When, exactly, did coffee shops become cool? Nobody can pinpoint an exact date — but when Viennese coffee houses in the 1700s became hubs for discussing politics and culture, coffee became more than just a pick-me-up drink; it became a way of socializing. There are some places in the world where it is way cooler to be seen engaged in this kind of activity than others. We've rounded up what we think are the 11 coolest.
In order to discover the world’s coolest coffee shops, we had to refine our definition of “cool.” Our first criterion was the amount of respect given to the process of making and serving coffee. Is the coffee roasted in-house? Are the coffee beans sourced ethically? Are the espresso shots expertly pulled? Secondly, we looked at décor. This was difficult, as some of the best café décor is minimalist, but there are some minimalist coffee shops that are more visually appealing than others because of their layouts, their windows, and the amount of natural light that flows into its seating areas. Finally, we reviewed customer experiences, including complaints of staff snobbery — which can sometimes be disregarded as a side effect of artisanal excellence, but only if the quality of the coffee makes service take a backseat.
After looking through our list of America’s 50 Best Coffee Shops, we chose the ones that stuck out as particularly picturesque and/or unique. To find the coolest coffee shops outside of America, we looked through coffee blogs, like Beers and Beans, and searched for other media coverage on international coffee shops with great design or coffee so good that the design doesn’t matter.
While coffee presentation and beans are top priority, for some of these cafés, we made an exception. We are that confident that you too will believe the stunning interiors of Venice’s Caffè Florian are very cool, though in an old-fashioned way. A lot of these coffee shops are in buildings that used to be something else entirely — a billboard factory, a family mansion, or an auto garage, for example.
Put on your sunglasses. We’re touring the coolest coffee shops in the world.
11. Limestone Coffee Co. (Medford, Ore., USA)
Limestone Coffee Co. in Medford, Oregon, looks like a spacious living room with lots of natural sunlight that just happens to have an Ambex micro roaster. The bar is made of reclaimed wood from a shuttered mill (which just makes the pour-over kettles on it look even cooler), and a curved (blue!) staircase that leads to more seating above makes it a great place to while away an afternoon. The coolest thing about it? Its lack of pretension.
10. Sightglass Coffee (San Francisco, Calif., USA)
This sibling-owned coffee company is housed in an old billboard factory, and their enormous machines and coffee gear makes the store look more like a theater than a coffee shop. Those who want a homier feel can go to their location in the Mission district, but coffee aficionados will want to stop by this coffee bar and see why exactly hand-roasted, artisanal coffee is such a big deal.