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The Ten Best Cities for Coffee in the United States of America · 10 January 2019 by colin newell

Habit Coffee and Culture Number Two Yates Street Atrium

Living on the West Coast of North America in an area dominated by coffee culture, I cannot imagine not having the best of cafe culture within an easy walking distance. And in my 25 years of writing about the bean scene in Canada, I have traveled from the West Coast to the East Coast, with many stops along the way, looking for the best of the best in the brewed cup of joe.

Two decades ago there would have been larges swaths of land between hot spots and thankfully that has changed. Most towns, large or small, in Canada have grown with the times and it’s now downright challenging to find a whistle stop completely free of a hot cup of java or a great latte or cappuccino. And while this is a rule in Canada where there are a finite number of pathways East to West, it is not that simple a quantification in the U.S. of A. Here are some stats about the coffee scene in the U.S.A. – by the numbers!

Top 10 cities based on coffee businesses per resident

It’s no surprise that the Pacific Northwest is well represented on our list of the best cities in America for coffee lovers. These 10 highly caffeinated locales have the most coffee shops per resident, so that quick fix is never too difficult to find.

Number 10. Ann Arbor, Michigan – One cafe for every 2825 people.

With a total enrollment of more than 44,000 students, plus one professor for every 12 students, the University of Michigan is a likely inspiration for the many coffee shops scattered across Ann Arbor. Coeds have plenty of places to get that all-important caffeine infusion to help them cram for exams.

Coffee drinkers living in Ann Arbor can expect to pay an average of $1,331 for a one-bedroom apartment. Ouch!

Number 9. Everett, Washington – One cafe for every 2752 people.

Located 25 miles north of Seattle (or as Coffeeville as it’s also known!) on the Puget Sound, Everett is the first of four Pacific Northwest cities on our top 10. The military town is home to Naval Station Everett, and a slew of local roasters keep around 6,000 sailors and civil servants assigned to the base alert at all hours.

Living in Everett is considerably more affordable compared to Seattle just a few miles to the south. The average one-bedroom rent here is $1,307.

Number 8. Pittsburgh, PA – One cafe for every 2607 people.

Coffee may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Steel City, but the caffeine scene is growing fast in this proud Pennsylvania town. From cappuccinos at the buzzing Espresso A Mano to curry ginger lattes at eclectic Biddle’s Escape, Yinzers have a wide variety of coffee shops from which to get their daily jolt.

In addition to all of the coffee options, Pittsburgh residents have it pretty sweet (comparably) on their rent as well. A one-bedroom place here averages about $1,282 a month – which is cheaper than most cities on our top 10 list.

Number 7. Minneapolis, MN – One cafe for every 2427 people.

With an average snowfall clocking in around 60 to 70 inches annually, the country’s coldest urban center tends to Jones for java. Locals escape sub-zero temperatures and blizzards (in April!) with cozy caffeinated beverages in warm independent coffee shops and the beloved local chain, Caribou Coffee – founded in nearby Edina.

Minneapolis renters may be able to splurge a little more on their espresso machines – the average monthly price for a one-bedroom here is $1,468.

Number 6. Salt Lake City, UT – One cafe for every 2387 people.

Even with the significant LDS population abstaining from coffee and tea, Salt Lake City has some serious coffee cred. From single-origin espresso to green bean brew, pioneers like the Salt Lake Roasting Company and Millcreek Coffee have been paving the way for creative coffee purveyors for decades.

Salt Lake City is also one of the more affordable places to live compared to the rest of our top 10 list. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,260 a month.

Number 5. Portland, OR – One cafe for every 2322 people.

Home of the beloved Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Portland’s coffee culture is strong – arguably the strongest in the country. The city trumped coffee rival Seattle multiple years to take Travel + Leisure’s title of America’s Best Coffee City. Alas, judging by the number of coffee outposts per capita, Seattle edges out Portland by a hair on our poll.

Coffee lovers looking to settle down in Portland can expect to pay about $1,550 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.

Number 4. Seattle, WA – One cafe for every 2308 people.

Starbucks was born here in Pike Place Market back in 1971, opening the door for a flood of Seattle roasters to follow, from Tully’s Coffee to Caffe Vita Coffee Roasting Company and many, many more. Whether they’re searching for Bulletproof Coffee or the perfect pourover, Seattleites have a diverse array of excellent coffee shops to choose from.

Seattle also comes in as one of the more pricey cities on our list for rent. Your average one-bedroom apartment in Seattle will cost $2,139 a month.

Number 3. San Francisco, CA – One cafe for every 2297 people.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the “third wave of coffee”? Powered by high-quality artisanal coffee, the latest trend started with roasters like San Francisco-born Blue Bottle, which only sells beans that have been roasted within the last 48 hours. Locals also swear by third-wave pioneers like Ritual Roasters, Sightglass Coffee and Four Barrel Coffee.

In what’s probably no surprise, San Francisco is the most expensive place to live compared to the rest of our top 10. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment here will set you back $3,704 a month.

Number 2. Vancouver, WA – One cafe for every 2224 people.

Located just across the Columbia River from Oregon, Portland’s largest suburb is equally devoted to coffee culture. In fact, Vancouver edges out its sister city on our top 10 thanks to a slew of places to sip, from Relevant Coffee to Compass Coffee.

Vancouver is also the most affordable city on our top 10 list. One-bedroom apartments average $1,167 a month.

Number 1. Berkeley, CA – One cafe for every 2037 people.

Many brew aficionados trace coffee’s third-wave back to Peet’s Coffee, which started selling hand-roasted small batch beans in 1966 near the University of California. Today, Berkeley takes the title of the best city in the U.S. for coffee lovers, with more coffee shops per capita than any other city in the country.

Berkeley also comes in toward the top for rental prices compared to the rest of the cities on our list. The average one-bedroom apartment in Berkeley runs $3,106 a month.


Inspiration for this article

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Coffee in the 21st Century · 6 September 2018 by colin newell

1950's coffee trivia

For those who hearken to the 1950’s for a simpler time need only look at an assortment of sexist, mean-spirited ads that seemed to define a generation.

The reality of the time was – coffee quality had declined so much in the 40’s and 50’s that no amount of talent would have fixed it. In that era, as well, people were brewing coffee in percolators which is the single worse way to brew coffee – by running boiling water through the ground coffee and recycling the brewed coffee through the filter a half dozen times before it’s poured.

My mom and dad were still brewing percolated coffee into the late 1960’s until something of a renaissance started to develop – filter brewing coffee with hot water and a single pass – or manually pouring into a Melitta carafe.

For those of us, over 50 years of age, who have been drinking coffee for decades, these are simply the best of times for coffee culture and coffee lovers!

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Thanksgiving - Life in the coffee time-tunnel · 26 February 2018 by colin newell

Vancouver 1968

Way back in 2008, I popped into Cafe Roma on Commercial Drive in Vancouver – a cafe that has more than a little history for this old part of Vancouver and for me, a big piece of childhood memory too!

One sunny mid-week Spring day, Dave, a contributor to the CoffeeCrew.com website, and I sample the espressos and cappuccinos and taste some delightful locally baked treats.

It reminded me of a unseasonably hot June of 1968, some 40 years earlier, as I walked down East 6th Avenue, Vancouver, towards Commercial Drive.

This was the first trip off of Vancouver Island and the first trip on the fairly new B.C. Ferries and what started as a day trip turned into an overnight adventure as mom decided to hook up with some cousins in the big city.

Mom, who grew up in a multicultural enclave in Montreal, Quebec and spoke 3 languages, including conversational Italian, had brought me over to Vancouver for the weekend to visit the Pacific National Exhibition and to see a piece of the big city. And what a cultural shock it was for a 11 year old to see something so different than sleepy small town Victoria B.C.

Mom’s cousins lived on East 6th Avenue around 2 or 3 blocks from Commercial Drive – a big old character house the likes of which I had never seen before. The original block of houses remain in Vancouver to this day and walking the tree lined sidewalks in 2018 is like a trip through a time tunnel.

On a Saturday morning in June 1968 I started the day with my cousin Dennis by heading out for an exploration. Only in the late 60’s would it seem perfectly normal for a couple of 11 year olds to head out into the urban jungle for a look see.

Caffe Roma Then and Now

Turning onto Commercial Drive on this sunny Saturday late morning, Dennis and I walked down wide sidewalks past Italian delis, corner grocers and bustling cafes.

The street had a life of its own. From a child’s perspective, everything seemed brighter, louder, busier and decidedly more fragrant. For a naive kid from small town Victoria, I might as well have been on another planet.

The aroma of strong coffee, cured ham and fresh fruit drifted over the concrete beneath my feet. I stopped for a moment in front of a busy cafe. It seemed to be packed with men, young, old, mostly old men entangled in a circle of loud conversation and broad hand gestures. They spoke Italian, a language my Montreal raised mother used with me when she was displeased.

A young couple caught my eye. They seemed disconnected from this humming umbilical of community.

A girl, likely in her twenties, wore a canary yellow sun-dress and her male friend a wool suit. The suit seems softened by a few years worth of wear and somewhat sticky considering that it was a hotter than usual summer. Between his sips of strong looking coffee from an impossibly small cup and her demurely drawing from something that looked like a milkshake, they talked in a musical banter – words only they appeared to understand.

Dennis grabbed my shoulder and pulled me along. I looked back at the couple nodding and laughing. The girls hair moved up and down held in place by a daisy-yellow hair broach. Now walking again, Dennis steered me into a green grocers hardly a door away from the cafe. With 90 cents in my pocket, a lot of money for 1968, I bought a Butter-finger chocolate bar, some pixie-sticks (fizzy candy in a paper tube) and a cola.

We exited the store and turned left towards the cafe again.

Caffe Roma is now buzzing louder as we strode towards my cousin’s avenue. The table where the young couple sat was now empty save for a cup and a glass. I spot them exiting onto the boulevard, hand in hand, her dress burning a permanent image into my mind, the itchy smell of his suit offering contrast. They vanished into a pulsating hive of urban humanity – a Saturday morning blend of shoppers, smokers, the odd smattering of fashionably clad hipsters and one wide-eyed child – me.

I look in the cafe window again flashing forward to the present. I stand outside of Caffe Roma on Commercial Drive and time has stood still just for me. The reflection in the window looks alternately young and slightly older.

Clouds pass by offering a broad selection of flattering light. CoffeeCrew contributing member Dave watches me for a moment before holding the door.

“Colin, let’s get some coffee…” he says.

The smells and sounds of the the Cafe and the street envelope me like an old gloved hand. For a moment I hold in my palm the paper tubes of fizzy candy and a half-eaten chocolate bar. Dave asks again, “What are you going to have, Colin?”

I order my usual when I am in a cafe for the first time – double espresso and a snack. In this case, they have very tasty looking apple turnovers. I get one.

The intensity of the Italian coffee and the tangy sweetness of the pastry are the perfect match. As I sip the beverage and feel the caffeine perking within me, I can almost hear the whispered conversations of the young lovers from so long ago at a nearby table. Where are they now? Have the years been kind? Most likely, their grandchildren are half-grown up, much as I was in 1968. I think about my marriage, now almost 2 decades in length, and how in places like these, time just stands still.

In the final moments before we leave for our next stop on the drive, the owner pops by to gather up our spent cups. I tell him the coffee is fabulous. His expression is priceless and without words – a combination of ‘of course it is son…’ and ‘I have a cafe to run today…’

As we step onto the still vibrant sidewalk of Commercial Drive, two ten year old boys approach on skate boards. One sails past me like a low flying seagull.

The other swishes to a stop and is immediately hypnotized by the activity in the cafe, the noise, the smells, the starling chatter of the old men.

The cycle continues season by season, year by year through the generations. We are thankful for our memories and the time we have ahead of us. Thanks for the memories Vancouver!

A few months later in 1968, Jimi Hendrix would play a stellar concert at the Pacific Coliseum and a couple of weeks before I arrived in Vancouver Robert Kennedy would be assassinated in Los Angeles during his presidential bid. Here in 2018, Caffe Roma is now part of the history books – but while in Vancouver, you can visit The Drive – Do so. You will be glad you did.

Vancouver - commercial drive - 1968

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Steeped coffee from Santa Cruz - what's new. · 13 November 2017 by colin newell

Podcast – Talking steeped coffee with Josh Wilbur of Steeped Coffee – Santa Cruz, California –

We spoke with Josh Wilbur, brainchild behind the “Steeped Coffee” concept just out of beautiful Santa Cruz California.

Hey. People love coffee. I love coffee and have been talking about it for over 20 years

Just when I think I have run out of things to talk about, something interesting comes down the pipe.

And that is Steeped Coffee.

Steeped Coffee has just launched, arguably, the easiest way to make a great cup of coffee with their fully compostable single-serve bags.

Steeped Bags replace the need for wasteful pods, expensive machines, and time-consuming homebrewing equipment. And for the first time, this new brewing method combines the quality and ethics of specialty coffee with the convenience of a single serving. Not only that but the packaging is Earth friendly too! Wait, what?

My lab mates and I tried some free samples of the Steeped coffee product recently – simply following the dead simple instructions – Hey, if you can make a cup of tea you can make a darn fine cup of coffee. As the press info goes: “Each portion is delivered in a fully compostable nitro sealed packet for freshness, essentially halting the coffee’s aging process so it’s like it was ground within moments.” And we found this to be true. Just ground freshness in an envelope.

As Josh pointed out in our audio interview: “Sometimes simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve. I came up with this idea 7 years ago—knowing that there should be an easier way to make great coffee. When I first started it was just coffee in a tea bag,” said Josh Wilbur, CEO and Founder. “There’s a reason this hasn’t been done before. We had to innovate to account for a number of factors such as sourcing ethical and quality beans, getting the right grind size and density, maintaining the freshness of ground coffee, controlling the water permeability of the filter, and making sure everything we do is environmentally sustainable. Turns out there were a lot of challenges to overcome to make something this simple work.”

Whoa. We love it when a plan comes together.

In our lab at the University of Victoria, we enjoy great coffee every day. We grind and brew for Hario V60 brews as well as Newco pro drip brewers. In a pinch it would be nice to have a slightly faster process that we can count on in a pinch – and have a clear conscience too! We have reviewed numerous “instant brew” type machines with PODS and such that are a blight on the environment. Steeped Coffee has thought it through and brought us something that we can live with. And a product that tastes good. Stay tuned!

For more information, visit Steeped Coffee online.

Podcast – If you cannot see the HTML audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.

Steeped Coffee - yes, it's new

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Talking coffee health studies with Natasha Hall of NewsTalk 800 CJAD Montreal · 26 April 2017 by colin newell

Podcast – Talking coffee with Natasha Hall of CJAD 800 NewsTalk – Montreal –

CJAD 800 NewsTalk Montreal

We were talking coffee with Natasha Hall of NewsTak 800 – Montreal on the topic of those seemingly endless health studies on the dire (or wonderful) effects of caffeine and coffee (in general) on your body!

This podcast (interview) is around 14 minutes long – so strap yourself in.

I average around 20 radio, TV or newspaper interviews annually and this was one of the better ones – a lot of these radio hosts are affable, enthusiastic and well read before they undertake an interview – honored to chat on the subject of my passion. Coffee. Love it.

Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.

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Talking coffee on CKNW with Gord MacDonald · 21 December 2016 by colin newell

Podcast –

Talking coffee on 980 CKNW

We were talking coffee with Gord MacDonald from CKNW – 980 from Vancouver — with some really good questions.

This podcast (interview) is around 11 minutes long – so strap yourself in.

I average around 20 radio, TV or newspaper interviews annually and this was one of the better ones – a lot of these radio hosts are affable, enthusiastic and well read before they undertake an interview – honored to chat on the subject of my passion. Coffee. Love it.

Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.

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