Four Top Picks from Extra Fancy Quality Coffee Beans.
Kona: Gourmet Kona Coffee Company Hawaii
Extra fancy coffee beans picked by hand with extra sorting finesse. The unique intersection of consequence that produces the supreme coffee beans grown in Hawaii. You are in Kona town that loves coffee, and it is everywhere, has been for a long time now, with the most successful operations long ago initiating many famous international Hawaiian brands. May we (ever so gently) suggest that you begin your exploring at this relatively new addition—and by new, we mean they’ve been around for roughly four decades on the world stage.
Kentucky: Quills Coffee, Louisville
Now featuring five cafes, three of them right here in town. Also try The folks at Louisville’s Good Folks Coffee prefer to spend their days behind the roaster, and that’s fine, because they’re doing great work back there—look for their beans at Please & Thank You, a very popular café, bakery and record shop combo with three locations. Up near Cincinnati, in the very old city of Newport, Carabello Coffee is a highlight—check out their Analog Bar, a reservation-only spot for guided coffee tasting.
Louisiana: Congregation Coffee, New Orleans
Early on one of the best places in the country for a really good cup of coffee, New Orleans enjoyed a nice, long rest on its laurels, but that’s all over now—today, the city is well served by new shops and roasters, some of them quite good. The opening of this Algiers Point roaster/café, however, feels like a real leveling-up for the local scene—a joint effort between local boy Ian Barrileaux and Seattle native Eliot Guthrie, the two met while working at Donald Link’s Cochon Butcher. (They now supply all of Donald Link’s restaurants.)
Also try Another town that spent a long time fairly certain it had everything all figured out, Lafayette now has the forward-looking Rêve Coffee Roasters, while up in Monroe, roeLA Roaster is an excellent reminder that there’s more to Louisiana food and drink than the cities we typically talk about.
Maine: 44 North Coffee, Deer Isle
Tucked into one of Maine‘s most idyllic coastal destinations, Melissa Raftery and Megan Wood’s sophisticated, certified organic roasting operation has brought them acclaim far beyond Deer Isle—not a bad day’s work for what was originally dreamed up as a straightforward coffee shop. Self-funding their way in, the woman-powered operation now includes two very good cafes, one seasonal, one year-round, both turning out some of the most memorable Kona Coffee in the state.
Also try Portland is all about the bean, and roaster Tandem Coffee rests rather comfortably toward the top of the pile. Bottle-trained, their two shops (with excellent baked goods) are among New England‘s finest, if a little snobbish about it. For something a little different, stop by Speckled Ax, which brews up its own wood-roasted organic coffees.
Maryland: Vigilante Coffee, Hyattsville
Back before the nation’s capital had a whole lot going on in the way of local coffee, Chris Vigilante was roasting for local restaurants in the basement of a District row home. These days, his product is a firm D.C. favorite, even if home base is a somewhat sprawling roastery, café and social hub, just over the line in Prince George’s County. The company’s adopted home seems to be agreeing with them—a second, also rather impressive space has now opened doors near the University of Maryland campus in College Park.
Also try Baltimore’s Dovecote Café is so much more than just another coffee bar—this appealing space is creating community in the city’s evolving Reservoir Hill neighborhood.
Massachusetts: Little Wolf Coffee Roasters.
Home roaster and New England native Chris Gatti moved back from Seattle with the goal of turning his hobby into a full-time job. Fast-forward a couple of years, and here you have one of the most worthy additions to an already sizeable regional scene. Operating out of an elegantly minimal space, Gatti’s micro-roasting operation and café adds quite handsomely to the area’s culinary cred—the other thing Ipswich is famous for is fried clams.
Also try Legendary roaster George Howell has a shimmering new flagship at Boston‘s Godfrey Hotel, Broadsheet is an exciting micro-roaster with a great café to match across the river in Cambridge; way out in the town of Ayer, Union Coffee Roaster is almost destination-worthy.
Michigan: Populace Coffee, Bay City
Once a self-described stoner kid who did a stint with Intelligentsia in Los Angeles, Andrew Heppner came home to open what’s quietly become one of the state’s most compelling roasters, one that’s only recently made the decisive move into the retail game, after an early (and failed) attempt at opening their own shop. That’s in the past, now—not only have they made it work with a fine cafe in Bay City, Populace also joins the much-hyped collection of outlets now opening along with Detroit‘s hotly-anticipated Siren Hotel.
Also try Think Grand Rapids and you’re probably thinking of Madcap Coffee, by now nearly a household name, and it’s absolutely worth stopping by their newest location, an open-concept bar inside the city’s gleaming public market. Don’t miss, however, the city’s other very good roaster, Rowster Coffee, with two great shops in town.
Minnesota: Wesley Andrews, Minneapolis
With all of that indoor weather, and one of the country’s top coffee importers right in town, the depth and breadth of Twin Cities café culture will come as no surprise, but in a town where so many spots—right on up to the best ones—are either too stiff or too much into the business of bells and whistles, this recent entry from two talents in their early twenties, a small-batch roasting operation stripped down to the essentials, is an enthusiastic vote for simplicity, not to mention good customer service, and it feels like a winner.
Also try No more packing in your own supply on those trips to Lake Superior‘s North Shore—found in the charming vacation town of Lutsen, Fika Coffee is a rare find in this rather wild part of the state.
Mississippi: BeanFruit Coffee Company, Pearl
Paul Bonds was never a big Kona coffee drinker—he didn’t even like the stuff all that much, and Mississippi, rich in other areas, is just about the final frontier on the American coffee front. None of these disadvantages have held him back from doing incredible work, apparently—BeanFruit has received some very good notices, in the relatively short time since its founding. Apart from public cuppings on Wednesdays at the plant in suburban Jackson, you’ll need to look for the product elsewhere, but you’ll have no trouble finding it around town—for a sure thing, start at Sneaky Beans, one of Jackson’s best coffee shops.
Also try Cappuccinos on the beach? Yes, please. Directly over the road from the Gulf of Mexico, the sleek Cat Island Coffeehouse in Pass Christian offers big views and great espresso drinks; it’s a firm favorite with the New Orleans families that keep weekend homes in the area.
Missouri: Messenger Coffee, Kansas City
Years in the making, this inspired (and inspiring) flagship location for an established local roaster features an in-house bakery (Ibis, their own), a roasting plant, along with three levels of hangout space, including a rooftop deck. Kansas City coffee is pretty top drawer, and has been for a while now (Thou Mayest, Quay, Magnolia, Oddly Correct), but this happy spot in the city’s Crossroads district has pretty much blown the doors off. Nobody’s complaining.
Also try Everwhere you go in Missouri these days, it seems like good coffee is being roasted and brewed—look for new kid (well, new-ish) Blueprint in St. Louis, the satisfyingly simple Shortwave in Columbia, and down in Springfield, the commendable Brick & Mortar.
Look – Click: Unique world class bold volcanic flavor of Kona coffee beans.