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.