The Daily Meal, one of the internet’s fastest growing food websites, just released one of the more thorough lists of great coffee shops that can be found across the US. While there are a few notables I would add, there are far fewer surprises then other lists I’ve seen. After first giving readers an update on the progression of coffee culture over the years—with the oft-used wave metaphor—they break down their method of selection:
We scoured for the best independent coffee shops and chains that have changed the way we drink coffee. Our criteria? The best quality in coffee and food, atmosphere, customer service, and the “unique” factor. (Case in point: a DeLorean car in the back of one shop.)
Then a panel of coffee aficionados and industry surveyors, including the current US Barista Champion Katie Caguilo, weighed in with their own nominations and suggestions of both national craft coffee “chains” (i.e. Stumptown & Intelligentsia) as well as domestic shops. A selection of nearly 150 shops across the United States were then narrowed down to 33 winners with the highest ranking.
The Daily Meal’s list the of Top 10 US Coffee Shops
- Ultimo Coffee, Philadelphia
- Gimme Coffee, Ithaca, NY
- Barista, Portland, OR
- Courier Coffee, Portland, OR
- Cafe Grumpy, New York City
- Lamill Coffee Boutique, Los Angeles
- Stumptown, national
- Ritual Coffee Roasters, San Francisco
- Joe the Art of Coffee, national
- Intelligentsia, national
(view all 33 top shops at The Daily Meal)
Last year at the end of his talk for the Nordic Barista Cup, René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of the two-Michelin star restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, made a pledge to the 200 coffee professionals in attendance:
next year, I can guarantee you 110% that we will have the best coffee of any restaurant in the world.
Just seven months later, Noma announced a newly revamped coffee service developed with the help of Tim Wendelboe and his Oslo-based coffee roastery. Noma has been named the World’s Best Restaurant for the past 3 years and Tim Wendelboe, who won the World Barista Championship in 2004 and has won the Nordic Roaster Championship on several occasions, makes their partnership one of culinary renown.
When making a reservation four months in advance, paying $400 a person and sitting through a four hour dining experience, you might think it’s expected to receive exceptional coffee at the end of the meal. However, there’s been a lot of discussion (here, here and here) after a recent article by Grub Street revealed that 30% of Michelin star restaurants use the same Nespresso capsules many people have in their home or office.
Noma, however, was never among the ranks of Nespresso using restaurants. For the past nine years they had been using a French press to brew coffee roasted by Estate (co-owned by Claus Meyer who also co-owns Noma), so coffee already received a high level of regard by comparison. After years without evolving the coffee alongside everything else on the menu, it was time to offer a coffee service that, according to Noma sommelier Mads Kleppe, would be “both delicious and interesting … and play with the light, fresh and acidic flavors that you find familiar throughout a noma experience.”
Noma is not the first and surely won’t be the last restaurant to begin taking coffee more seriously. They just happen to be one of the most visible examples of a small but growing number of restaurants that have dedicated the time, money and effort into providing coffee that truly reflects all the other details considered in the creation of an exceptional dining experience. Eleven Madison Park in New York has been serving tableside Chemexes of Intelligentsia coffee for several years, Coffee Collective provides coffee and training to the Michelin starred restaurants Geranium, Kadeau, Kiin Kiin and Relæ in Denmark, while Sweden’s Koppi is working with Copenhagen’s newly opened Bror, run by Samuel Nutter and Victor Wagman—two former sous chefs from Noma.
Just a few days following the official announcement of the new coffee service, I travelled to Copenhagen to take part in the complete Noma experience—three and a half months after making a reservation. Noma offers two services, one that begins at noon and a second identical one later in the evening. We choose the early service to enjoy our food in the light of day and still have the evening to enjoy Copenhagen.
As our party walked in we were greeted warmly by a team of hosts, had our coats removed and were led to our table and tucked into our chairs. We toasted the beginning of our journey with a glass of Champagne and were informed that our appetizers would begin coming out at a brisk pace. What followed next was a remarkably choreographed dance of new dishes, descriptive monologues and bite-size explosions of flavor.
During the next 40 minutes, we would try ten different plates that included fried reindeer moss, smoked pickled quails eggs, sorrel with fermented crickets and Æbleskiver (a pancake-esque ball of dough) with a smoked muikki fish poking through both sides. Every dish was unexpected and challenged the palate in new ways. Each new dish, though unique, complemented the flavors that preceded them.
Following the appetizers were a series of main courses. Each new course was punctuated by fresh baked bread with whipped butter while the sommelier introduced a new wine. The twenty course meal was complimented with nine wines—all but one were white.
For the next two and a half hours, new culinary experiences would arrive, each one just as considered as the last. From the onion and fermented pear soup to the pike perch with verbana and dill, the flavors were delicate and balanced with sparks of incredible flavor—exactly what you’d hope for in a delicious and exciting cup of coffee.
As the final dish from the main course was brought out by the chef, he explained the lengths to which they went preparing the Danish beef rib—aged 3 weeks and cooked for 3 days—adorned with lingon berries. I began to think how unimaginable it would be, after eating that rib, for a restaurant of this caliber to spend less than 3 minutes preparing an excellent cup of coffee to compliment the rest of the menu.
After the wine had all been reduced to empty bottles and the desserts were just a sweet memory on our tongues, we were led from our table in the dining room to the newly remodeled lounge next door. Four hours had passed since first sitting at our table and it was now time to counteract the nap encouraging wine with the results of Noma’s newly implemented coffee service, prepared by the head sommelier Mads Kleppe.
When developing the new coffee service, Noma settled on using the 03 size V60 to brew large enough quantities of coffee to serve parties of various sizes. Kleppe explained his intention of changing coffees seasonally and being dedicated to brewing coffee that pair well with the menu. The first coffee selected and currently being used at Noma is Tim Wendelboe’s Kenya, from the Kapsokisio coop located near Mt. Elgon.
As Kleppe brewed the coffee in front of us, his iPhone keeping time and an extractMoJo nearby, he spoke comfortably and openly about the new coffee, training with Wendelboe and the staff’s excitement for the new service. When the coffee finished it was stirred and decanted into a collection of blown-glassware, custom designed in just a few days by the Danish artist Nina Nørgaard in collaboration with Noma. We were then seated in the lounge with our coffee, a selection of flavored aquavits and a few last snacks—including a chocolate dipped potato chip and a smoked bone marrow infused caramel.
The coffee glowed deep red in the afternoon sun and smelled of berries with the same hue. It was balanced with a buttery body and a sweetness and acidity that was accentuated by the smoked caramel served beside it. Sitting in the warmth of the lounge, and running my fingers over the smooth lines of the thick glass in my hand, I couldn’t imagine a better way to end such an incredible meal. I can’t say whether it’s the best restaurant coffee in the world, but I can say it’s the best I’ve experienced so far.
Before leaving, we were given a tour of the kitchen areas and taken up to the private dining room where all the chefs eat and new dishes are explored. We happened to meet with Redzepi himself who briefly discussed the new coffee service and its success so far. He mentioned that one of the biggest surprises during the whole process was discovering just how complex and particular the infrastructure for coffee can be, including the cost and effort of installing the restaurants second dedicated water system and having a full-time staff member devoted to just preparing coffee.
Now that the world’s best restaurant has taken the effort to highlight coffee with a passion that’s on par with the rest of their food, will more restaurants follow suit? Should they? While some may argue that coffee isn’t needed after a meal, let alone anything more than mediocre swill from a capsule, others realize that post-dinner coffee is a ritual for many and at the highest levels of culinary craftsmanship, God is in the details.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in Amsterdam, a place I hadn’t been to in years and whose small but vibrant specialty coffee scene has grown significantly in recent years. While the number of quality shops are growing, it’s still possible to visit most, if not all, of them during a short visit and still have time for some of the city’s other cultural and recreational treasures.
The evening I arrived I headed directly to a gathering of local baristas for a Friday Bean Battle, which is basically a TNT (Thursday Night Latte Art Throwdown) that takes place on the first Friday of every month. The event was being held at Espresso Fabriek, one of the staples of the specialty coffee foundation in Amsterdam. There is no money or points involved in the battle, just a cool little trophy that’s displayed at the shop of the winning barista until the next competition. It was a fun introduction to some of the people I’d be visiting around the city over the coming days.
Gosschalklaan 7, Amsterdam
+31 (0) 204862106
As one of the first small specialty coffee roasters in Amsterdam, Espresso Fabriek has helped build a foundation for what is now a growing market for lovely coffee bars and cafés across town. They currently have two locations, the first can be found at Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks factory that is now a renovated hot spot for creative and cultural entrepreneurs near Westerpark. The second location is a bit further east of the city in a residential area, which I didn’t visit on this trip (IJburglaan 1489).
Espresso Fabriek can be found behind the main buildings inside a smaller one that once housed gas meters for the nearby factory. It is now an airy two floor loft, with a coffee bar on the ground level and a Giesen roaster with extra seating up above. There’s a 3-group Kees van der Westen lever machine as well as slow bar with V60s and AeroPress filter coffee available. Be sure to try a slice of the Apple cake.
Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat 35, Amsterdam (coffee, wine & cuisine)
+31 (0) 206160770
Hartenstraat 12, Amsterdam (original location)
+31 (0) 206260966
Screaming Beans is another company that has been a staple of the Amsterdam community who serves coffee roasted by Bocca. In the last year they’ve refreshed their original location with a recent remodel and opened a second location that doubles as a well stocked wine bar and restaurant—complete with tasting menu. The wine bar takes the format of a typical coffee shop and throws it out the window. It offers an experience of fine dining and elegance that won’t have customers questioning the cost of a Chemex. Stationed in front of the glowing wine cellar are dueling Kees van der Westen lever machines, an Über boiler and a myriad of different brew methods to choose from.
The original location, which just re-opened last month in a popular shopping district, has a more traditional café menu, with weekend brunch and pastries along with a fully equipped coffee bar up front, which is also outfitted with a Kees van der Westen lever machine. The space is long and narrow with a bright white wall that reflects light into a nook that’s adorned floor to ceiling with lovely reclaimed wood. What impressed me most about both of the Screaming Beans locations is their dedication to table side coffee brewing, which really elevated the experience to new levels.
Beukenplein 14-H, Amsterdam
+31 (0) 207519956
Coffee Bru is located south east of the city and is a bit out of the way for most travelers. However, if you have the time it’s a journey that will take you to parts of Amsterdam you would otherwise probably never visit. This café has only been open for about a year and a half, but it has the feeling of a neighborhood institution. It’s less modern than the other shops around town and much more bohemian. There’s a corner full of toys for the kids, a living plant wall in the back room and a menu offering vegan friendly fare.
The coffee bar is built on a brightly tiled island that feels like you’re in someone’s kitchen. The baristas serve coffee roasted by Bocca on V60s and espresso was pulled on a La Marzocco. I had my best cup of filter coffee here, but the least welcoming service.
KOKO Coffee & Design
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 145, Amsterdam
+ 31 (0) 206264208
KOKO Coffee & Design was a favorite of mine on this trip. The shop has only been open for 6 months, but it already seems to have a stream of regulars taking advantage of the inspiring surroundings and great coffee. The atmosphere, the location, the concept and the coffee where all fantastic and the service by the lovely owners Karlijn and Caroline was warm and welcoming. KOKO is located right in the heart of Amsterdam, with a front door that sits just across the canal from the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum. Its presence is unsuspecting and greatly appreciated in this part of town.
The space is part coffee bar that uses beans roasted by Caffenation in Antwerp, Belgium and part design boutique that sells clothing and other accessories from exclusive designers that can’t be found elsewhere in The Netherlands. There is a variety of vintage furniture for lounging and well-lit tables for working or sitting with groups. All of which share the space harmoniously with racks of designer clothing and rotating art exhibits on the walls. I could have spent all day sitting here reading through old magazine and sipping a cappuccino, which was the best I had on my trip.
Tweede Helmersstraat 96, Amsterdam
+ 31 (0) 611641654
Headfirst Coffee is the newest coffee shop in Amsterdam and will soon be the newest specialty roaster as well. When I visited, they had only been open for a month and were using coffee roasted on a friend’s machine while waiting for their new Giesen roaster to arrive. The owners of Headfirst, share the space with another business called Harvest & Co that sells vintage furniture, home accessories and other lifestyle goods that transform the space into one you’d find on the pages of Kinfolk as well as Barista Magazine.
The space here is warm and inviting and the bar is simple and understated with little to distract from the shiny new La Marzocco Strada, which takes center stage. The filter coffee was brewed with an AeroPress while I was there and the single origin espresso was singing with brightness and balance. The owners will soon be roasting themselves in the back half of the shop which will introduce more customers to the process behind their cup and adding even more to the quickly growing coffee scene in Amsterdam.
There’s so much activity in Amsterdam and the coffee shops have all taken their own unique approaches to the service they provide and the atmosphere they’ve created. If new shops continue to open up at the same rate as they have in the past year, Amsterdam will soon find itself as one of the leading specialty coffee hubs in Europe.
View Best Coffee in Amsterdam in a larger map
CNN Travel recently published a story about a unique (and surely controversial) coffee bar in Japan that is either too new or too elusive to have made Oliver Stand’s Tokyo list. Irukaya Coffee Shop (Google translated to Dolphin?) is a windowless, 4 seat, reservation only shop run by Hiroshi Kiyota.
The shop maintains a strict set of rules on its Japanese Excite blog that include:
- Please refrain from lingering on one order—order again within 1 hour.
- No groups larger than 2 people
- No pictures
- No Smoking
- No mobile phones
- No take-away
- No children
- Reservation only during open hours
- Rule breakers are asked to leave
The article details the writer, Nicholas Coldicott‘s visits to Irukaya, including Kitoya’s humble demeanor, the competition-worthy signature beverages on the menu and the extensive list of rare whiskeys that can only be ordered alongside coffee.
Finally, he poured the brew into two cups, alternating so each shared the top, middle and tail of the coffee. He tasted one cup, then served me the other. “Yubisaki,” he said. “Drink it as you would a whisky. It should take around 20 minutes … On paper, the rules look forbidding, but the longer you spend in Irukaya, the more they make sense. It’s not a place you go for a caffeine fix. It’s a sanctuary that happens to serve java. Most of the rules are in place to keep things tranquil. – CNN Travel
While this is sure to ruffle some feathers as being pretentious and off-putting, it sounds like an incredible experience. Where Penny University meets the Soup Nazi, wrapped in Japanese tranquility—sign me up.
Read the full article on CNN Travel
+81 (0) 90 3042 4145
open 2 p.m.-midnight, closed Wednesday
Photos: Julen Esteban-Pretel for CNN
Three months ago, I shared an article from Eater which broke the news of Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski’s plans for the future—a shop of their own in LA that prepares delicious coffee and uses minimal disposables. Kyle, the 2008 US Barista Champion, and Charles, this year’s 2nd place USBC finalist, both left Intelligentsia Coffee this summer and have finally opened doors to their own coffee bar this week.
This new space is somewhat temporary while they look for a permanent home, but it gives them a way to try out ideas with customers while further shaping their concept for the perfect shop. G&B have partnered with Jessica Koslow who runs SQIRL, a confiture kitchen that specializes in deliciously named organic jams made from local produce. The unique partnership is sure to offer some of the best coffee, tea and toast in LA.
The starting line-up of roasters would excite any coffee lover, offering a variety from 49th Parallel, Heart, Intelligentsia and Ritual. For those wanting something cold in the SoCal sun, G&B have also bottled cold brewed coffee and teas to complete their menu.
Over the last few months I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kyle and Charles to develop their brand and it’s exciting to finally see parts of it alive in the world. I look forward to its evolution as all the details are refined and it expands in the future.
Kyle and Charles both have a great vision and talent for service and exceptional coffee experiences, so if you have the opportunity to stop by for a coffee and some toast—I highly suggest it. Follow G&B on twitter for daily offerings and updates.
720 N. Virgil Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
All photos courtesy of Amparo Rios of R.E. Photography. Check out more of her amazing photos of great coffee shops around the world on Flickr.
While visiting Copenhagen, there are several places to have great coffee and try a delightful sampling of Scandinavia’s finest roasters. By walking (or biking) a straight line northwest from the city center, there are opportunities to taste coffee roasted by Solberg & Hansen, Koppi and the Coffee Collective—quite a Nordic trifecta.
Democratic Coffee Bar is one of those stops and has become one of my favorite places to visit while in Copenhagen. Opening last October in the city’s newly renovated Hovedbibliotek, Democratic takes the award for greatest café in a public library and are currently the only shop in Denmark using coffee from Sweden-based Koppi.
The space is separate enough from the library that it feels like its own space, but until their own door is installed, you currently enter through the library’s main door. The front wall opposite the bar, is made of floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the space with natural light and provide ample bar space for guests to watch the world pass outside.
The wood bar is elegant and sparse providing a natural bridge between the heavy black shelving at one end and the warm glow of the kitchen’s luminescent orange tile at the other. Each morning, Oliver, the shop’s owner, bakes fresh croissant’s and cookies on site that perfectly compliment the coffee (if they haven’t sold out).
If you’re not interested in sitting at a bar, you can take your coffee into the library’s lounge and sit among a diverse array of library guests enjoying free magazines and internet at designer tables flanked by Eames chairs. For the love of Scandinavia.
Democratic Coffee Bar
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In April I had the pleasure of touring some of Baltimore’s finest coffee establishments, including the city’s newest addition, LaMill—a transplant from LA. This sparkling new shop opened last November by the water’s edge at the Four Seasons in Harbor East.
As I approached, there were plenty of suits passing by as well as an Audi R8 parked out front—environmental features you rarely find in the neighborhoods of most independent coffee shops, but a good sign of the specialty coffee market’s growth.
The open space greets you with a standard bar layout, a pour over stand up front, alongside a custom painted La Marzocco Strada and several Mazzer Robur grinders. I ordered an espresso and a syphon of Guatemala at the bar to share with my companions and was handed a number for my table.
The coffee was delivered to my table by the barista along with a heavy cloth napkin, which added a simple but incredibly valuable detail to the experience. The espresso itself had an earthy Italian profile and was roasted a bit dark for my preference, but the Guatemala from the syphon was sweet, clean and quite enjoyable.
While I was admiring the space, Kris Fulton (manager) came out with a plate of the shop’s other specialty—fresh cut beignets from Michael Mina. Kris admitted to recognizing me and wanted to be sure we didn’t leave without trying them.
The plate was decorated with an assortment of sauces including a meyer lemon curd, Valrhona chocolate and a luscious butterscotch made with Macallan whiskey. They were the perfect compliment to our coffee and may have even outshone it.
Kris was fantastic as he spoke with us about LaMill and the business relationships that brought them to Baltimore to help develop this Four Seasons location. He also talked about their Saturday morning coffee clinics that teach customers about coffee brewing and appreciation in a comfortable atmosphere—pastries included.
The space is connected with two other restaurants (Wit & Wisdom and Pabu) in the sprawling rear lobby of the hotel which blend together nicely while maintaining their individual character. LaMill is clean-lined and modern, while providing a warm atmosphere through it’s unique lighting and dark wood textures.
If you’re visiting Baltimore, you don’t have to be staying in the Four Seasons to stop by this beautiful shop for a treat. There’s outdoor seating in the summer and it’s a great starting point to walk along the harbor and take in one of the city’s nicer views. LaMill is a welcome addition to the Baltimore coffee scene, which currently includes staples Spro and Woodberry Kitchen—and soon to be joined by Artifact Coffee.
LaMill, Four Seasons
200 International Drive
Baltimore, MD 21202
Three weeks ago, I shared the announcement of Coffee Collective’s new roastery and coffee bar opening this summer in Copenhagen. Since then, I’ve been down to Denmark to meet with Klaus and tour their beautiful new flagship in Frederiksberg.
The new roaster is warming up, the Über’s been installed and a lovely row of stools are lined up at the brew bar waiting for customers to wear them in. As soon as the final permits are received, this incredible new space will be open—for what I imagine will be the most unique coffee experience in the city. Stay tuned.
The Coffee Collective
On my 4th day in Colombia, I spent the morning in Bogotá before catching an afternoon flight to the northern coast. Once all of my official business was done for the day, I had time to visit Amor Perfecto, a local specialty roaster who recently opened up a showcase coffee bar and education lab in the city.
Amor Perfecto, owned by Luis Fernando Velez and Jaime Raul Duque, is also the home of Ever Bernal, the current Colombian Barista Champion and was the first coffee company in Colombia to have someone compete in the World Championship. The Amor Perfecto roastery, which is just a few blocks from the café, is also home to Colombia’s first Loring SmartRoast.
The shop only features coffee grown in Colombia, but it offers a rotating selection from regions around the country. The first coffee I had was an AeroPress of the Boyacá, which is a fairly unknown coffee growing region just a few hours northeast of Bogotá. It has a very spicy chocolate taste profile that I don’t normally prefer, but it was really unique compared with the other coffees I’d been drinking all week.
I sat down with Luis and Jaime who told me about all the classes they provide to customers, from basic cupping to learning how to roast their own batch of coffee. Their goal is to provide an environment and experience where someone can come have a nice cup of coffee and relax, or if they choose learn everything they want about the process.
Along with their selection of coffee and a small assortment of baked goods, Amor Perfecto also offers single malt whiskey pairings with their coffee—an incredible dream come true. Sadly, I didn’t have time to stay and experience the pairing, but I look forward to doing so in the future. Unique pairings like this are something I’d really like to see and experience more of in the world of coffee.
The coffee shop and lab are on the ground floor of an old two-story home that’s been renovated to contrast a history of textures, modern lines and delicate woods. The modern furniture is illuminated by the natural light that washes through the front windows, the enclosed courtyard and translucent ceiling above the lab.
Upstairs are several rooms that include a dedicated training lab and classroom for teaching employees and friends in the industry. Everything about Amor Perfecto is considered and focused on growing the knowledge and capabilities of the baristas, roasters and interested customers engaged with the company.
If you happen to live in Bogotá or are visting Colombia for an extended time and need any kind of coffee gear, this shop is probably your best bet. Along with their coffee bar and coffee roasting duties, they are Colombia’s official distributors of AeroPress, Bodum and Nuova Simonelli espresso machines.
Amor Perfecto is a great example of how passion for coffee goes far beyond serving it. Because of their passion, the customers and baristas in Colombia will benefit greatly from the energy and quality brought to the city. Since the World Barista Championships took place in Bogotá last year, there has been a new found interest in discovering what coffee can be to Colombia besides just an export. It was great to meet the people at Amor Perfecto who are helping lead the way.
Cra 5 No. 70ª-60
For months now, there have been rumors that Denmark’s darling specialty coffee roaster, Coffee Collective, was expanding—as well as their interest in a Loring Smart Roaster. Less than a year after opening a new shop at Torvhallerne, those whispers have been confirmed with more details and an exclusive first look inside the new space.
4 ½ years ago The Coffee Collective opened their microroastery and coffee shop in a small basement in the at the time dodgy street ”Jægersborggade”. Since then the collective have opened another coffee shop at the food market Torvehallerne and is supplying coffee to shops all over Denmark. Now the time has come to get more space for roasting amazing coffees and at the same time try out yet another kind of coffee shop experience.
For the past few months the collective have been renovating an old factory building in the picturesque Frederiksberg. It will house a larger roastery with a 35 kg Loring Smart Roast, a larger office space and a coffee bar unlike any other in Denmark. Here The Coffee Collective wishes to focus more on the flavours in coffee rather than brew methods, and show just how different coffees can taste.
There will be a changing menu of brewed coffees, signature drinks and even a cupping session will be on the menu. The goal is both to get more people to focus on what they can taste in coffee as well as experience some of the amazing drinks from the barista competitions.
The roastery will be visible through a large glass wall, so you can see how the green coffee is transformed into brown, roasted beans. And all along you can relax in the shop while sipping the same coffee. Transparency is key, both in the coffee shop, the roastery and the way we do business. -Coffee Collective
While an opening date hasn’t been confirmed, I’d guess if you’re coming to the Nordic Barista Cup, you’ll have a chance to visit. Congratulations to Klaus and the crew as they continue to expand. Looking forward to walking across those liquid glass floors.