Coffee and Seattle have long been synonymous. The drab and dreary weather of the Pacific Northwest lends itself to warm, caffeinated concoctions, giving the city and region a rep as the coffee capital of the world.
The west coast is still home to many of America’s most acclaimed and successful third-wave coffee roasters — Blue Bottle Coffee (Oakland), Stumptown Coffee (Portland), and Sightglass Coffee (San Francisco) spring to mind immediately.
But the high-quality coffee revolution is no longer limited to America’s caffeine coast. The art of selecting, roasting and brewing the perfect cup of coffee has spread eastward, landing on the east coast, where dozens of remarkable roasters reside. From New York City’s fast-growing Joe Coffee to Philadelphia’s cozy south side standard Ultimo Coffee, the Northeast Corridor is no longer underserved by the brightest lights in the coffee universe.
Top NYC Third-Wave Coffee Shops:
Founded in a humble West Village location, Joe has expanded to include 10 New York City locations, two satellite shops in Philadelphia, and a robust e-Commerce presence, including delivery subscriptions. The Joe empire includes outposts at Columbia University, in Grand Central Station, Lincoln Center, and even a “Joe Pro Shop,” where the brand’s baristas undergo training and customers can find the most experimental roasts.
This Brooklyn-based coffee roaster operates three upscale shops in New York City, including an expansive headquarters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Toby’s Estate champions sustainable sourcing practices and a quality-over-quantity approach based on hand-selecting source farms in Africa and Central America based on flavor and freshness. The newest Toby’s location provides one of the more enjoyable NYC coffee shop experiences, as it is nestled next to the Strand Bookstore and Club Monaco on Fifth Avenue.
Brewklyn Grind Coffee Roasters
This homegrown coffee roastery keeps it local, selling to a variety of NYC-based specialty stores and coffee shops in addition to operating a flagship retail location in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Brewklyn Grind is the product of the creativity of a trio of brothers, and the shop’s talented baristas have put in hours elsewhere on the borough’s coffee scene at the dearly departed De Luxe in Park Slope. Brewklyn Grind is served daily to guests at Nu Hotel, an official partner of the brand.
Best Philadelphia Third-Wave Coffee Shops:
Located just southwest of Center City in the emerging Graduate Hospital neighborhood, Ultimo Coffee is home to barista Erika Vonie, who took home second-place honors in the eastern region of the 2014 U.S. Coffee Championships. Vonie’s expert pourover skills aren’t the only reason to stop by Ultimo: the shop and roastery is known for its hand-selected beans, expert roasting technique, and special guest roaster picks, rotating monthly.
La Colombe Torrefaction
Better known by its more casual name, La Colombe, this coffee roaster and retail mini-chain is one of the premier Philadelphia exports of the 21st century. In addition to its beautiful flagship Philadelphia location in Fishtown, the brand operates shops in Rittenhouse Square, Dilworth Plaza, and in three other major U.S. markets (Chicago, D.C., New York City). La Colombe also doubles as a distributor of high-quality coffee brewing gear, selling Chemex and French Press coffeemakers, upscale espresso machines and tamps, scales and everything else you need to enjoy coffee at home.
Elixr Coffee Roasters
This stylish City Center coffee shop is more than a hip hangout in the heart of Philly’s top shopping district. It’s a mecca for coffee enthusiasts seeking out-of-the-ordinary blends such as Las Brumas Honey Bourbon, available online in 2015. Founded in 2010, Elixr is changing the Philadelphia coffee scene one 10-kilogram batch of beans at a time.
Best Washington DC Third-Wave Coffee Shops:
Filter Coffeehouse & Espresso Bar
With two Washington, D.C. locations and a reputation as the District’s top coffee destination, Filter provides a quiet place to sit back, relax and enjoy some solace in an often-busy city. Filter doesn’t roast its own beans, instead relying on the expertise of a regional purveyor, Ceremony Coffee of Annapolis, Md., for its single-origin coffees. Find Filter Coffee in one of two quaint locations, at Dupont Circle or Foggy Bottom.
This DC original takes roasting, brewing and serving coffee seriously. Housed in a historic building on Georgia Avenue NW in the Petworth neighborhood, Qualia Coffee sources its beans directly from an array of sources, including Kenya, Rwanda, Colombia, Ethiopia and more, all in an unassuming shop with a beautiful backyard. If you wish to take your coffee explorations to another level, sign up for the shop’s Qualia Reserve email list — you’ll be the first to know when the roaster receives shipments of more rare, expensive beans for your enjoyment.
Shade-grown, fair trade-sourced, and organically produced, each of Sidamo’s coffees is roasted in-house at the brand’s brick-and-mortar location on H Street NW. Sidamo doesn’t step too far outside of the box: It’s the shop’s high-quality coffees, teas, and sandwiches that make it worth a visit.
Best Boston Third-Wave Coffee Shops:
Thinking Cup Coffee Shop
For an appealing mash-up of west coast flavor and east coast style, Thinking Cup Coffee Shop does the trick. This mini-chain, with three locations in Central Boston, exclusively serves Stumptown Coffee from Portland. Despite the fact that the beans are roasted by Stumptown, the shop is quintessentially Bostonian, serving no-frills breakfast, pastries and sandwiches in a stripped-down but comfortable shop.
Barrington Coffee Roasting Company
With an expansive roastery and training center tucked away deep in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts and two sleek Boston retail locations, Barrington Coffee Roasting Company has become a signature New England brand. Like its New York equivalent Joe Coffee, Barrington knows beans are serious business, earning rave reviews from Coffee Reviewfor a variety of its single-origins and blends.
Flat Black Coffee
Founded in Dorchester, Ma., in the early years of the mindful-coffee revolution (2003), Flat Black Coffee pays tribute to Australia’s espresso-forward mindset in its name and its approach to roasting and prepping beans. Flat Black’s coffee and espresso can be found at any of the brand’s five Boston-area shops, along with New England grocers like American Provisions and Whole Foods.