America's Best Coffee Cities 2013
Greg Vaughn / Alamy
Whether you want a single-origin pour-over or chicory with a splash of brandy, the best coffee bars serve much more than cream and sugar.
Before you order an espresso at a Seattle coffee bar, you can often read where the coffee beans came from, how those beans were roasted—and even a short résumé of the barista who’s making your cup.
“Coffee brewing is a science and an art, and is easy to mess up,” says Erin McCarthy, a barista with Counter Culture Coffee, and the 2013 World Brewers Cup Champion. “Just because you’re getting a coffee that may have been grown, harvested, processed, and roasted well, it doesn’t mean that these things will translate into the cup if the barista isn’t skilled—or doesn’t care.”
Such passion made Seattle a shoo-in to win the title of best coffee city, according to Travel + Leisure readers. In the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 35 cities on such features as friendly locals, cultural ambience, and ice cream.
The results prove that Seattle isn’t alone in elevating the morning cup of joe. At one coffeehouse in Providence, RI, they won’t serve any coffee that’s older than a half hour. In Portland, ME, a purveyor boasts about the local wood used in the roasting process. And in New York City (rated No. 9), a chain hosts coffee-making classes and cuppings, where you can taste and discuss the latest single-origin treasures like fine wines.
Some everyday fans may feel overwhelmed by the sophisticated options, say, whether to order a pour-over versus a siphon or drip. McCarthy says that, when in doubt, just treat your barista like a bartender. “Say, ‘This is what I tend to like—do you have anything similar to that?’ A good barista loves questions.”