The best cities for coffee lovers - La Colombe in Philadelphia

According to the National Coffee Association, 7 out of 10 Americans drink coffee daily with the average person consuming 3 cups. Not only does it taste good and give you a mental boost, but recent reports tout the many health benefits which include liver protection and Type 2 Diabetes prevention. While Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle are most commonly thought of as the country’s premier coffee destinations, many cities both small and large are becoming no strangers to the independent coffee scene.

I love a great cup of coffee and I love traveling. Whenever I visit a new city, enjoying a great cup of coffee or an expertly made espresso or latte in an electric local shop is always first on my list. Visiting a local coffeehouse over a common chain like Starbucks or Dunkin’ is a great way to meet local residents, find out about local events, people watch, and enjoy the local flavor of an area. The caffeine will give you an energy boost and you will be up early enough to beat the tourist crowds. Featured below are several of my favorite destinations for coffee lovers! In no particular order…

1. Asheville, NC

Everything bagel with veggie cream cheese at High Five in Asheville, NC

This popular tourist city in the Blue Ridge mountains draws millions of tourists per year. There is so much to do and see here including touring the Biltmore Estate (America’s Largest Home) and enjoying scenic views and waterfall hikes on the magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway. Asheville is one of my favorite foodie cities in the south. The city has long been known for its’ outstanding range of local restaurants and coffeeshops, especially for a city of just under 100,000 residents. Great indie coffeeshops can be enjoyed throughout the city – here are a few of my personal favorites.

High Five – The coffee is so delicious (they partner with renown Counter Culture roaster in Durham) and serve the best bagels and cream cheese in the state. You will find 3 convenient locations – downtown, the Montford historic district, along with a scenic riverside cafe in Woodfin.

City Bakery – Popular family-owned tourist favorite with cafes downtown and North Asheville. Best place to pick up artisan bread and enjoy scratch-made pastries.

Summit – Funky coffeehouse in the eclectic River Arts District. Great choice if you plan on exploring the galleries. Summit started in Davidson (a Charlotte suburb) and now operates many cafes throughout the state. The Lemon poundcake is delicious!

All Day Darling – Charming gem located in the historic Montford area. Great patio and great pastries. Bonus points for the delicious breakfast menu, most notably the amazing Shakshuka.

High Five Coffee in Asheville, North Carolina
The best bagel & veggie cream cheese at High Five
Summit Coffee in the River Arts District of Asheville, NC
Summit in the funky River Arts District
Cinnamon roll and coffee at City Bakery in Asheville, NC
Cinnamon roll at City Bakery
Shakshuka at All DAy Darling in Asheville, NC
Shakshuka & sauteed kale at All Day Darling

2. Pittsburgh, PA

La Prima Espresso in Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh is a surprisingly great coffee city. The former industrial hub has been making a comeback in recent years and continues to reinvent itself as a medical and tech hub. There’s lots to do here including cheering on the Steelers & Pirates, visiting amazing museums like the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History, and enjoying fabulous skyline views via many vantage points. In recent years, it has ranked as one of the top cities for coffee lovers. A few of my favorites:

Commonplace – Regional chain with 4 locations. My favorite cafe is located in the historic Mexican War Streets neighborhood across the street from the city’s oldest park. The coffee here is wonderful, the setting historic, and the pastries delicious. Treat yourself to a slice of coffee cake.

Defer – This gem is located in the historic Strip District, an old-school area known for its’ many restaurants and ethnic grocers. The vibe here is hipster-ish and the setting a mix of funky and historic with brick walls and eclectic art. Beans are responsibly sourced and roasted in-house. At Defer, you can look forward to great coffee & great pastries (try the Matcha green tea bread).

Mediterra – Upscale bakery serving homemade pastries and artisan bread. The Danish, Cinnamon Roll, and Chocolate Croissant are all winners. Order the Shakshuka, a savory Middle Eastern dish consisting of poached eggs in a spicy tomato based sauce. Mediterra serves at 3 locations – the bustling Mt. Lebanon cafe features a gorgeous patio.

Margaux – High end European coffeehouse/cafe in East Liberty. The ambiance is gorgeous with large windows and plenty of natural sunlight for those all-too-often cloudy days. They serve great pastries- try the almond croissant.

Morning Glory Muffin at Commonplace Coffee in Pittsburgh
Morning Glory Muffin at Commonplace
Matcha green tea bread at Defer Coffee in the Pittsburgh Strip District
Matcha green tea bread at Defer
Cinnamon apple Bostock at Mediterra Cafe in Sewickley, PA
Seasonal Cinnamon apple Bostock at Mediterra
Almond croissant and American at Margaux in Pittsburgh
Almond croissant at Margaux

3. Tucson, AZ

Pretty mountain views via the patio at Savaya Coffee in Oro Valley, Arizona

Southern Arizona is a wonderful vacation destination for hikers, bird watchers, and nature lovers. The exotic Saguaro cactus dots the entire landscape and creates an amazing backdrop for any type of outdoor activity. Tucson is the perfect vacation destination for hikers. However, the city offers much more, most notably it has been making headlines as an emerging foodie and coffee destination. Check out a few of my favorite coffee houses.

Savaya – This artisan coffeeshop has 5 locations – the best cafe is located in beautiful Oro Valley, a suburb located just north of Tucson. They source single origin fair trade coffee and roast their own beans. Best of all, a lovely outdoor patio looks out upon the striking Catalina mountain range. Enjoy a quality cup of joe before hiking at nearby Catalina State Park.

Presta – This fantastic local roaster has a prime location in the touristy Mercado San Agustin. Pick up some tacos at Seis and a great cup of coffee at Presta and enjoy the al fresco setting before the sun gets too hot!

Exo Roast – Great hipster shop in downtown Tucson. They serve great coffee in a beautiful historic building. The pastries are also delicious, especially the gluten-free carrot cake muffin.

Mercado San Agustin in Tucson AZ
The beautiful outdoor courtyard at Mercado
Carrot cake muffin at Exo Roast in Tucson, Arizona
The carrot cake muffin at Exo
Mocha at Exo Roast
The most delicious mocha at Exo
Colorful interior of Savaya coffee in Oro Valley, Arizona
A most colorful setting at Savaya

4. Philadelphia, PA

Americano and Chocolate Croissant at La Colombe Coffee in Philadelphia

Philadelphia, “the birthplace of America” is an iconic vacation destination for history buffs. From seeing the Liberty Bell, to touring Independence Hall, to exploring history at the Museum of the American Revolution, there’s much to explore in “America’s most historic square mile.” Before visiting all the landmark attractions, you will want to wake up with a quality cup of joe. Here are a few of my favorite coffeehouses in touristy Old City and Center City.

La Colombe – Iconic roaster which started in Philly’s Rittenhouse Square back in 1994. They serve excellent coffee and pastries and the presentation is beautiful. Conveniently, there is a location right across from Independence Hall.

Cafe Ole – Old City favorite serving delicious breakfast fare and coffee. Do try their delicious Shakshuka! Conveniently located within walking distance to Old City attractions and the waterfront.

Peddler – Great place to enjoy a quality cup of joe before checking out the wonderful Philadelphia Museum of Art or The Rodin Museum.

J’aime – Cute little French bakery and cafe serving authentic pastries and terrific espresso.

Veggie Shakshuka at Cafe Ole in Old City Philadelphia
Delicious Veggie Shakshuka at Cafe Ole
Fruit tart at Peddler Coffee in Philadelphia
Fruit tart and croissant at Peddler
Americano at La Colombe in Philadelphia
Gorgeous presentation at La Colombe
Excellent coffee and pastries at J'aime in Philadelphia
Tasty French treats at J’aime

5. Flagstaff, AZ

Dark skies Mocha at Late for the Train in Flagstaff, Arizona

When it gets too hot during the brutal summer season in Phoenix, locals and tourists alike head up north to beautiful Flagstaff to enjoy the cool temps and gorgeous pine scenery. At an altitude of 7000+ feet, summer temps barely make it out of the 80’s. Featuring Humphreys Peak (the tallest peak in the state at 12,647 ft) and hundreds of miles of scenic hiking trails, Flagstaff is an adventure lover’s paradise. It’s also home to a quaint downtown and lots of local business unlike over commercialized Phoenix. Here are a few of my favorite local coffeeshops in this mountain oasis.

Late for the Train – Iconic roaster with 2 convenient locations – one downtown and another on the way to Arizona Snowbowl. To date, the best Americano I have ever tried. Bonus points for the amazing (and cheap) breakfast burritos!

Rendezvous – Coffee/wine bar located inside the historic Monte Vista Hotel. Great place to people watch during the summer months and cozy up during the cold winter season. For all the movie buffs out there, a scene from Casablanca filmed here!

Kickstand – Cozy local cafe serving great specialty drinks and locally roasted Single Speed Coffee. Great local vibe. Conveniently located on the way to Arizona Snowbowl and the Grand Canyon.

Macy’s – Iconic local favorite downtown known for their large vegetarian menu. Great local vibe and lots of specialty beverages and unique food to try.

Great Americano at Late for the Train in Flagstaff, Arizona
Late for the Train serves the best Americano
The haunted Monte Vista hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona
A cozy drink at the haunted Monte Vista
Delicious mocha at Kickstand Cafe in Flagstaff, Arizona
White chocolate mocha at Kickstand
Macy's European Coffee in Flagstaff
Macy’s – a downtown favorite

6. Boston

The best espresso at Caffe Vittoria in downtown Boston

There is so much history to explore in Boston. The Freedom Trail is one of the country’s treasures – a self guided tour through 16 incredible landmark sites. With all that walking, you may just need a little caffeine boost to get going. It’s no surprise that Boston is one of America’s top coffee cities. With gloomy, cold skies most of the year, nothing is better than cozying up with a great book and mug of coffee. Check out a few of my favorite coffeehouses near the heart of the city.

Thinking Cup – This popular coffee shop was the first to serve exclusively Stumptown coffee. Stumptown started in Portland and is consistently ranked “best coffee in the world.” Thinking Cup offers 3 locations including a gorgeous cafe with outdoor dining on historic Newbury Street.

Cafe Nero -This award-winning European brand operates over 600 cafes throughout the United Kingdom and several US cafes including 20+ locations throughout Massachusetts. The Washington St. coffeehouse in downtown Boston is particularly attractive and features a cozy interior complete with a gorgeous fireplace.

Cafe Vittoria – This historic coffeehouse opened in 1929 as Boston’s first Italian cafe. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy a sweet treat and quality espresso. To date, the best mocha I have ever tried. In addition to gelato, they offer a tempting array of pastries, with everything from red velvet cheesecake, to dark chocolate cannoli, to Limoncello cake on the lineup.

Beautiful outdoor patio at Thinking Cup Coffee in Boston, MA
The lovely Thinking Cup patio on Newbury St.
Thinking Cup coffee in Boston MA
Homemade macaroon at Thinking Cup
Gorgeous setting inside Caffe Nero in Boston, MA
The gorgeous fireplace at Caffe Nero
Charming setting at Cafe Vittoria in downtown Boston
Old-school appeal at Cafe Vittoria

7. Portland, Oregon

Americano and White Mocha at Cafe Ponte in Portland, Oregon

Portland has long been considered a premier destination for coffee lovers. Many prestigious sources over the years have given the eclectic city a top spot. Stumptown, rated “best coffee in the world, started here. Portland, also a well known foodie oasis, offers no shortage of interesting places to eat and drink. Don’t forget about all the wonderful outdoor activities including Washington Park, home to the gorgeous Portland Japanese Garden. Also, the city is located within close proximity to many breathtaking waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. Before setting off on your daily adventures, here’s a few great local coffeehouses to check out!

Cafe Ponte – Great place to enjoy a cup of joe on the waterfront. Known for their Piadinas – grilled flatbread sandwiches.

Case Study Coffee – Beautiful coffeeshop featuring great food and drinks. The best place to stay cozy on a rainy day. Multiple locations including a gorgeous downtown cafe.

St. Honore Bakery – Serves amazing coffee and the best French pastries. Do try one of their highly regarded croissants or the Blueberry Lemon Danish! Don’t leave without picking up a fresh loaf of bread.

Pastry treats at St. Honore Bakery in Portland, OR
The tempting pastry display at St. Honore Bakery
Veggie quiche and croissant at St. Honore Bakery in Portland, OR
Great veggie quiche & croissants at St. Honore
Cafe Ponte on the Portland waterfront
Cafe Ponte – a great break along the waterfront
Cozy setting at Case Study Coffee in Portland, OR
Case Study – the coziest coffeeshop

8. Greenville, South Carolina

Breakfast at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe in Greenville, South Carolina

This up and coming Southern hotspot is home to a trendy Main Street. Tourists come from all over the Southeast to shop, dine, and explore this beautiful little downtown. With hundreds of local businesses, a gorgeous waterfall and park, and a busy lineup of year-round events, it’s no surprise that Greenville has become one of the South’s hottest destinations. The city has been making headlines for its’ strong foodie culture which includes an abundance of fantastic coffeeshops. Check out a few of my favorites.

Methodical – Artisan roaster serving excellent coffee in a modern setting. Conveniently located within walking distance to many great shops.

Coffee Underground – Long-running local favorite serving tasty coffee, bagels, and dessert. The funky ambiance makes it a great choice for anyone seeking something a bit more eclectic.

Swamp Rabbit Cafe – Healthy co-op, bakery, and coffeeshop serving local coffee and homemade treats and pastries. The patio is beautiful. Convenient access to the wonderful 14+ mile long Swamp Rabbit trail. Pick up a loaf of homemade Stecca bread!

Old Europe – Trendy old world coffeehouse and bakery specializing in European treats and pastries. So many goodies to choose amongst here, from croissants, to muffins, to cheesecake.

Mocha at Methodical Coffee in Greenville, South Carolina
A wonderful mocha and Americano at Methodical
Cinnamon roll at Methodical Coffee in Greenville, South Carolina
Methodical serves great pastries
Veggie quiche at Coffee Underground in Greenville, SC
Veggie quiche at Coffee Underground
Vegan donut at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe in Greenville, South Carolina
Vegan strawberry donut at Swamp Rabbit Cafe

9. Tampa (Bay metro area)

Pumpkin Spice Latte and Pumpkin Bread at Buddy Brew Coffee in Hyde Park Village in Tampa, Florida

While Tampa Bay is most known for its’ gorgeous white sandy beaches, there is much more to the city. From wonderful nature preserves, to world-class museums like The Dali, to top ranked bike paths, there is a bit of something here for everyone. The metro offers no shortage of great coffeeshops where you can fuel up early and beat both the crowds & heat! Take a look at a few of my recommended cafes!

Indian Shores – Great local cafe located across from beautiful Indian Rocks Beach – the best beach in the Bay. They serve the best coffee anywhere near the beach, plus great pastries. Try the maui muffin! Love the breezy covered patio!

Buddy Brew – Roaster with numerous locations – check out the quaint cafe in Hyde Park Village, an upscale shopping & dining destination. Treat yourself to a homemade biscuit or pumpkin bread!

Belleair Coffee Company -Specialty roaster near Clearwater Beach serving organic coffee, tea, and pastries, donuts, and quiche. Try the savory Spinach and Asiago quiche.

Cork and Beans – Local gem in downtown Dunedin serving excellent coffee in a upscale setting. Great stop before heading out to Honeymoon Island State Beach.

Delicious coffee and pastries at Indian Shores Coffee on Florida's Gulf Coast
Great pastries at Indian Shores
Biscuits and coffee at Buddy Brew in Tampa, FL
Tasty homemade biscuits at Buddy Brew
Great coffee and breakfast at Belleair Coffee Company
Overnight oats & veggie quiche at Belleair
Coffee and Americano at Cork and Beans in Dunedin, Florida
Top notch coffee at Cork and Beans

10. Savannah, Georgia

Delicious pastries and coffee at Gallery Espresso in Savannah historic district

This charming southern city is the perfect vacation destination for history buffs. The beautiful historic district, antebellum architecture, horse drawn carriage rides, old cemeteries, and lovely public squares bring forth endless opportunities for soaking up the rich history of this picturesque city. Before exploring the city sights, you will want to grab something to eat. There are a number of fantastic coffeehouses, especially for such a small city. Best of all, they are all located within the charming historic district. Here’s a few of the best.

Gallery Espresso – This laid-back coffeehouse was modeled after Central Perk in Friends. The setting is so eclectic and comfy, just like the NYC cafe Rachel and the gang hung out at. You can kick back with a few cups of coffee here and treat yourself to a homemade treat as well – the Spinach croissant is worth the splurge!

Savannah Coffee Roasters – Beautiful coffeeshop located inside a historic bank building. The ambiance is great here and so is the coffee. Also, there is a great patio for the warmer months. Nice variety of pastries – unfortunately, drinks are only served in to-go cups.

Cafe M – Charming French bistro located near the waterfront. Nice ambiance and presentation and lots of tempting pastries and drinks to choose amongst. Great place for a morning date!

Gallery Espresso in Savannah, GA
Gallery – the 1st coffeehouse in Savannah
Cozy ambiance at Savannah Coffee Roasters
Beautiful setting at Savannah Coffee Roasters
Coffee and pastries at Cafe M in Savannah, GA
Delicious French pastries at Cafe M
Gallery Espresso in Savannah, GA
The Central Perk like setting at Gallery