The Best Coffee Cities in the World, According To a World Barista Championship Winner
Elika Liftee knows coffee. As the reigning U.S. Brewers Cup Champion for the last two years and the Director of Education for Onyx Coffee Lab, his experience in coffee spans years of training and research, not to mention his own career as a barista. Liftee’s schedule as Director of Education has him racking up frequent flier miles, traveling all over the world training the world’s next best baristas, and allowing him to explore the ever-evolving coffee culture not just in the United States but around the world. And while it’s possible to find a good cup of coffee pretty much everyone on Earth, Liftee has thoughts on the best coffee cities — the places with creative, stylish, thoughtful takes on coffee. And they probably aren’t what you’re expecting, either (hint: he doesn’t pick Seattle).
Amid all of his travels, Liftee has uncovered some of the country’s best coffee cities for enthusiasts, and the places that make them stand out. Here are a few of his picks for the best coffee cities, and the coffee shops to visit in each one.
The best coffee cities in the world
Liftee’s home state of Arkansas has a bustling coffee culture that sources and roasts some excellent brews. “We’re spread out here in Arkansas”, says Liftee. “We’re small and somewhat rural, but the level of coffee here, I think, exceeds that of any other city.”
Where to Go:
Onyx Coffee Lab: Find Liftee training baristas at any of the four Onyx locations across Northwest Arkansas.
Arsaga’s: Onyx owners got their start at this established specialty roaster, which offers six locations, including a cute drive-through for a quick coffee fix.
Airship Coffee: “Natural trails are really big here in Northwest Arkansas”, says Liftee. “Airship happens to have an open air cafe right on a biking trail that is really cool.”
Confident Coffee Roasters: Woman-owned Confident Coffee Roasters in Fayetteville is one of Liftee’s favorite spots. “I love their ambiance.” says Liftee. “It’s a really small and neat roasting program that’s a part of the local community.”
Denver is known for much more than rock climbing and hiking. The coffee culture has ballooned in recent years, with new indie coffee shops and roasters opening up in every neighborhood.
Where to Go:
Copper Door Coffee: Denver’s only 100% female-owned coffee roaster, Copper Door boasts an excellent array of coffee classes for those looking to sharpen their skills. From latte art to cupping and espresso basics, a class is a must for those traveling to the Mile High City.
Corvus Coffee: If exotic or rare coffees are your thing, Corvus should be your first stop in Denver. Specializing in avant-garde and hard to find artisan coffees, this roastery has it all.
Huckleberry Roasters: Winners of Roast Magazine’s 2022 Macro Roaster of The Year, Huckleberry Roasters offers myriad coffees for the specialty coffee lover, including a selection of instant coffees sure to please those with the most sensitive palates and busy schedules.
Among the legendary country music culture of Nashville lives a community of dedicated coffee professionals and enthusiasts.
Where to Go:
Barista Parlor: With a focus on environmentally responsible coffee sourcing, Barista Parlor makes a great local hangout for the coffee lover. Look out for their excellent sandwiches and beautiful latte art.
Stay Golden: More than a roastery, Stay Golden has all of your breakfast and lunch needs handled. From breakfast tacos to grain bowls, the food here does not play second fiddle to the coffee. Coffee cocktails and specialty drinks pair perfectly with the food menu.
Honest Coffee Roasters: True to their name, Honest Coffee Roasters specialize in working directly with coffee farmers and making sure they get a fair price for their products. They can tell you clearly and transparently how every coffee was fermented, roasted, and sourced, and which type of coffee is best suited to specific beverages.
Liftee’s travels to Melbourne revolve around international competitions, like the World Brewers Cup, which have allowed him to explore the deeply rooted coffee culture of Australia’s third-largest city.
“The cafe culture is very different in Melbourne—it’s more sit-down style,” says Liftee. “It’s slower service, not grab your cup and go. Even my Uber drivers have excellent specialty coffee recommendations in Melbourne. It’s really ingrained into the overall culture of the city.”
Where to Go:
Seven Seeds: “They have an amazing food program, as well as probably the best Kenya coffee I’ve ever had”, says Liftee. Established in 2007, Seven Seeds is at the forefront of the growing coffee scene in Melbourne.
Code Black: With six locations in Melbourne, you’re likely to stumble upon this shop throughout your travels. They offer barista training and resources for those looking to brew a better cup, along with coffee subscriptions and quality brewing equipment.
Proud Mary Coffee: You’ll love the eclectic and multicolored design of Proud Mary’s brand, and the enormous variety of their coffee offerings. Don’t shy away from their well-sourced tea selection, from raw Puer to Thai silver tip.