There are 2 countries on this planet that somehow are connected to me, to my soul. Two countries that have pulled me and are still pulling me over to its very soil. This is Japan and these are the United States of America.
If someone would offer me money to hop on a plane and choose a place to travel to where I wanted it, it would be either one of these countries. I can’t really tell why. Seriously!
Something in my heart and deep in my soul must be closely bind with those two countries. It’s this nostalgic feeling, like a memory I’d never ever wanna forget, but feel, see and visit over and over again.
I’ve been to Japan five times already, let’s just see, when it’ll be the next time. ;-) The US has seen me more often, three or actually four times by now.
What’s with that ‘coffee thing’?
This website is dedicated to coffee traveling, so specialty coffee has been part of my life and my travels for a little while now.
Since specialty coffee hooked me about 6 years ago, my main purpose on exploring my travel destinations and those countries is this: Discovering the specialty coffee scene of the bigger cities.
Exploring the United States one cup of specialty coffee at a time
This article is by no means complete. There are so so many great cities and coffee places I didn’t get to visit, yet. I have to come back and do this, though. ;-)
My specialty coffee tour through the US in summer 2016 lasted about 7 weeks and brought me to these wonderful (coffee) cities:
New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Seattle, Portland and San Francisco resp. the Bay Area.
How did I choose those cities?
Well, it was a mix of visiting and being able to stay with friends, having heard of the amazing coffee scene and curiosity.
The latter is accompanying my whole life already. I’m quite sure, if I wouldn’t be that curious and, yes, sometimes courageous, I wouldn’t be seeing so many wonderful places and being able to meet even more wonderful people.
How did I travel?
Back in summer 2016 I’ve lived in Frankfurt, Germany. So, I took a flight to New York City out of Frankfurt and already had booked my flight back to Germany, which made it a lot easier entering the US to be honest.
Traveling through the country to get from one coffee city to another was mainly booked spontaneously. The only pre booked trip was the flight from the East to the West Coast, D.C. to Seattle.
For the other trips between the cities I either took busses – I mainly booked via wanderu or with Greyhound busses directly – or trains.
It’s such a scenic ride sitting in the ‘view car’, Amtrak calls it ‘Lounge’, and with the super friendly volunteers telling you about what to see and look out for during the train ride.
For the trip down to San Francisco (from Portland) I thought about road tripping and booking a car. This was after I learned that I wouldn’t be traveling together with Josh Littlefield of Great American Coffee Tour – Read and hear more about his tour here – down that part of his trip, though.
I decided not to take that car and against another – what could’ve been a great – adventure, a road trip through California, because of two things:
- Renting a car was more expensive in total than booking a flight.
- Time, guys! I already imagined myself spending about 10 hours in total behind a steering wheel and having to stop for a motel to crash in between… OR spending these precious hours in some more coffee places in San Fran… Well, the decision came easy and fast.
Where did I stay?
As mentioned earlier, I’ve also visited friends or friends of friends. So I was super lucky to not have to take care about finding a place to stay in New York City, D.C., Portland and San Fran resp. the Bay Area (Palo Alto).
I’m especially thankful for Antje and her family in Portland. They didn’t know me at all, but through some friends of friend’s connections, I got to stay with them for 5 wonderful days!
As for Philly and Seattle, I went for Couchsurfing. Back then it was the very first time for me actually doing this and as for Seattle it was super tight to actually find a place to stay at, but it worked out eventually.
For everyone who never did Couchsurfing before, but thinking about doing it, keep in mind, that the approach of Couchsurfing is not to offer you a free accommodation at your travel destination. It rather wants to connect different cultures and people from around the world. If you’re up to meeting new people and seeing the city or area you’re visiting through the eyes of locals, go for it!
I was super lucky the two times I did it in the US. In Philly I had an own room for myself (which is rare, since – as the name already tells it – most of the times, you’re crashing on couches).
And that’s what I actually did in Seattle; I spent my nights on the family couch of a young father and his little son. The best part, though, was the house and the garden – I got to pick raspberries every morning for my muesli. ;-)
Keep in mind as well that staying at Couchsurfing places might bring you to homes that are more in remote areas and not in the city centers as you might get it when booking Airb’n’b rooms/apartments and hostels or hotels.
How did I spend my days?
Since I’m self employed and can work from anywhere in the world, if I have my laptop with me – Wi-Fi needs to be provided, though –, I spent parts of my days working, blogging and writing.
I’m a Yoga practitioner, too. So, a huge part of my morning routine is spent with doing Yoga every second day, if possible, meditating and having a healthy breakfast (plus coffee, if I’m not café hopping).
When I wasn’t working and doing my morning routine, I went café hopping. To find the places to go to, I sat down with my list of coffee places I wanted to visit. Huge shout out to Josh of Great American Coffee Tour again for providing me with awesome tips, suggestions and getting me in touch with amazing coffee people throughout the US.
In order for being able to see & visit as many coffee places that I could, I created walking tours (or using the public transport) for myself with coffee shops, cafes and roasteries that I wanted to visit or coffee people I wanted to meet.
So, I basically spent my mornings with doing my morning routine and working and my middays and afternoons with coffee, photographing and connecting with coffee people of that very city I was visiting.
How many coffee shops did I visit actually and why?
Mostly I’ve been able to visit 3-4, some days only 2, other days up to 5 places per day.
I’ve stayed in New York City for about 2 weeks, in Philly about 4 days, D.C. had been 4 days as well. Seattle was about 5 days and Portland about 6 days. In San Fran or to be more precise the Bay Area, I’ve spent about 2 weeks again.
If you do the math here I’ve visited 22 coffee places in New York City, Philly 11 shops, D.C. 9 places, Seattle 19 specialty cafes and roasteries, Portland counted 18 shops and the Bay Area marked 15 coffee places.
This is in total; hold tight dear reader, 94 specialty coffee shops, cafes and roasteries!
Oh, my god! I haven’t actually done the counting before writing that blog article and am amazed myself. I didn’t expect them to be close to 100!
How did I connect to the local coffee scene?
But, I’m not just visiting those coffee places, taking photos, sipping on a coffee and that’s it. No, my approach goes a little further:
I want to connect with locals over a coffee, preferably the owners, managers or directors of the very coffee shop I was visiting, or one of the baristas.
I tend to ask questions, as well:
What’s the specialty coffee scene/community like in the city? What’s special about the very shop? What’s the story of the café or roastery? And such.
Most of the times it was super easy to connect with them, because my first question would always be, if I could take some photos. Almost everyone wanted to know what I was taking photos for and I replied ‘for my blog’… And, there you have it, a (coffee) conversation. ;-)
These conversations actually keep going on. The coffee people I’ve met during my trip and the ones I got introduced to broaden my international specialty coffee network until today and are inspiring me for blog articles and episodes for my podcast ‘adding some flavor | a coffee marketing podcast.
And, wherever I go, whatever coffee shop I visit, I want to try something new. I don’t always go for the usual Flat White, cappuccino or filter coffee. I like to try cold brews, nitro coffee (I had an amazing Draft Latte at La Colombe!), signature drinks or coffee cocktail creations crafted by skilled baristas.
I literally sipped me through the specialty coffee menus of these 6 cities. And, I loved it!
Part of this blog is inspired by this coffee trip through the US. More will follow very soon, especially more walking guides and more cities! Keep your eyes open! :-D
This is my list of places I’ve visited in New York City, Philly, D.C., Seattle, Portland and the Bay Area in detail with some photos and infos to highlight each shop as well as some impressions of the city.
New York City
Cafes & roasteries I’ve been to in Manhattan & Brooklyn
Boxkite has two locations in NYC, I’ve visited the one on the Upper West Side, almost missed it, because it’s so tiny.
Little Collins named after the street in Melbourne is on Lexington Ave, just a few blocks from Central Park.
Everyman Espresso has three cafe locations, I’ve been to the ones on West Broadway and in East Village.
Hi Collar is a Western inspired Japanese style cafe during the day and a Sake bar at night. Highly recommended! ;-)
Underline Coffee is just below famous High Line and serves delicious signature drink creations besides their usual coffee menu.
Terremoto Coffee impresses with its golden design details, especially the golden Slayer!
Chalait has three cafe locations now. The one I’ve been to closed shortly after I visited and reopened at another location.
The Elk is a beautiful specialty cafe with bright wooden details inspired by the owners roots in the Pacific Northwest.
City of Saints Coffee Roasters has three locations in NYC. I’ve visited the one on 79 East 10th Street. Beautiful coffee packagings.
Gasoline Alley Coffee has three cafes as well. I’ve been to the one right at the corner in Lafayette Street. See also the photo above with the flat building in the middle. That’s where the cafe is located. You can enter from either one of the sides.
Voyager Espresso in the lower subway level at 110 William Street. Make sure to go here, their counter is pretty impressive. Try their house-made almond macadamia mylk, so smooth & creamy.
Ninth Street Espresso is NYC’s first independent specialty coffee roastery est. in 2001 and has 5 shops today. I’ve been to their very first shop on 9th street.
Happy Bones used to be a ‘walk-in-fridge’ – No kidding! – owned by 3 very creative guys originally from New Zealand.
Freehold in Brooklyn or rather Williamsburg is a huge space, cafe & restaurant, working space & playground.
I’ve attended a crazy pre 4th of July event there with a Hot Dog competition going on…No, I didn’t compete! :-D
Devocion, Brooklyn with an amazing approach: The owners are from Colombia as well as their coffees, the art & photography they showcase in the cafe and their playlist! LOVE that!
Oslo Coffee Roasters have three cafe locations with two of them being in Williamsburg. I’ve been to the one on Bedford Ave.
Irving Farm Coffee Roasters have 7 cafe locations in NYC! I’ve visited the one on Upper East Side that had just opened and talked to Brandon, Buildings Director of Irving Farm.
Third Rail Coffee is a multi-roaster cafe with 2 locations throughout NYC. I’ve visited their shop in East Village and talked to talented Carlos, Director of Coffee & pastry chef.
Birch Coffee is a coffee roaster with 8 coffee shops in NYC and an amazing approach for their cafes, e.g. little cards to pick as a customer and start a conversation that’d say something like ‘my day before we met here today’ with your neighbor.
I’ve been to the cafe close to the famous Flatiron building with the huge wooden table in the middle and the little library. Watch their ‘stay regular’ series! It’s a MUST!
Joe Pro Shop & Headquarters. They have multiple locations in NYC and Philly. The Pro Shop & HQ sells all sorts of coffee gear and is offering barista classes, too. First time I’ve seen The Barn coffee from Berlin in the US.
Grumpy Cafe is a coffee roastery & cafe with 9 shops throughout NYC. I went to their Chelsea location with a beautiful back garden. Alas my barista was super grumpy that day… Oh, wait, maybe that’s part of the deal. ;-)
Cafes & roasteries I’ve been to in Philadelphia
Rival Bros just opened their 2nd cafe location a couple months ago. I’ve visited their first shop on Lombard Street during my stay in Philly.
Square One Coffee Roasters is a family owned micro roastery with 2 cafe & retail locations in Philly. I loved their signature drink creations that not always are on the menu. ;-)
Grindcore House is actually not a specialty coffee place, but an all vegan coffee house in the South of Philly.
I had the most amazing, delicious and giant vegan cinnamon roll EVER there… Go, try them, they’re to die for!!!
Ox Coffee est. in 2013 by two friends. If you love music & records you should definitely check this place out. Every barista on duty gets to choose his or her own playlist for their shift.
Menagerie is a specialty coffee shop in the heart of Philly’s Old City. It’s interior is mainly inspired by the Nordic/Scandinavian lifestyle.
La Colombe has 4 cafes in Philly, one of them is the one in Philly’s neighborhood Fishtown that I went to because it got recommended to me. And it didn’t disappoint me: A huge location with a Pizza oven, large merchandising area and an own distillery in the back.
I had an amazing Draft Latte, it’s basically like a mix of a soft serve and a milkshake with a splash of espresso for the coffee flavor. Deliciousness!!! :-)
ReAnimator Coffee is a specialty coffee roaster out of Philly with 2 locations there. I’ve been to the one in Fishtown right around the corner actually from La Colombe.
Check out my Guide to specialty coffee in Philly here for more inspirations on Philly its specialty coffee and food scene. ;-)
Cafes & roasteries I’ve been to in Washington D.C.
Sidamo Coffee & Tea is not a specialty coffee place, but it caught my attention with their huge signage – an Ethiopian style coffee pot and the name saying Sidamo (which is a coffee growing region in Ethiopia), while walking along H street. They do an Ethiopian coffee ceremony each Sunday.
Slipstream D.C. is a coffee/cocktail & beer shop on 14th Street. What the homepage doesn’t tell you, they serve delicious and very creative coffee cocktails, too.
Like the one right here, which is a Kenyan espresso, house-made rhubarb syrup, grapefruit and tonic water. So basically an Espresso Tonic with a seasonal twist. The recipe has been created by one of the baristas.
Peregrine Espresso is also located on 14th Street as well as in Eastern Market and Union Market. I’ve visited the one on 14th and when exploring the market hall ‘Union Market’.
The Wydown have two cafe locations now in D.C., the on 14th I’ve been to and another one at H Street in the Apollo building only a couple blocks from Sidamo Coffee & Tea.
Filter Coffeehouse & Espresso Bar have two locations as of now. Unfortunately the larger shop in Brookland that they shared with the bike shop and I’ve been to as well is closed permanently.
Colony Club is a coffee shop during the day and a bar at night. Literally! They remove all of their coffee equipment, the pastries and everything and only serve beers, wine and cocktails after 5pm. They also do karaoke, lectures, Jazz nights. Ping Pong table is upstairs, too!
Qualia Coffee is a little roastery roasting coffee beans all year round except for Dec. 25th (bday of the owner and, oh, yeah, christmas day, too ;-) ). No, I’m not kidding and it’s not just written on their website, I heard it from Joel, owner & roaster himself!
Pineapple & Pearls is a coffee bar and a restaurant in South East D.C. Check out their white golden Slayer and definitely try their homemade pastries that are showcased on the counter, especially their signature pastry with pineapple.
Baked & Wired is a cupcake shop and a cafe in Georgetown serving coffees from Intelligentsia & Stumptown.
This is me inside of the shop, cupcake deliciousness in the back. :-D
Seattle / Washington state
Cafes & roasteries I’ve been to in Seattle
Storyville has 4 coffee shops in Seattle. I’ve been to the one at Pike Place Market that has a nice view over the harbor. It’s a coffee company with a mission: to end human trafficking.
Starbucks Reserve Even, if you don’t like Starbucks coffee (like me), you HAVE to go to the Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room on Pike Street. It’s like Willy Wonka & the chocolate factory, just with coffee.
Victrola Coffee Roasters is just a few walking minutes up Pike Street from the Reserve. The first thing the baristas at Victrola told me was, people go to the Reserve for the experience, but stop by for the coffee at Victrola. And I guess that’s pretty much true. Love their videos & Facebook Lives btw.
Analog is a multi-roaster coffee shop at Capitol Hill. I entered the shop right before closing time, so not much time to check it out and take photos. They just started a breakfast & lunch spot called B-side serving English muffin sandwiches.
La Marzzocco Café & Showroom is located at KEXP Seattle Center Campus. It’s an amazing spot, perfect for people watching, the baristas as well as the KEXP radio show host behind the glas window. Each month a new roaster is taking over the menu at the cafe.
Street Bean Coffee Roasters impressed me by its approach: Getting young kids off the streets by offering them the opportunity to become a barista and reclaim their lives within the Seattle community.
General Porpoise is a multi-roaster cafe and bakery for home made doughnuts that are freshly baked each day.
If you know German doughnuts or ‘Berliners’, they taste pretty much the same. When visiting the shop, I had one doughnut right there and took another one with me. Why? Just because… :-D
Metier Racing & Coffee is a bike shop / training space / cafe / after-work beer spot. Wanna know, what I had, when visiting the shop? A Chai Latte. Cafehopping days need variety!
Porchlight Coffee & Records is a specialty coffee shop on Capitol Hill AND a record shop selling new and used vinyl as well as tons of merchandising that they also sell in their online store.
Caffe Vita is one of the oldest coffee roasteries in Seattle and has nine cafe locations. It is a Second Wave cafe concept with offering more medium roasted coffees. I’ve been to the shop on Pike St. just a few minutes away from Porchlight Coffee & Records.
Café Barjot is not a specialty cafe or coffee shop, but it offers delicious breakfast options for affordable prices. All of their food items are made from scratch. Oh, and they have Nitro cold brew!
Espresso Vivace is the oldest roastery in town. They roast coffee since 1992, Northern Italian style. No specialty coffee, no Thirdwave approach, just a great espresso blend, caramel roasted. I’ve been to their oldest shop or rather a sidewalk coffee stand at Capitol Hill.
Jibe Espresso Bar is a coffee shop located right at Seattle’s Shilshole Bay Marina in Ballard. If you’re heading there, take a look down to your feet, there are hundreds of coins on the floor.
Royal Drummer is a cafe and restaurant serving home made items and coffee from local roasteries. They’re offering very creative seasonal coffee drinks, too.
The Conservatory is not actually a cafe, but an arts & events space in Seattle’s Georgetown. Love their approach: “… a place for artists to learn, share, create and enjoy an espresso.”
Elm Coffee Roasters is a specialty coffee roastery in Seattle’s Pionieer Square. Owner Brendan helped open and manage Joe Pro Shop in NYC before he opened his own shop in 2013.
Convoy Coffee is a coffee bar just around the corner of Elm and sits inside of a co-working space serving single origin specialty coffees from independent Washington roasters.
London Plane is not a specialty coffee shop, but a beautiful shop for flowers, specialty groceries and a bakery.
Slate Coffee Roasters is a specialty coffee roastery pursuing lighter roasted coffees. Slate Coffee has three cafe locations.
I’ve visited the one at Pioneer Square and was lucky enough to not only get a delicious coffee cocktail, but also a so-called Deconstructed espresso: An espresso, non processed organic milk and a macchiato. Makes a nice shot – pun intended! ;-)
Portland / Oregon
Cafes & roasteries I’ve been to in Portland / Oregon
Sterling Coffee Roasters is a specialty coffee roastery that serves espresso in a Whisky glas, “…for the nose and for the development of the flavors…” as I was told. They also say, their cappuccino is one of the best in town (I had one and it was pretty good!). They soon will be moving to a new location. So head to their cute little shop now. :-D
Barista is a multiroaster cafe with multiple locations throughout Portland. I’ve been to their first cafe and now flagship shop in Pearl district.
Water Avenue is an artisan coffee roastery that tend to roast more medium – “It’s about the customer!” Loved all the details around water and canoeing in the cafe.
Heart Coffee Roasters is a specialty coffee roastery with now 2 cafe / retail locations in Portland and selling whole sale coffee throughout the US. I’ve been to their Westside location in Pearl.
Case Study I visited all three of their cafes. The best one to me was the one with the giant caffeine molecule hanging from their ceiling on Alberta St. (see photo above).
Stumptown is one of the first specialty coffee roastery in the US with now multiple cafe locations in the US. I’ve visited their Headquarters and had a very interesting conversation about Direct Trade, quality coffee and competition.
I’ve also been to their very first cafe location on Division St. and had a Nitro cold brew from tab. No, this is not a beer… ;-)
Cup & Bar is a cafe, chocolate manufactory (Ranger chocolate) and coffee roastery (Trailhead Coffee Roasters) under one roof. Their Avo toast is TO DIE FOR!!! They offer chocolate factory tours & tastings, too!
Ristretto I’ve visited their Couch St. location during a coffee walking tour of Lora from Thirdwavecoffeetours. I didn’t have them on my radar, but they’re apparently a big deal in Portland with 5 cafe locations and doing wholesale coffee to local cafes, restaurants and markets.
Buckman Coffee Factory is a shared-facility roastery, education hall and event space. I’ve attended a cupping with coffees solely from Guatemalan farms and had great coffee chats with other like-minded coffee people there.
Upper Left Roasters is a specialty cafe and roastery on the outer edge of Portland’s Ladd Circle and Rose Gardens and a beautiful cafe venue. They offer special roasts for some of their favorite drinks.
Good Coffee offers even more beautiful cafe venues… I’ve visited their cafe in Buckman, just up the street from Upper Left and around the corner of Buckman Coffee Factory. They offer phenomenal seasonal signature drinks, too.
Elevator Cafe & Commons was a lucky discovery during my cafe hopping tour in the Buckman neighborhood and so so worth the visit! This place used to be an old roasting plant and now turned into a co-working space and a cafe.
Coava Coffee Roasters have three locations in Portland. I’ve been to the one on Grand Ave which they share with woodworks shop that did all of their interiors. It’s also their first location, the first roaster, a Probat, is still in use for show roastings.
Either/Or is a bit further out of the city center, but a must visit! You mainly go there for their signature & seasonal drinks, like I did! ;-)
Dapper & Wise has two cafe locations, I’ve been to their Division St. cafe. They’e also coffee roasters and have a Coffee Lab, where you can learn about taste and experience D & W’s coffees.
Coco Donuts is a cafe concept offering their own roasted coffees and their handcrafted and freshly made donuts each day. I’ve been to their newer shop in Skidmore Street not too far away from Alberta St.
Locale is a cafe serving Heart coffee during the day and a wine & beer bar during the night. Locale does table service and serves their espressos in cognac glasses. They now have a beautiful wallpaper that wasn’t there, when I visited, yet. Very chic.
San Francisco & the Bay Area
Cafes & roasteries I’ve been to in San Francisco & the Bay Area
Blue Bottle Coffee is specialty coffee chain actually. They have so many cafe locations all around the globe by now. I’ve visited one of their shops in Palo Alto / Silicon Valley.
Ritual is another trailblazer of specialty coffee out of San Fran owned and run by a woman! I’ve been to three of their cafe locations on Valencia Street (their very first shop), in Hayes Valley (awesome shop, an old ship container) and one of their newer shops at Haight Street.
Linea Caffe was a recommendation of a (roaster) friend of mine, who lives in the Bay Area. Andrew Barnett, the owner of Linea Caffe, and him know each other very well.
Wrecking Ball Coffee is a specialty coffee roastery. Probably has the most famous wallpaper on Instagram, and great coffee, too. ;-) Their headquarters and roastery is on Folsom Street.
Four Barrel Coffee is a specialty coffee roastery with a huge shop on Valencia Street. Check out their hidden gem cafe location Caledonia Coffee on weekends, which you can enter through the back door. But, shh… I didn’t tell you… ;-)
Saint Frank Coffee is a specialty coffee shop that just started roasting their own coffees in 2016. Their San Fran shop is close to famous Lombard Street. They just recently opened another shop at Facebook in Menlo Park.
Sightglass Coffee is another specialty coffee roastery out of San Fran with multiple locations throughout the city. I’ve been to their giant location in SOMA District, their flagship store. Try one of the Affogatos at their Affogato Bar.
Mazarine Coffee is a coffee shop that serves coffees from multiple specialty roasteries and a broad food menu. I’ve tried one of their sandwiches.
The Mill is a bakery and coffee shop serving Four Barrel Coffee. The venue is really worth a visit with the high shelves full of ceramics and the house baked bread.
Andytown Coffee Roasters has two cafe locations now. I’ve visited their first shop that is close to the Ocean coast. When heading to Andytown in summer, make sure to try their famous Snowy Plower, basically an espresso shot, simply syrup, sparkling water and a giant dash of their homemade whipped cream on top.
Artís Coffee is a coffee roastery with multiple locations in San Fran roasting coffee – on demand and in small batches – in each shop with a Java Master roaster (similar to a popcorn popper).
George and Lennie is such a unique coffee shop! It’s ‘Beardo’, the bearded guy in the photo above, butter coffee, the country music playing – at least, while I was there – and all those green details! Loved that place!