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)
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.
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Gerry Leary, who is seeing impaired, was led by his curious passion and love for good food to start his own coffee company when he as introduced to coffee roasting on a visit to San Francisco in the early 90′s. After learning the audible cues of coffee roasting, Gerry began searching for a job with several companies, but was unable to find anyone who would hire him, unconvinced that he could roast by smell and sound alone. So Gerry opened his own roastery and later bought a struggling coffee shop to learn more about his coffee and his customers.
The film was created by Ira Chute for Whole Food’s online magazine Dark Rye and offers an inspiring look at how far motivation can take a person, no matter what obstacles they may face. Beautifully filmed and heartwarming. Grab a fresh cup and enjoy.
The Unseen Bean
Stumptown just released the latest installment of their video series, which in the past has captured the beauty and the process of hard work that takes place at origin, now highlights the passion for coffee from within Stumptown’s own walls.
The film shares an honest and poetic behind-the-scenes look at Stumptown and serves as a tribute to the coffee loving team who live for the work that they do. It’s a well polished glimpse of the industry for the professional coffee crowd or just the coffee curious, with the kind of aspirational sheen you’d expect from a Levi’s commercial.
Created by Trevor Fife, the filmmaker who’s famous for the opening credits of True Blood and the BMW Unscripted series, does the specialty coffee industry far more justice than the Travel Channel has. Brew a fresh cup and enjoy.
Trevor has been a long-time collaborator with Stumptown: traveling to source with Duane starting in 2006, shooting films on farms like Guatemala Finca El Injerto, and traveling across Colombia, Ethiopia and Kenya, blending clean, pristine digital images with gritty and textural Super 8 and 16mm film. His work is not only easy on the eyes but captures the living, breathing spirit behind the coffee farms and the surrounding communities.
via Stumptown Coffee
Happy New Year everyone! While looking forward to great things in the coming year, here’s a look back at 2012—a great year for drinking coffee. It was my first full year living in Sweden so there was a big shift in the coffees I was able to have on a regular basis at home. Thanks to a few trips back to the US and those generous and willing enough to ship overseas I was still able to get a fair share of coffee from US roasters as well, many of which the bags were given away to other coffee lovers on this side of the world.
A few things I noticed in 2012 that I’m looking forward to becoming even more prominent in 2013 are the continued variety of fantastic coffees from El Salvador and coffees from new areas in Ethiopia, which taste great, but nothing like Yirgacheffe. I can also confirm that every coffee I tasted from Sumatra was still absolutely terrible.
All of the coffee bags above can be browsed in large scale on Flickr (or Pinterest)
Most Memorable Coffees
- Elida Estate Green-Tip Gesha, Panama. Verve Coffee
- Finca Los Lajones Gesha, Panama. Verve Coffee
- Michiti, Ethiopia. Tim Wendelboe
- Barrantes, Costa Rica. Koppi Coffee
- Yukro, Ethiopia. Coffee Collective
- El Diamante, Guatemala. Coffee Collective
- Elephante, El Salvador. Madcap Coffee
- El Majahual, El Salvador. Da Matteo
- Kiryama, Burundi. Seven Seeds
- Bufcafe, Rwanda. Detour Coffee
You can view last year’s coffee consumption here.
For the second year in a row, Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz have wrapped their limited Gesha offerings in lovely cans that reflect just how special these coffees are. While I won’t be reviewing the coffees, which Verve was kind enough to send all the way to Sweden, but I will say that they were two of the finest I’ve tasted in 2012.
Gesha (or Geisha) coffee is a variety of coffee cultivar that is known among coffee connoisseurs as one of the most unique and complex coffees available. Excluding the immoral and over-hyped coffees that are extracted from animal poop, Gesha coffee is the most expensive in the world. In 2010, Gesha from La Hacienda Esmeralda set a new record at auction with a price of $170/lb. for green, unroasted beans.
Last year’s cans were dressed in black, but this year they’ve taken on a lighter tone, adding a new level of elegance to the industry common theme of black-on-craft aesthetic. The labeled cans are letter pressed, foil-stamped and hand numbered, but are beautifully simple and refined, contrasting the complexity of Verve’s standard bags.
The cans remind me of whiskey bottles that often come packed in elegant tubes to better protect the luxurious products inside. When you’re paying $45 to $65 for half a pound of the world’s finest coffee beans, the buyer may expect more than just a different sticker on a standard coffee bag. While others have used glass jars in equally elegant ways, these cans create the same impact without greatly affecting the shipping weight.
Investing in design to better communicate the value of your product is a great way to change the perceptions of those who see coffee as a cheap commodity with no difference in quality, no matter where it comes from. If specialty coffee truly is special, it should begin to look and feel that way more often than it does now.
Finca Los Lajones Gesha Natural – 8oz – $45
Panama Elida Green-Tip Gesha – 8oz – $65 (Sold Out)
My good friends at Koppi Coffee in Helsingborg, Sweden have teamed up with local tattoo hero Jonas Pedersen at Crooked Moon to bring us this fantastic t-shirt. Jonas has several unique styles, but his Cherokee inspired mandalas and native indian art have always been personal favorites (she’s crying because she ran out of coffee).
Koppi is taking pre-orders to cut down on excess inventory and to try and deliver before the holidays. If I were to add one more item to the DCILY Coffee Lover Gift Guide, it would be this t-shirt and a few bags of Koppi coffee. These shirts are un-branded, 100% cotton, and delightfully soft. Sizes run small (think American Apparel fitted).
Price includes shipping from Sweden: 220sek ($33 or 21£ or 25 €)
Orders must be in by 5 December
If you’d like to order one, send an email with subject “T-shirt” to email@example.com
Another day, another beautiful video from Coffee Circle. This one takes a look at espresso, one simple step at a time. Very zen. I think I’ll have another.
The perfect shot of espresso is one of the greatest gifts you can enjoy in your day. It’s hard to describe unless you taste it. However, in this video you find the most important steps of preparation to follow on your way to achieve a great espresso. Enjoy! - Coffee Circle
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