In 2013 I spent six months in Australia where my coffee snob rating scaled off the charts. Those Aussies know how to make a good flat white and bad coffee just does not exist. Cape Town has, over the years, also developed a love for a good brew and it is now fairly easy to find great coffee.
Safe to say I am not the easiest to please and am known to spend a fair amount of time when on holiday look for a decent caffeine fix.
Although Americans are famous for loving their coffee, what you find is often a far cry from the incredible coffee we are used to at home. All one seems to find is an abundance of ‘drip coffee’ or flavoured lattes usually from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. To find a decent flat white requires a bit of a search mission. I have no doubt there are Americans reading this who vehemently disagree, but you’ll have to concede that finding great coffee is not that easy.
Below are some of the great coffee places we experienced while in the US on our most recent trip and some which we have enjoyed on prior trips. Hopefully this resource can save you some uncaffeinated morning minutes, while also resulting in some serious coffee satisfaction.
About Coffee (New York)
71 Sullivan Street, Soho
This tiny little shop could easily be missed if you’re not keeping your eyes peeled. About Coffee is really all about the coffee (see what I did there?) and with only a small selection of home-made cakes and pastries and limited seating this is really a grab-and-go type spot. We enjoyed a strong, creamy flat white as we explored the streets of the surrounding area. The Dominique Ansel bakery is just up the road if you want to compliment your coffee with one of their delicious pastries.
Blue Bottle Coffee (Multiple cities)
We first encountered Blue Bottle Coffee on a previous trip to the States in San Francisco. We constantly saw a stream of people with takeaway cups bearing the iconic blue bottle and decided an investigation was needed! The closest location to our hotel was in Mint Street, SOMA, which required an adventure through the Tenderloin District. If you’ve ever been to this part of San Francisco, an adventure may sound like a bit of an understatement when referring to the Tenderloin. Nevertheless, we reached our destination in one piece, but what we found appeared more like a science laboratory with funnels, siphons, blow torches and beakers set amongst various smoking glass jars and coffee cups. We were slightly skeptical although there was no need for skepticism. The coffee was sublime. Blue Bottle offers a number of different methods for delivering your chosen brew including Aeropress, French press, Chemex, Cold Brew as well as a number of blend and single origin beans. There are so many different options you’ll definitely be coming back again and again.
La Colombe Coffee (Predominantly East Coast)
La Colombe was founded in 2014 with its first store near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, which was the one we visited. What I loved about La Colombe was that while the coffee was great, they also had a large variety of delicious, buttery, flaky pastries to enjoy and ample seating where you could make yourself comfortable for an hour or two. This is definitely a brand to watch out for when looking for a decent coffee and with stores in NYC, Philly, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC and a few along the West Coast, it shouldn’t be too hard to find!
George Howell Coffee (Boston)
505 Washington Street, Ground floor The Godfrey Hotel
We discovered George Howell by using good old Google and searching for ‘best coffee in Boston.’ Luckily Google didn’t let us down and we arrived at a bustling store at the Godfrey Hotel for a great cup of coffee.
George Howell coffee has an interesting history. George Howell started his first coffee chain in 1974 called The Coffee Connection. This chain raised specialty coffee to new levels in the North East of the US and eventually expanded to 24 stores before being bought by Starbucks in 1994. After that Howell was extensively involved in working on economic models for coffee farmers worldwide with the United Nations. George Howell coffee was founded in 2004 and although only has three stores in Boston, the coffee is supplied to cafes and restaurants across the US. If you’re ever in Boston, I’d definitely recommend seeking out the closest George Howell café to sample their great coffee.
So that’s my round up of some great American chains selling small batch roasted beans and fantastic coffee. These are a great alternative to the big chains which seem to have lost their way a little. Click on the name of each brand to bring up the website where you’ll be able to find the locations nearest to where you’re staying.
And that, my friends, is my final post of our USA Honeymoon trip, which now seems like a lifetime ago! I hope these reviews will be a useful resource to those of you who may find yourself in the North East of America some day soon. And if, per chance, you happen to visit any of these glorious destinations, I’d love to hear what you think so please drop me a line.