The evolution of coffee from commodity to craft has come a long way in the last few decades. The Third Wave coffee movement has turned many a casual caffeine-seeker into full-blown coffee nerd, and with great reason. Coffee has emerged to encompass various forms, is brewed in increasingly complex and scientific ways and has become a feasible career path for a whole new generation.
Coffee can have a profile as complex as any wine. There's a story behind every cup and whether or not you want to hear it — to each their own — it's being told across the country. The goal of the inaugural Eater National Coffee 38 is to find coffee shops around the US telling those stories and creating a new narrative in the national coffee scene. And of course, they also serve a damn good cup of coffee.
The Coffee 38 Selection Process
Similar to the local Eater 38 lists, the goal here is to include the best of the best, but also make sure to include a fair amount of geographical diversity as well as diversity of style. As such, your favorite place in coffee-centric cities like Portland, Seattle and New York City may not have made the list, but there's always next time. The heaviest-weighted criteria was the quality of the actual coffee, though at times, atmosphere and bonuses (like good food menus) played small parts in selection.
Eater consulted with a panel of coffee lovers and experts across the country consisting of professionals in the field (importers, retailers of coffee equipment), writers with extensive knowledge of the subject, bloggers, the well-traveled, coffee-appreciating chefs, and book authors. There was a general consensus among many of them, though oftentimes there were polarizing opinions. That means that while the bulk of the list was approved by the whole panel, some panelists may disagree with some selections. C'est la vie.
In any case, each listing was reviewed thoroughly, researched and eventually decided upon, though the final say is up to you. Eater fully expects a spirited discourse in the comments for those that feel certain inclusions or exclusions were unwarranted.
As for our panelists, a very heartfelt thanks goes out to: Chérmelle Edwards, Erin Meister, Liz Clayton, Hugh Acheson, Mike Thelin, Matt Buchanan, Michael Gillispie, Karen Kazmierczak, Adam Goldberg, Oliver Strand and all current Eater editors and critics.
Here now, the inaugural Eater National Coffee 38. Entries are listed in alphabetical order. Please feel free to air your inevitable grievances in the comments below.