for coffee.

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#10 Philadelphia

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Philadelphia is a well-known food town, and its coffee scene doesn’t trail too far behind. Erin Meister says it is one of the underdogs of American coffee culture. However, with shops like Elixr, where they eschew dark, ashy-tasting coffees for more citrusy notes, and Ultimo Coffee, which is near the very top of our list of America’s best coffee shops, Philly will certainly not stay the underdog for long. Make sure you get a cortado at Menagerie Coffee. While many mistakenly believe La Colombe began in New York, it was actually Philadelphia where founders Todd Carmichael and Jean Philippe Iberti founded what many consider the first modern coffee shop. And guess what? La Colombe just created the first-ever latte on tap.

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#9 New Orleans

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Café Du Monde is known the world over for its café au lait, where the chicory-spiced coffee pairs fantastically with beignets, but there are plenty of other, often overlooked coffee shops that are also worth a visit. Stop by Spitfire Coffee or Solo Espresso Bar, especially on Mondays, when they have a DIY toast bar with fresh-baked bread and homemade spreads. Expect lots of chicory. 

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#8 Honolulu, Hawaii

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Don’t let the laid-back nature of Hawaiian culture fool you: Hawaiians are serious about their coffee. Honolulu has the third-highest number of coffee shops per capita of any city in the United States, according to a 2014 WalletHub survey, and it’s also the capital of the only state in the country that grows its own beans commercially. Kona coffee, from Hawaii's Big Island, is cultivated in porous, mineral-rich soil, courtesy of the island’s volcanoes and hot sun, and it has a unique flavor as a result. Get your Kona fix at Honolulu Coffee Company, or try some other expertly roasted brews at The Curb.

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#7 Chicago

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There’s nothing like drinking a cold brew on the shore of Lake Michigan or holding a warm latte in your hand during long, cold winters, and Chicagoans know that all too well. The headquarters of beloved Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters, Chicago is also home to a lot of other great coffee shops. Bow Truss sells fantastic roasts and offers a $50 coffee boot camp class, and Bad Wolf Coffee was named one of CNN’s “Hottest Coffee Spots in the U.S.” by CNN. 

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#6 Kansas City, Mo.

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According to coffee writer and expert Erin Meister, “While most people immediately think of Portland, Seattle, and New York, I'd say that Kansas City has a really vibrant and fresh coffee scene these days.” While a lot of third-wave coffee tends to follow modern Australian or Scandinavian styles of coffee, Parisi sticks with the well-loved espresso-forward Italian style. Oddly Correct, Quay Coffee, and The Roasterie all represent why Kansas City is finally getting the attention it deserves in this arena.

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#5 New York City

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New York is a great city for a lot of things, like gluten-free dining and solo travel, and coffee is definitely one of them. We voted Everyman Espresso as the best coffee shop in America for its unpretentious delivery of good coffee, but shops with beautiful, airy spaces, like some branches of La Colombe and Toby’s Estate Coffee, also deliver top-notch coffee, as does the Manhattanite espresso-lover's secrete: the Ferndell espresso bar in the lobby of the Marlton Hotel in Greenwich Village. If you’re looking to take a few bags of coffee home, make sure to stop by Porto Rico Importing Co. in the East Village.

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#4 San Francisco

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San Francisco is home to Blue Bottle Roasters, where you’ll never taste coffee with beans roasted more than 48 hours before it reaches your cup. Need we say more? Yes, we need! There are a handful of great roasters in San Francisco, such as Sightglass Coffee, which we voted one of the coolest-looking coffee shops in the world, The famous Peet’s coffee began in nearby Berkeley, California, and we’ll probably see many more iconic brands come out of this innovative city.

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#3 Nashville

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Home of Barista Parlor, which we believe is the coolest coffee shop in the world, Nashville has risen to the top of America’s coffee scene in recent years.  You have got to hand it to Nashville’s coffee scene-makers for having style; most coffee shops are impeccably designed, contributing beautiful accents to the industrial style we’ve come to associate with places that sell third-wave coffee. Take Headquarters, for example, which has a façade that looks virtually indistinguishable from the antique store next door. Head to Crema for classes and a contagious passion for roasting coffee. 

#2 Seattle

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The “original” Starbucks is not much more than an overrated tourist attraction, but Seattle’s third-wave coffee shops are definitely worth your time (and dollars). Analog Coffee has friendly baristas that can explain to you the difference between Costa Rican and Kenyan beans, and at Milstead & Co, the extraction process is key to why their coffee, which is sourced from multiple different roasters from around the country, is so good. 

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#1 Portland, Ore.

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Portland topped Travel + Leisure’s list of America’s coolest cities, and with good reason. Yes, there’s Stumptown, which is now famous the world over, but Heart Roasters, with their Wi-Fi-free weekdays to encourage uninterrupted coffee savoring, and a DJ on Friday afternoons, is also well worth a visit, as is Barista, whose owner, Billy Wilson, has won three Northwest Barista Championship titles. 

(Photo Modified: Flickr/Michael Allen Smith)