In a sea of mega-chain coffee shops with an identical footprint taking over the landscape, it’s easy to miss some of the impressive local, independent chains around the country. These are 10 of the most celebrated local coffee chains in the United States, each of which is worth trying out if you find yourself in the area.
Firestorm Cafe and Books – Asheville, North Carolina
Rated one of the 10 Coolest Independent Coffee Shops Across the US by Zagat in 2011, Firestorm Cafe & Books in Asheville, North Carolina is widely regarded as one of the coolest spots in town. A worker-owned and managed business, Firestorm brings something of the counter culture to every cup of coffee.
Joe the Art of Coffee – New York and Philadelphia
There’s something about coffee culture and New York City that go hand in hand, a theory further proven by the minds behind the Joe chain. The winners of a 2013 Good Food Award for their Ethiopian Camp roast and new digs in Philadelphia make the decade-old Joe the Art of Coffee a local chain to watch.
Ritual Coffee Roasters – San Francisco, California
With beans sourced from Central America, South America and Africa, Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco boasts three locations around the region and consistently wins awards for their high-quality brew.
Bongo Java – Nashville, Tennessee
The original Bongo Java location in Nashville, Tennessee is the Music City’s oldest coffee company, established in 1993. Since then, the chain has grown to encompass a Bongo Java Roasting Company, Fido, Cafe East and Grins Vegetarian Cafe.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters – Portland, Oregon
Stumptown started as a local chain in Portland, Oregon, but has since expanded to the Atlantic coast as well. Currently, there’s a roaster in Red Hook, New York and two locations in Manhattan. Sumptown beans are served in cafes around the country, from big-box chains to mom-and-pop brew shops.
Gimme! Coffee – New York, New York
Gimme! is a New York-based chain that strives to bring high-end, craft coffee products to consumers in the area. Artisanal roasting and a unique “farm to cup” bean program sets Gimme! above the competition in many ways, as do their beloved and knowledgeable baristas.
Octane Coffee – Atlanta, Georgia
With three locations in Atlanta and one Birmingham, Alabama location, Octane is a local coffee chain that serves their own roasts and local bakery treats. The menu has recently expanded to include craft-beer dinners and a unique line of coffee cocktails.
Spyhouse Coffee – Minneapolis, Minnesota
With both pour-over and Chemex drips and three locations, Spyhouse is a hot chain serving coffee aficionados in the Minneapolis area.
Commonplace Coffee Co. House and Roasters – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Owned by couple Julie and TJ Fairchild, the Pittsburgh-based Commonplace Coffee Roasters chain now boasts locations in Indiana, PA and Pittsburgh. Dedicated to bringing a cup of coffee that’s anything but commonplace to the residents of Pittsburgh, the Fairchilds are true connoisseurs with a genuine love for their employees and customers alike.
Intelligentsia Coffee – Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York
Intelligentsia Coffee is often credited with kicking off (or at least popularizing) the so-called “third wave” of specialty coffee back in the mid-90’s in Chicago, Illinois.
From their humble beginnings on Broadway in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, Intelligentsia has since added several other retail operations in Chicago, Los Angeles, and, most recently, New York City.
If you don’t live in any of these cities, you may still have a stellar local chain in your own area that you’re as yet unaware of. It never hurts to do a bit of digging to find an independent business or two in your neighborhood worth supporting, especially if you normally get your morning fix from a crowded, impersonal national chain.
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