What makes a coffee shop the “best” is definitely a subjective matter. To some, they’re all about the coffee and don’t mind tiny spaces with standing room only. To others, they want a place where they can sit down and relax for a while with their freshly poured cup, but don’t mind if it wasn’t roasted within the hour on-site. USA Today recently tried to put together a list that everyone can agree on and named America’s Best Coffee Shops. The list features a mix of cozy and sophisticated (ok – mostly “cozy” with an emphasis on artisanal roasters), and has a little bit of something for everyone. Of course, these shops are pretty much only in big cities, but you can still order some of their coffee online and go for your own coffee shop experience at home.
1. Ultimo Coffee, Philadelphia
2. Gimme! Coffee, New York
3. Barista, Portland, Ore.
4. Courier Coffee Roasters, Portland, Ore.
5. Café Grumpy, New York City
6. Lamill Coffee Boutique, Los Angeles
7. Stumptown, Various Locations
8. Ritual Coffee Roasters, San Francisco
9. Joe the Art of Coffee, New York and Philadelphia
10. Intelligentsia, Various Locations
11. Commonplace Coffee Co. House and Roasters, Pittsburgh
12. Milstead & Co., Seattle
13. Everyman Espresso, New York City
14. Peregrine Espresso, Washington, D.C.
15. Artifact Coffee, Baltimore=
I am a big fan of the Iced Tea Lemonades at Starbucks when the weather gets warm, since they’re just sweet enough and very refreshing. Sometimes I get black, but often I get the Green Tea Lemonade, which has a very mellow flavor to it. It was fantastic with the melon syrup that Starbucks offered a few seasons ago, and when I saw that one of my local stores was promoting an Iced Peach Green Tea Lemonade, I knew that I had to give it a try.
The drink is made the same way as the green tea lemonade, but is sweetened with peach syrup. The baristas led me to believe that you can’t get an unsweetened peach tea for that reason (but I only get them sweetened, so that wasn’t a problem for me). The peach syrup has a very mild flavor that adds nice peach notes to the tea without making it too sweet or too peachy. You can still taste the green tea, but the lasting after taste is all peach. Delicious.
This drink hasn’t been rolled out to all Starbucks stores yet, and I’m not entirely sure when it will be, but it is definitely in more stores than it was in its initial test run. If you see it, give it a try. I’ll be drinking many more in the hopes that they keep this one on the menu long-term.
Starbucks created their House Blend coffee in 1971 and it has been a favorite with customers ever since. It is still one of their best selling blends, even though we typically see Pike Place brewing when we visit cafes these days. On Friday, April 19th, you’ll definitely see House blend brewing at Starbucks again because the company is celebrating 40+ years of House by offering free tall cups of House blend to all customers who stop by Starbucks before noon. It’s definitely worth dropping in for a cup on your way to work.
A few years ago, the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf offered a summer drink called the Banana Caramel Ice Blended. It was essentially a caramel ice blended coffee drink with banana added to it. A few years before that, Starbucks had a Banana Mocha Frappuccino on their menu that was very similar. These drinks only lasted the season, but they had quite a few fans – including some friends of mine who are reminded of them every time they’re in the mood for a frappuccino. Fortunately, with a blender, some bananas and some coffee, I was able to put together an acceptable substitute to hold them over until they reappear on menu boards.
This Banana Mocha Ice Blended starts out like a regular blended mocha drink with a whole banana added to it. The banana alone might not seem like it goes well with coffee, but both coffee and bananas go very well with chocolate, and the three work together beautifully when combined. The drink is creamy, with a nice coffee kick and some extra sweetness from the banana. It’s very refreshing and the banana adds just enough of a nutritional punch that you could justify drinking one of these for breakast as well as an afternoon pick-me-up.