To follow up my top mug choices, let's discuss the drink itself. In recent years, the options for really (really!) good coffee have grown exponentially (this is 3rd Wave Coffee, people) and I'm sure you could each add you own local variety to this list. The following are some of my favorites. It helps that their branding and style is mostly pretty, too. Walk into any one of these shops and you are most definitely stepping into a lifestyle that big brands can't manufacture.
- Sightglass Coffee - From $17.25
An artisanal, independent coffee company based in San Francisco, Sightglass has no coffee shops but sells its coffee via the web and through other's coffee shops. "We practice small production methods that allow us to scrutinize and perfect our processes. Coffee is a seasonal fruit and we source it directly from origin in freshly harvested lots. Attaining a perfect roast is an intuition, a smell, a sound, a slight change in color—it’s about careful attention to detail that comes through in every cup."
- Stumptown Coffee - From $14
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Stumptown has already made a national name for itself. You can get all their coffee direct online: "Here at Stumptown coffee roasters, we do things a little bit differently. We roast your coffee after you place an order to provide you with the freshest coffee possible. Since all Stumptown Coffee is roasted to order, please allow up to 48 hours after your order is placed for the coffee to roast and ship."
- Four Barrel Coffee - From $18
Another excellent San Franciscan coffee company, Four Barrel has three cafes and sells wholesale across the country. "we are old-fashioned about roasting. we rely on highly trained people, not machines, to see through the intention of our roasting style: to highlight the intrinsic qualities of a coffee that drove us to buy it in the first place: cleanness, sweetness, acidity, complexity."
- Equator Coffee - From $13.25
With a roasting facility in Marin, California and their own coffee farm in Panama, this is a highly specialized and mindful coffee company that has won the honor of being selected by Thomas Keller for exclusive use in his restaurants. "How far do we take our twin obsessions with quality and impact? We do something highly unusual for a roaster: We farm our own coffee. Finca Sophia is our 45-acre agro-paradise in Panama. Our hands are in the dirt as we nurse our rare Geisha coffee varietal, which we predict will set a new standard for micro-lot flavor profiles."
- Gimme Coffee - From $13
Hailing originally from upstate New York, Gimme Coffee! has now become a New York City standard with three locations and bright red signage. "We’re a hard-working Third Wave coffee roaster with cafes in Ithaca, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and loyal customers around the world. We earned Roast Magazine’s 2013 Roaster of the Year Award for our commitment to quality, innovation, and sustainable business practices. Our direct relationship with Finca San Luis earned us the Good Food Award three years in a row."
- Intelligentsia Coffee - From $14
A personal favorite during any stop in Los Angeles where they have the nicest cafes, Intelligentsia hails originally from Chicago. "Others talk about working with coffee producers and in many cases that’s all it is, talk. Intelligentsia’s buying team cumulatively spends over 365 days each year at source. We do not just buy coffees; we actually develop them while working alongside our growers. Our coffees are unlike any others, and they are exclusive to Intelligentsia."
- Philz Coffee - From $18
Born in the Bay Area, Philz has it's own unique story that sets it apart which involve the founder, Phil Jaber, and a process that eventually includes a proprietary coffee station process: "About 25 years ago Phil first began experimenting with different beans from around the world with the goal in mind of making really great tasting blends. Phil wanted each blend to be flavorful, complex, rich, smooth and low in acidity. After about 25 years of experimentation and testing, Phil has created more than 30 unique blends that achieve all of this."
- 9th Street Espresso - $15
Alton Brown's favorite roaster in NYC, this Lower East Side independent has, since 2001, committed themselves to creating the finest cup of coffee anywhere with absolutely no bells and whistles. They roast and sell only two coffees, Alphabet City and Miramonte. "Over the years, Ninth Street Espresso has worked closely with some of the best specialty coffee roasters in North America in search of one thing: exceptional coffee. In 2013, our single minded pursuit of quality and consistency at the espresso bar drove us to the roasting room. In September 2013, we began sourcing and roasting coffee at the Pulley Collective in Brooklyn. Our selection and roasting processes are extensions of the beliefs that have always guided Ninth Street Espresso. The beliefs that simplicity and execution are akin, and quality is king."