8 Best Local Coffee Chains Around The World
The best of the little guys in NYC, London, Chicago
Chances are you can’t avoid the airport Starbucks run. But once you’ve landed at your final destination, there’s no reason to settle for a big box coffee seller if you don't want to. Cities around the world have spawned their own little coffee chains – and chainlets – so that you don’t have to hunt down a decent cup of craft-roasted coffee all day. If you’re headed to any of the following places, it shouldn’t be too hard to find out where the cool kids caffeinate.
Philadelphia: La Colombe Torrefaction
Co-owned by outspoken coffee purist, reality TV star and Food Republic coffee power rankings fixture Todd Carmichael, the Philly-based craft roaster now has more than a dozen locations spread across New York, Chicago, D.C. and even Seoul, Korea. You might recognize Carmichael from his extreme-coffee Travel Channel show Dangerous Grounds. Or, if you’re a real coffee geek, you know that he threw his considerably more mature hat into the ring of younguns competing in the Northeast Brewer’s Cup earlier this year and — to everyone’s surprise — won.
The Bay Area: Blue Bottle Coffee
This cult Bay Area coffee chain and roastery was started just a little over a decade ago by self-proclaimed coffee lunatic James Freeman. He enlisted his pastry chef wife Caitlin to provide edibles for the endeavor and the venture now has a dozen cafés around the Bay Area and New York City, a coffee cookbook and a just-released signature espresso blend by former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy.
Santa Cruz: Verve Coffee Roasters
Founded in 2007 by a couple of thirty-something friends, Verve now has three coffee bars in Santa Cruz and another coming to Los Angeles. Colby Barr and Ryan O’Donovan have earned praise for the traceability, sustainability and quality of their coffees. But among the locals in Santa Cruz, Verve is known as the place to go for a “one and one,” a shot of espresso with a macchiato, balanced on a plate and ordered off the menu.
Calgary: Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters
As an early adapter of third-wave coffee culture in Canada, the company was founded by, yes, two friends named Phil and Sebastian. They quit their jobs as engineers to pursue their passion for coffee. The first café opened in 2007 and, since then, they’ve added a handful more throughout Calgary. You can also find beans roasted by Phil & Sebastian in cooler coffee bars across Canada.
Chicago: Intelligentsia Coffee
You don’t have to live in Chicago to know this Chicago-based coffee company. Its beans are sold around the country and it now has nearly a dozen locations around the Chicago, Los Angeles and New York areas. Founder Doug Zell was an early pioneer of the direct-trade model and one of the first to bring single-origin beans to American coffee drinkers. But Intelligentsia also has a pretty impressive tea program. It’s called Kilogram and includes house blends of white, green, oolong, black and herbal teas.
New York: Gimme! Coffee
Based in Ithaca, N.Y., this craft roaster now has half a dozen coffee bars around the New York City and Finger Lakes areas, but you are likely to be served Gimme! coffee in a number of other New York establishments. With anti-establishment sounding blends like the Fracktivist organic blend and Leftist espresso, the company has made a name for itself and even earned Roast magazine’s macro roaster of the year title in 2013.
London: Monmouth Coffee
In a nation of tea drinkers, Monmouth made waves as early as 1978 when it started roasting coffee beans in the basement of its shop on Monmouth Street in Covent Garden. Today, it has three locations throughout London, offering carefully sourced coffees from top coffee farms and cooperatives around the world. It also prides itself on serving organic whole Jersey milk from Somerset and organic whole cane sugar from Costa Rica.
Australia: Toby’s Estate Coffee
In Australia, Toby’s Estate is something of an institution. It has been craft roasting beans since 1998, which can be found in dozens of cafés around the country. It also operates four signature coffee bars around Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne that specialize in direct-trade single-origin beans and blends, fancy latte art and beautifully built flat whites, which is sort of like an Australian latte, but better. In the last few years, the company has expanded beyond Oz to Singapore and New York.
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