Those small shops deliver some big tasteCoffee, the cultivation and consumption of which can be traced back to the 15th century Middle East, has been a staple of the American diet since the colonial era. Sales of the beverage in the US today are dominated primarily by enormous chains, such as the ever-present Starbucks, and different varieties of store bought instant coffee. Those seeking alternatives to the more commonly patronized retailers of the beverage may feel overwhelmed by the seeming absence of options. Though they certainly don’t occupy every street corner and shopping center, as it seems Starbucks and Caribou do, smaller franchises are not only relatively abundant, but many serve coffee that is far superior in taste and presentation, offering coffee as a culinary experience, not just a jolt of caffeine. The following locations are certain to entertain the tastes of even the most sophisticated coffee aficionado:
Chinatown Coffee Co.
475 H Street NW, Washington DC
202.559.7656 | chinatowncoffee.com
Offering coffee and espresso brewed via Abid hand pours, french press and standard drip, the baristas at Chinatown Coffee Co. have a passion for coffee that is manifested deliciously in the high quality beverages they produce.
St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub
2300 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA
703.739.9268 | stelmoscoffeepub.com
Touting itself as “the community gathering place,” St. Elmo’s places just as much emphasis on fostering a warm, inviting environment as on producing warm, inviting coffee drinks.
Shoes Cup and Cork Club
17 North King Street, Leesburg, VA
571.291.9535 | shoescupandcorkclub.com
Shoes Cup and Cork Club offers delicious, guaranteed fair-trade coffees and an expansive menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods. But what truly sets this location apart from others is the extensive wine and gourmet brew menu. Visit their website to skip long lines and order ahead.
Habatat Coffee Company
8020 Towers Crescent Dr., Vienna, VA
The best thing about Habatat Coffee Company, aside from the absolutely delicious coffee drinks (the cafe mocha is particularly delectable) is the location’s stunning interior. The wonderful food, drinks, and atmosphere make it is easy to lose count of the hours spent at Habatat Coffee.
Sweetest Chef Cafe
10380 Willard Way, Fairfax, VA
703.273.1957 | sweetestchefcafefx.com
Utilizing only the freshest, local ingredients, Sweetest Chef Cafe offers an extensive menu of pastries, salads, and sandwiches, all made from scratch, that compliment their equally extensive menu of coffee drinks beautifully. The Black Forest (espresso, chocolate, raspberry, steamed milk, whipped cream) absolutely must be had by first time visitors.
11942 Democracy Drive, Reston, VA
703.606.9906 | pitangogelato.com
While the primary focus of this location is its gelato, visitors who opt for coffee instead of ice cream will most definitely not miss out. Pitango’s Marocchino (espresso, chocolate, fresh whipped cream), makes for a wonderful dessert alone or complimented by gelato.
If you are looking for the best of the best, you’ll have to go to Chicago. Forbes lists "Intelligentsia" as the best of America's best boutique coffees: Here public tours of its roasting facilities and barista training classes that are open to the public are available. They only sell coffee that is in season and traded directly with farmers, plus they have three different varieties of espresso.
KEREM ATALAY: Kerem Atalay is a 2nd year student at UVA. A Foreign Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies double major, his passions include international politics, history, music and film.
Read more about Kerem Atalay