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Name: Bellden Cafe

Neighborhood: Bellevue

This café serves up quality coffee with a charitable twist: they support a rotating cast of local nonprofit organizations. They offer these nonprofits a space to discuss their work, providing café staff as volunteers, and donating proceeds from the sale of specialty items. In addition to coffee, visitors can enjoy pastries, sandwiches, salads, acai bowls, and toasts.

Name: Metropolis Coffee

Neighborhood: Edgewater

Metropolis is a coffee shop and roastery that services much of the greater Chicago area. They believe that great coffee comes from a line of respect, beginning with bean farmers and the love of their land. They pay fair prices for harvest (direct-trade) and offer a range of brewing methods: pour-over, Japanese cold brew, and standard drip. Their prices are some of the most affordable around. The shop is conveniently located (just off the Granville red line stop) and boasts three rooms of tables, chairs, and couches. Each room seems to have a “set” volume level—the entrance is noisy, the second room is full of discussion, and the farthest room is full of people quietly reading and writing.

 

 

Name: Oromo Café

Neighborhood: Lincoln Square

The newly-opened Oromo Café is like the United Nations of coffee—their espresso and coffee drinks feature flavors from around the world, including India, Turkey, Madagascar, and Ethiopia. You can ask the barista to spike your beverage with superfoods, such as spirulina, for an added boost of nutrition. My personal favorite is the pistachio-rose latte; it’ll run you around the price of a beer at a local bar, but it’s a can’t-miss drink. You can also get traditionally-brewed Turkish coffee and Iraqi teas.

 

Name: Barismo

Neighborhood: mid-Cambridge

Formerly called “Dwelltime,” this neighborhood café boasts plentiful seating, fine coffees, pastries, a weekend brunch menu, and affordable lunch options. Unlike in other Cambridge spots, you won’t have to fight Harvard and MIT students for a seat. However, be warned: they do not offer WiFi. This, however, makes for a cozy atmosphere—you’ll spot people reading and talking quietly throughout the café. They have outposts throughout the city, meaning you can pick up a cup of Barismo coffee in several spots throughout the Boston metropolitan area.

Name: Devoción

Neighborhood: Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Devoción’s roastery and café is an outpost of a coffee roaster in Bogota, Colombia. The shop’s beans arrive via FedEx straight from Columbia—no more than ten days after being picked, meaning this is some of the freshest coffee in the city. In fact, “freshness” is integral to their mission statement; they launched in 2006 with the goal of changing the way coffee is consumed around the world, emphasizing the importance of incredibly fresh coffee. The space itself is large, open, and features a massive skylight. Planning to stay a while? You’re in luck—Devoción priorities seating space, offering couches, stools, a bar, and several 2- and 4-person tables.

What makes a great coffee shop? Is it the quality of the coffee? Is it the pricing, or the friendliness of the baristas? We are inclined to favor the local shops we frequent (I am certainly guilty of that), but what actually makes for a good coffee shop experience? Below, I’ve included a few of my “essentials” in the form of a checklist. Use this to assess your local favorites or make a decision while travelling.

 

[ ] Good coffee matters most. Why leave your house for a cup of standard Nescafe? Why pay to drink Nescafe in public?

 

[ ] Pricing is also important. Recently, my local shop upped their American prices from $3.25 to $4.25. That is too dang high for a cup of hot bean water. I like to use this rule of thumb (applies to 12oz pours): $2-$3.50 for a drip coffee, $3-$4 for espresso drinks, and $4-$6 for “specialty” brewing, like pour-overs and cold brew.

 

[ ] You should be able to sit down. We love our favorite coffee shops for a reason. Odds are, other people are also privy to those reasons. However, some shops may reach a breaking point: they become so popular that you cannot find a seat. If your local shop has hit this precipice, start looking elsewhere; nobody wants to sip coffee while people stand around willing you to get up.

 

[ ] It should have the atmosphere you want. Nobody wants to be that pair having a heated political discussion in a shop full of people working on laptops. Similarly, you don’t want to hunker down with a Derrida text when a screaming child is just a few tables over.

 

[ ] It should have the proper amenities. Do you go to shops to read? Find a place with big, comfortable couches or armchairs. Do you go to do work? The shop should have free WiFi, ample desk space, and outlets scattered throughout.