"Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip, and low comedy. Coffee is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, and a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to classic demi-tasse, it is the perfect democrat." - New York Times, 1949
This excerpt describes coffee and coffee culture perfectly, and still rings true today. Like wineries, beer gardens and even cafés, coffeeshops too emanate sentiments of coziness and identity. However, contrary to the other previously listed gathering places that strive on delivering that glass of Montepulciano or pilsner of beer, coffeeshops facilitate settings that are better-suited for productivity, stimulation and creativity - enjoying a benevolently crafted beverage or conversation all the same.
It can be a quiet place perfect for studying or working from home with that artisanal latte, a counter perfectly placed downtown for a quick grab-n-go cold brew, or a café amongst friends accompanied by bottomless drip coffee, there is just that heightened 'good feeling' about the coffee lifestyle. THAT is why I believe coffee culture and coffeehouses are superior - vibes mixed with versatility.
That being said, cultivating a specific culture or identity around coffee is important, secondary to the coffee quality of course. Austin's 'coffee scene' is a true cornucopia of different coffee perspectives; whether you're Greater Goods roasting and serving up your own beans and coffee, Epoch distributing local coffee and 'study' vibes, or Codependent administering coffee n' cocktail concoctions, the hippie city has a strong coffee diversity. I am happy to live in a city that offers such a range, there's truly a coffeeshop for every mood you're in or vibe you're yearning.
After evaluating all the Austin coffee shops I know of, new and old, as well as what primary and secondary coffee categories they align with, I've established three macro classes that epitomize Austin's overall coffee scene. The below is an an aggregation of every local coffee shop, coffee roastery, coffee trailer, and coffee counter - and all the coffee vibes in between - which hopefully showcases our city's overall coffee culture at a high level.
So, craft up a cortado, or, that go-to favorite latte, and let's dive into Austin's coffee scene:
1. Authentic and Specialty Coffee
If you're like me, you love your true corner or neighborhood coffee shop - quiet, quaint, and friendly, with some places knowing your favorite barista by name. Coffee, coffee and coffee is the prime name of the game, and the beverage options are mostly coffee-focused. These 'true' coffee shops are perfect for that productive work-from-home day, studying and reading, and catching up with a friend over an enjoyable coffee in an arcadian atmosphere.
Luckily, Austin is chock-full of coffee houses with these elements. Spots such as Once Over Coffee Bar, Epoch, Hideout, Bennu, Flightpath, Sa-Tén, and Fleet truly echo the 'coffee shop' mantra, and emit more 'vibes' than other places in town that serve coffee. This also applies to the many coffee trailers and trucks we have scattered throughout town (Compass, Freewheelin', Neptune, Stellar, and Lady Elaine to name a few). These authentic coffee shops will also most likely carry your Chaggaccino and lavender or matcha lattes, that may be more difficult to locate at other places.
Additionally, Austin has a large trade of local roasteries as well. Hit makers such as Little City, Superthing, Wild Gift and Golden Ratio can be trialed all over town, and many other roasteries are also popular coffeeshops themselves - Flat Track, Try Hard, Civil Goat, Cuvee, Mozart's, and Greater Goods to name some personal favorites. Not to mention the silent heroes, the local coffee creators behind the scenes that can the buzz for our convenience (looking at you Chameleon Cold Brew and High Brew).
Given the large amount of local roasteries, and said roasteries also having their own coffeeshops in town, I can definitely call Austin a "specialty coffee" city, a.k.a. heaven.
2. Brew²: Coffee + Beer combo
Some Austin's coffee shops also have the added dimension of alcohol - most specifically: beer. The beer supplement makes the place more desirable to meet a friend or group and grab a table, rather than a quiet corner or solo spot. Such bangers include Spokesman, Buzzmill, Radio Coffee & Beer, Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, Lazarus Brewing, Cosmic Coffee, Stauthaus Coffee Pub, and many more here in town. I actually think there are more of these "coffee" shops in town compared to true coffee-only dwellings.
I think this synergy is AWESOME. Austin/CTX also has a sneaky craft beer and brewery scene, commensurate with our local specialty coffee locale. The combination of these two cultures coalesces to the ultimate hangout spot, perfect for whatever mood one fancies. These spots are the most versatile in town; they're great for both dedicating a morning working from home or reading, and, meeting friends for some local beers in a laidback but less-busy setting than a typical bar.
3. "Café," or, coffee?
Austin's food scene is wild, and is as good as it is diverse. Our mom-and-pop restaurants are my favorite, and reflect Austin's identity as a city - and I am a sucker for a good local café.
Cafés, or now labeled by it's millennial moniker, "brunch spots," have penetrated the Austin food and beverage scene as does a splash of orange juice to a flute of champagne. These spots are the most upbeat and jolly to enjoy a drip coffee or latte, and often sequel a really good burger, eggs Florentine, or Caprese salad as accompaniment. Coffee is often de-prioritized at these sorts of spots, but can serve as a great aesthetic (I for one love the branding/logos of June's and Hank's) or the primary beverage for the meal, if the assiduous atmosphere and delicious food is not providing enough of a buzz already.
June's, Hank's, Elizabeth St. Café, Café Josie, Cherrywood Coffee, Texas French Bread, Magnolia Café, and Kerbey Lane are leading the way for the local cafés that are perfect for both great coffee and food. Most of these places double-down and are Austin staples for boozy-brunches, a trend that is steamrolling through town these days, but good coffee has always been the caffeinated catalyst.
Overall, Austin's coffee scene is fantastic. Given our large footprint in the craft beverage industries (Tito's and Dripping Spring's for vodka, the many large and small breweries, and copious nearby wineries), the success and footprint for local coffee participates in those triumphs. Whether it's a spot to jam lo-fi quietly and study, a place to meet a friend and chat, or a café to enjoy a meal, there is a coffee joint for you in town. I hope this article stewards your coffee journey here in Austin in a positive direction, and serves as a celebration for local coffee.