It seems that coffee is present everywhere. There are coffee shops, espresso bars in so many places that it is hard not to find one. Is coffee good or bad for us will not be discussed here, this is not the place or space for it, I leave that topic to others.
I just want to share some of the really great little spots I visited where coffee is really good. As any Australian I like my coffee strong and it has to have a taste that is not burned. So where are those little gems.
Let’s start in Brisbane – Merlo coffee is served in many spots, with a few of their own coffee shops. It is even on the Goodwill Bridge so you can get that ever important shot of coffee while strolling to work or riding your bike.
One of my favourite spots is Da Capo in New York. A small Italian coffee shop on Madison Avenue has that small perfect espresso, just what you need to pick you up in the morning or energize you during the day. You can match that with some of their pastries or sandwiches. The place is small but then so are many coffee shops in Italy.
On the opposite side of Manhattan there is another small coffee shop with good strong coffee – Ramini Coffee. They used to make fresh juices too but those days are unfortunately over. You can still get fresh juices and yogurts but they are ready made. Coffee, however, and pastries are great. One of the really nice things are mini-pastries.
In addition to individual coffee shops there are also local coffee shop chains much smaller than Starbucks and with much better coffee and much more personal service. One of such chains is La Colombe, it has unique charm and serves coffee in colorful cups in some of the stores. The first of their coffee shops I visited was in Philadelphia, right in the city center. Nice and spacious with quick service. The DC location is not as handy but that does not affect the coffee you get.
There are also some interesting options in Baltimore, with one of them being this time a French-style coffee shop – Café Poupon. They serve coffees in many different styles, pastries and sandwiches. Some of the pastries look so amazing you do not really know if you want to eat them or stare at them. Nice spot for breakfast or lunch, alternatively just for that coffee infusion.
While traveling further south into North Carolina, you can stop in Market Street Coffee and Ice Cream store in Chapel Hill to enjoy perfectly sized and tasting cappuccino.
Finally, the home of great coffee is in Florida, you can enjoy good coffees in many spots, but watch out for that sugar finding its way into your cup. Cuban coffee is frequently extremely sweet, so be very sure that you know what you are ordering. Strength is similar to Italian coffees though. Pastries are different and you will not find croissants or danishes as easily. However, there are Australians everywhere and Florida is not different, so there is a small Kookaburra coffee shop in St. Augustine, serving strong Australian coffee and Aussie scones to go with it.
Another great choice in Florida was an Argentinian Buenos Aires Cafe in Miami beach, good coffee and really amazing pastries.
Then a place you cannot forget in the south, is Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans with its cafe au lait and beignets.
I have not been to many places on the west coast but one that picked my interest was La Parfait Paris in San Diego’s Gaslight district. A French patisserie with great breads, pastries and good strong coffee is nicely tucked away from the main streets. The location does not remind you of the Paris coffee shops but the taste is definitely there. They offer not only breakfasts but also make great lunchtime sandwiches.
The big challenge is to find a good coffee chop when you travel overseas. While going home to Australia presented little challenge as I already have my favorite spots not just in Brisbane but also in Sydney. A bigger challenge was finding this right spot in Canada. When traveling you frequently end up at one of the big chain stores like Starbucks or Tim Hortons, but you want something better and something unique. In Toronto, the unique is Balzac’s coffee. My favorite location is on Market Street. The slightly European décor makes it feel really cozy. The service is amazing, and early mornings are not very busy, so you can really enjoy your time. There is a little of everything for everyone, organic milk, home-made granola, pastries, coffees and teas. Just sit down and relax. The best part it is right opposite of the market so you can also get fresh and tasty fruit to get a healthy bite.