Drink Local: The World’s Best Independent Coffee Shops

The best part of waking up is… not Starbucks!

I love coffee. It’s one of the first things I think about in the morning and I appreciate a fine cup of coffee to get my day started. In fact, having a cafe con leche every morning with my grandmother is one of my fondest memories from childhood.

In my years of traveling I’ve discovered many things about coffee culture: Italians don’t order cappuccinos after 10am; they typically have a macchiato or an espresso con panna instead. Spaniards love their cortados, while here in the US they’re sometimes called Gibraltars. And the Australian flat white is like a latte but not– it’s way better.

If I can offer one tip for finding a good cup of coffee when I travel, it’s to skip the Starbucks. Independent coffee shops offer unique and tasty brews that capture the flavor of their cities.

Read on for my favorite coffee shops around the world. Trust me, it was tough to narrow this list down to 15. Yet, no matter where you are based, each of these spots is worth a trek!

The Best Independent Coffee Shops Around the World


Coffee art (photo: BabyMarfy/Flickr)

1. Gimme Coffee

Locations: Brooklyn + Manhattan + Ithaca, New York

They say nothing compares to your first love. That’s the case for Gimme Coffee and me. For 5 years I lived right above the Brooklyn location. You can say that Gimme took my craft coffee virginity. Every morning, I was literally woken up by the smell of coffee wafting outside my window (and the sound of hipsters hanging out on my stoop, but that’s a different story). Thanks to Gimme I was able to develop an appreciation for quality coffee. It was at Gimme that introduced me to the latte art concept. When I got my latte and it had a heart swirled on the top, I thought the barista was surely a magician.

Gimme Coffee, Brooklyn

Gimme Coffee, Brooklyn (Photo: tonx/Flickr)

2. Caffe Ladro

Location: Seattle, Washington

Seattle is considered the birthplace of coffee in the US. After all, Starbucks originated there in 1984. There are so many amazing roasters in the city that it was hard to pick a favorite. In fact, I had to choose two (see #13). But one thing is certain: Caffe Ladro is at the top of my list. Their smooth and rich coffee is good to the last drop. Their 13 coffee shops in Washington state are a perfect place to spend a couple of hours reading and sipping a cup of their drip coffee. I recommend their flagship blend, Ladro.

3. Tap Coffee

Locations: London, England

On a recent trip to London, I really went out of my way in search of this coffee shop. It was a challenge to find Tap Coffee since shops are only marked by the number of their address, not with the brand name. The space was warm and inviting on that cold November day, and the flat white was delicious. Although I must admit, I was most focused on the stirring spoon they provided. Never have I seen something so precious.

Coffee spoon at Tapped & Packed

Coffee spoon at Tapped & Packed (Photo: elisabet.s/Flickr)

4. Coava Coffee

Location: Portland, Oregon

Portland is a close second to Seattle when it comes to coffee. Again I struggled with picking just one local favorite, since Stumptown Coffee is the first coffee shop that comes to mind when you think of Portland. I’ve always wondered if in the world of coffee, Seattle and Portland have their own version of East Coast/West Coast rap rivalries. Located in Portland’s Industrial District, Coava’s beautiful space is also a bamboo furniture store. If anything stop by just see this unique setting.

5. Caffe Saint’Eustachio

Location: Rome, Italy

Of course, there has to be a location from the birthplace of espresso, Italy! On a recent family trip, I forced my relatives to take detour in search this coffee shop tucked away just steps from the Pantheon. Caffe Saint’Eustachio was worth the trek. Manned by old Italian men, these guys know how to make a good cup of coffee. They’ve been making espresso longer than I’ve been able to drink coffee. Be sure to order a macchiato to truly sample the quality.

6. Climpson and Sons

Location: London, England

Saturdays in London Fields are all about the Broadway Market street food vendors. At food markets, I’ve found that while there is a wide array of delicious food and drink from around the world, coffee from a cart can sometimes be hit or miss. While Climpson and Sons has a stand at the market, I recommend you head to the brick and mortar shop to avoid the crowds. I decided to try their flat white, which was as good as any of the ones I had in Australia. The shop is a bit small and does not offer much seating, so take your cup of coffee to go and walk around the market stalls or lounge at London Fields park (just around the corner).

7. Ritual Coffee Roasters

Locations: San Francisco + Napa Valley, California

The first time I had Ritual Coffee I was getting over a bout of food poisoning. I was visiting San Francisco and nothing was going to stop me from sampling this coffee. All I can say is that the latte met my expectations and so much more. On the weekends the line can get a little long but it’s worth the wait. During the week, the Mission St location in San Francisco sometimes looks more like an office than a coffee shop. If you’re the work-from-home type, this is your place. It has the triple threat: wi-fi, a great soundtrack, and pretty people. If you want a really good pastry to go with your coffee, stop by Tartine Bakery a few blocks away.

Gourmet Coffee

Delicious coffee (Photo: Baby Marfy/Flickr)

8. Intelligentsia Coffee

Locations: Chicago + Los Angeles + New York

Intelligentsia Coffee is a staple in the LA coffee scene. Hailing from Chicago, this coffee shop has quite the cult following. They take their coffee seriously. Every year, their baristas are always top contenders at the US Barista Championship. I recommend the Gibraltar, their version of the cortado. With locations in Chicago and Los Angeles, they FINALLY opened a location in New York this past March at the High Line Hotel in Chelsea.

9. Mecca Espresso

Location: Sydney, Australia

Located in the heart of downtown Sydney, this place is buzzing with business types and the hipster baristas serving them. This was the last stop on my Sydney coffee tour. In fact it was a last minute addition, and it ended up being my favorite. The flat white was so delicious and smooth I had two! The resulting coffee buzz was no joke. Come hungry because Mecca Espresso also serves food. The shop itself is small, but they have plenty of seating outside.

10. Cafe CK

Location: Berlin, Germany

On a morning run, I happened upon this coffee shop in the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. I just had to take a break from my run and go inside. I sampled their French Press coffee, which was so smooth and exactly the pick-me-up I needed to finish the second half of my run. Cafe CK is also known for their excellent Aeropress coffee method served in a glass. The shop itself is very warm and welcoming. They also serve breakfast and have wifi if you’re in search of a good place to work in the morning.

11. Little Amps Espresso

Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

This indie roaster is based in Harrisburg, PA, two hours from Philadelphia. Though wherever you happen to be in the state, it’s worth going out of your way to check out this place. Little Amps Espresso roasts their coffee on-site. If you go on a warm day, their cold brew is a must-have. Drink up and stay a while. They typically have art by local artists and live music. If you don’t live nearby, they also have a monthly coffee subscription. Worth every sip!


Handsome Coffee (Photo: Baby Marfy/Flickr)

12. Handsome Coffee

Location: Los Angeles, California

Once upon a time, a couple of dudes at Intelligentsia decided they wanted to branch out on their own. So they did and formed Handsome Coffee. These expats also roast their coffee on-site in a vintage 1952 UG-22 Probat refurbished in Belgium that was actually airlifted to California. Ridic. So far they have one location in Downtown LA’s Warehouse District. Be warned, they’re coffee purists. They only have one type of milk (whole) and encourage you to savor your coffee in a ceramic cup, sans sugar. But they’re right. This is how coffee is best enjoyed.

13. Caffe Vita

Locations: Seattle, Washington + Los Angeles, California

Caffe Vita recently opened their first LA location and it’s near my apartment. Needless to say, I am one happy coffee drinker. As noted earlier, Seattle, WA has so many great roasters and this is one of them. This coffee shop is great for working or just general people watching. Their pastries aren’t the best, but the coffee, especially the cold-brew, is all you need in my opinion.


Caffe Vitta square (Photo: Baby Marfy/Flickr)

14. Blue Bottle

Locations: San Francisco + Oakland, California + New York City

I spent a lot of time at the Oakland location when I lived there. Blue Bottle‘s coffee is considered the crème de la crème of artisanal coffee. Their space is not meant for working, though. It’s more akin to the Italian way. Stop in for a coffee, like one of their famous pour-overs, maybe chat with the barista and go about your day.

15. It’s a Tie! Campos Coffee + Monmouth Coffee

Locations: Sydney, Australia (Campos Coffee) + London, England (Monmouth Coffee)

I unintentionally spent a lot of time at Campos Coffee in Sydney’s hip Newtown neighborhood. It was raining really hard and I had no umbrella. So I took the opportunity to read a book and truly sample the flat white and one of their delicious pastries. The staff was friendly in that way that only Australians can be. No wifi though so bring a book or load up that Kindle before you go.

I have to admit I’ve never been to Monmouth Coffee. But it still made the cut because it’s at the top of my list of places to visit next time I’m in London. Monmouth is considered one of the pioneers of artisan coffee. So if you go there, let me know if it’s worth it!

What’s your favorite local coffee shop?

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About Martha Rivera

Secret technophile in love with food, coffee, music, film, culture, biking, random acts of spontaneity and not getting lost in LA.