The USA has had a bad reputation at times for our watered-down, frilly coffee. But beyond the mega-chains and cheap diners, there is a coffee culture that is passionate about the perfect brew. We look at 12 independent coffee shops that are paying attention to their product sourcing, creating craft beverages, and changing the way Americans see coffee.
Fresh off of a win at America’s Best Coffeehouse Competition, Peregrine Espresso is turning a lot of heads. The brand now has three shops in the DC Metro area and is only gaining momentum. The shop focuses on procuring and preparing the best single-origin beans available. Regulars claim that Peregrine’s classic latte is the best they have ever had. Beyond providing delicious beverages, this shop engages with the community by offering classes on espresso fundamentals and brewing the perfect cup at home.
Peregrine Espresso, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington DC +1 202 629 4381
Commonplace Coffee is a charming company, owned by a dynamic husband and wife team. The pair had the dream of opening their own coffee house and roaster and found fertile ground for their vision in western Pennsylvania. Since opening 12 years ago, the company has been happily growing to accommodate a growing loyal following. The dining area is small, and can get crowded, so it’s best to come early if you want a seat. The baristas are friendly and knowledgeable, standing ready to share their craft with locals and visitors.
With an eye for quality, Ipsento Coffee roasts all of their own beans in-house so that they are fresh and ready for the absolute best cup of coffee. But even before the roasting process can begin, beans are carefully selected from a community of suppliers that are just as dedicated to quality and sustainability is Ipsento is. The result is a product that customers can feel good about while they enjoy their expertly crafted beverage and support the local coffee culture. Ipsento also offers classes on the history, selection, and brewing process of the perfect cup.
With three locations now in San Francisco, Four Barrel is quickly becoming a favorite of the city by the bay. The company is not just a coffee shop, but also a roasting company that is committed to people. Four Barrel cares deeply about their coffee suppliers, the individuals that they employ to roast and prepare it, and the community that they service. In their shops the atmosphere is relaxed and cozy, and the staff couldn’t be friendlier. This is the perfect place to sit and enjoy your favorite beverage, knowing that you’re getting the absolute best quality and service around.
New York City is overflowing with coffee shops and cafes, and always seems to be coming up with a new, trendy spot to enjoy a java. But Abraço Espresso stands out from the crowd. Abraço means ’embrace’ in Portuguese, which is fitting for this charming shop. The space is small, without any real spots to sit, and functions as more of a grab-and-go bar. What Abraço lacks in space it makes up in character. Customers are always greeted with an enthusiastic face, eager to serve the best possible coffee and seasonal, homemade baked goods.
The city of Portland is a funky town that is serious about life, expression, and coffee. Coava Coffee fits right into the city’s unique vibe. The space is a cool mix of industrial design and warm accents, creating an atmosphere that is casual and easy. The brew bar and roastery were opened in 2010, after years of extensive research and travel to procure the best coava, or unroasted green coffee beans, in the world. Each drink is made slowly and carefully, ensuring the proper flavor and acidity. For pour-over and cold-brewed coffee, Coava is the place for coffee lovers.
Coava Coffee, 1300 SE Grand Avenue, Portland, OR +1 503 894 8134
Seattle has become known as the cradle of life for America’s coffee craze. But with the astonishing growth of coffee chains, independent shops are making a stab at scaling back and refocusing. Slate Coffee is somewhat new to the scene, but has garnered multiple awards and accolades since opening in 2011. The shop is unpretentious and comfortable, simply offering great coffee with a flair for presentation. A house specialty is the deconstructed latte: three glasses containing espresso, milk, and a combination of the two, that allows for a full appreciation of each component.
Slate Coffee, 5413 6th Avenue NW, Seattle, WA +1 206 701 4238
A small valley in Northern Utah seems like an unusual place to find a stellar coffee shop. But for nearly 40 years Caffe Ibis has been supplying the small community of Logan with sustainably grown, in-house roasted coffee. The company is still family-owned and is committed to safeguarding the environment by purchasing raw beans from purveyors that are certified organic, fair trade, and shade-grown. From there, the beans undergo a roasting process in small batches, under prime high-mountain conditions. Outside of their own cafe, Ibis coffee beans are available for purchase by the pound and used in hundreds of other coffee shops in Utah and the West.
Caffe Ibis, 52 Federal Avenue, Logan, UT +1 435 753 4777
Palace Coffee Company
In the panhandle of northern Texas, Palace Coffee Company is bringing craft coffee to Amarillo and Canyon. The two retail locations seem to have a big-city coolness to their atmosphere, yet are easy-going and approachable. Palace Coffee aims to bring a heaping dose of southern hospitality, and a love for good coffee to guests and friends. The company’s attention to high quality and superb flavor earned them a coveted title at last year’s America’s Best Coffeehouse Competition: cementing their placement among the best of the best. Customers rave about their coffee’s perfectly balanced flavor and recommend the must-try vanilla brown sugar cinnamon latte.
Palace Coffee Company, 817 S Polk Street #2, Amarillo, TX +1 806 476 0111
Octane Coffee is larger than most of our other independent shops but has earned its place for providing a unique experience, centered around a passion for craft coffee. The company’s five locations go beyond the classic coffee and pastry, offering craft beers, wines, and specialty cocktails as well. The result is a vibrant combination of culinary delights. Reviewers can’t get enough of Octane’s precise lattes and cappuccinos and have no reason to leave when they discover the extended menu. Whether its espresso, french-pressed, poured-over coffee, or a libation to get the night going, Octane is the place to go in the Peach State.
Octane Coffee, 1009-B Marietta Street, Atlanta, GA +1 404 815 9886
Another company serving up exceptional coffee in the southern US is Panther Coffee. The company has two locations in Miami, and locals can’t get enough of it. The company specializes in specialty, small-batch coffee, roasted to perfection. The baristas are friendly and knowledgeable and take a notable pride in making their drinks exactly right. In the shops’ design, Panther embraces the zest and vitality of Miami with bright colors and striking patterns. Outdoor patios take advantage of the pristine weather and make for a great place to enjoy some fresh air. Panther often hosts local music acts, providing live music for their thirsty fans.
Panther Coffee, 2390 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL +1 305 677 3952
G&B Coffee, short for Glanville and Babinski, is a boutique coffee bar in the center of the busy Los Angeles Grand Central Market. The owners carefully select coffee roasts from a staggering number of options, with an eye keen on ultimate flavor. From there, baristas make classic cups and experiment with inventive twists. The New York Times touted G&B’s iced latte with house-made almond-macadamia nut milk as perhaps the best in the entire country. With a glowing recommendation like that, there is no excuse to miss this place when you’re in town.
By H.C. Hamblin