The South’s Best Coffee Shops
Point Perk: Covington, KY
For its dedicated employees, the Point Perk coffee shop is more than a place to work—it's the first paying job they've ever had. Point Perk, an outreach of nonprofit The Point Arc, offers a workplace for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Along with two non-IDD staff, the group tends to a menu of lattes, Americanos, smoothies, pour-overs, and decaf beverages. Beans are hand-delivered to the doorstep via Carabello Coffee in Newport, where they buy with compassion from growers in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and more. It's all working so well, with such feel-good and taste-good results, that Point Perk is set to expand later this fall—just in time for the Pumpkin Spice Latte, a seasonal drink of the month that's a hit with customers.
Latte Da Coffee Shop: Fairhope, AL
Your cup at Latte Da is as rich and rewarding as a good read (which you can easily find by strolling into the very popular adjoining bookstore, Page and Palette). Order yourself a Turtle Deluxe, which is a yummy chocolate-caramel-hazelnut latte specialty. Or maybe try the double-shot, extra-foam skim latte with a hint of cinnamon. Beans from Mobile's Carpe Diem Coffee & Tea Co. also brew into no-frills coffee, so all your java needs are covered. Latte Da is a place of true community: Book clubs and good friends gather often. Writers also work here, while authors stop by to sign their latest books. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, wise women Sonya Bennett and Nancye Jennings set up their Friendly Advice booth. The nickel fee that you'll pay goes into a scholarship fund.
Ebenezers Coffeehouse: East End, DC
Ebenezers describes itself as "coffee with a cause." The shop donates all of its profits to community-outreach projects that touch every corner of the world and include homelessness, child advocacy, human trafficking, and clean water. Owned and operated by the National Community Church and located in a diner built in 1908, it's an inclusive gathering place where you'll likely find Senators and locals from all walks of life enjoying best sellers like the Honey Lavender Latte or Spiced Chai. Ebenezers' Buy a Coffee, Give a Coffee program promotes pay-it-forward generosity so everybody sips equally. The brew, made with beans roasted by One Village Coffee, includes signature blends, single-origin coffees, pour-overs, iced beverages, and cold brew—all fair trade, with organic and shade-grown options. Whatever you choose at Ebenezers, you can know your dollars are well spent supporting a variety of worthy causes.
Bitty & Beau's Coffee: Wilmington, NC
A world map on the wall displays colorful pins marking countries near and surprisingly far, put there by visitors traveling to Bitty & Beau's Coffee to see a remarkable concept in action. Servers with IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities) take your order, make your drink, and help you feel welcome while a manager works in the background. "Walls come down, and people appreciate differences—and how we are similar," says Amy Wright, the cafe founder and mother of Bitty and Beau, who were both born with Down syndrome. (Too young to work, the two often stop by to "supervise" in the shop that shares their names.) A huge success, Bitty & Beau's has now added locations in Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia; has a thriving mail-order business; is the official coffee of Rachael Ray's TV show; and roasts its own beans. Sundance and Beau's Blend are best sellers. Merchandise saying "#notbroken" offers an inspiring take-home reminder.
Otherlands Coffee Bar: Memphis, TN
Otherlands (so named because the coffee comes from other countries) started 25 years ago as a gathering spot, a sort of Cheers with caffeine. Today, founder Karen Lebovitz jokes that her customers think of Otherlands as part social/part "c'office" (that's coffee + office), and it works. She considers herself a community activist, giving coffee to the local indie film festival and to Teach901, a program that promotes educators. She also opens her doors for fund-raisers and peppers the events schedule with music nights for singer-songwriters.
Hopscotch Coffee & Records: Winchester, VA
The theme at Hopscotch Coffee & Records is beans and beats. It's big news that the vinyl-only record shop and coffee cafe just merged, though their upstairs-downstairs locations always saw lots of crossover. Grab your cup of, say, French press House Blend or an espresso-based mocha, and head down the steps to hear a tune—new or vintage—on the turntable. Upstairs, the chat frequently turns caffeinated, as the shop's baristas and owners love the many nuances of coffee. The place often hops with live music, art shows, and recitals and theater events by Shenandoah University students. If you're feeling a buzz, switch to decaf with good conscience—it's decaffeinated using the mountain water process.
Lowco Café: Wando, SC
The name hints at the mission. Lowco Café supports local, Lowcountry everything. Sure, the beans come from afar, but they're roasted here by Lowcountry Coffee Roasters, whose owners created the cafe. They offer jams and jellies from nearby Rina's Kitchen and hand-crocheted coffee sleeves by Three Button Crafts. Community— focused events include an outdoor marketplace with area artists, photographers, crafters, and more. "Just ask!!" says the menu if your specialty latte of choice doesn't appear. Lowco can likely whip up your favorite.
Junction Coffee: Oklahoma City, OK
Part of the fun here is Junction's 1974 British double-decker bus, which moves to a different part of the city daily (you can visit junctioncoffeeokc.com for scheduled stops). Sit upstairs or down to sip the Vienna, macchiato, cortado, cappuccino, Americano, or a soothing latte flavored with house-made syrups. A springtime Lavender Latte as well as the autumn maple version (returning soon) win praise. Owners and former youth pastors Lori and Nick Bollinger both take pride in creating an open, inclusive environment that welcomes conversation. Look for the Junction bus to reopen September 7, ending its summer-swelter hiatus, which lasts from mid- June through August.
Dublin Roasters Coffee: Frederick, MD
A hobby for a K-9 police officer turned into Dublin Roasters Coffee about 20 years ago, with tasty results. After traveling to coffee farms and learning growers' stories, Serina Roy devoted herself to roasting good beans and fostering good community spirit. Among today's offerings are Volt Blend, named for a local chef; Highlander Grogg with caramel and rum; Enchanted Indian, grown at the base of a pine forest; St. Elena Bourbon from the side of a dormant volcano; and Galapagos from the islands that shelter rare animals. Clubs fill the place daily. You might see (and join) groups for belly dancing, jazz, Hula-Hoop twirling, finger painting, henna art, social justice advocacy, bingo, comedy, and sewing. Dublin Roasters hosts clubs for everybody from Hula-Hoop enthusiasts to sewing groups, all drawn here by the excellent coffee.
Lost + Found Coffee Co.: Tupelo, MS
Have a brush with fame at Lost + Found Coffee Co. You'll be sipping your brew in the old Tupelo Garment Company, where Elvis' mother ran a sewing machine upstairs while expecting the future King of Rock "n" Roll. Today, the factory is home to Relics Antique Marketplace, and Lost + Found's coffee bar is everybody's favorite spot to caffeinate. Enjoy manually brewed pour-overs, created while you watch; cold brew, served icy after a 24-hour bean immersion; and (of course) traditional drip coffee. Founder Collin McIntyre runs a people-oriented place where coffee is the platform for conversation and community.
Rhino Coffee: Shreveport, LA
Rhino's Uptown and Downtown locations don't make frappés, because blenders would pollute the place with noise—not ideal for relaxation or conversation. And if you ride a bike here, you get a discount. Obviously, the ambience is curated as carefully as the java, which Rhino sources, roasts, grinds, and brews. A community table for six facilitates conversation and encourages you to make new friends. Local groups flock here to meet, and monthly art shows hang in the Uptown shop, where specialties include Iced Lightening, a marriage of cold brew, espresso, vanilla, chocolate, milk, and a secret sauce. In all, you'll find over 20 fair-trade coffees, mostly from Colombia, Kenya, and Papua New Guinea.
RedEye Coffee: Tallahassee, FL
Look for RedEye's Mobile Café and its complimentary coffee at city events like Springtime Tallahassee, Turkey Trot, and The Longest Table. Or visit one of the company's brick-and-mortar shops for a café con leche or the cortadito with espresso and steamed half-and-half, both authentically Cuban. Roaster Maurice Moulton turns out an annual 60,000 pounds of beans from Ethiopia, Sumatra, Rwanda, Guatemala, and Colombia—for your pleasure and also to go toward serious causes in this city and beyond. Locally, RedEye supports Serve Tallahassee (which aids under-resourced families) and internships for Florida State University students (focusing on how to start a business with impact). The shop also shows up with hot beverages in times of need. RedEye serves only bird-safe, shade-grown, organic coffees in earth-friendly cups. The taste is great, and the impact on the world is even greater.
Lamplighter Coffee Roasters: Richmond, VA
When Noelle Archibald found the space for the first Lamplighter Coffee,, the Fan neighborhood of Richmond was still a decade away from being the hip spot it is today. Now Lamplighter is still a fixture of the area but with neighbors like boutiques Yesterday’s Heroes and Addison Homemade and Vintage along with throwback biker shop Cognito Moto and the Uptown Community Garden. Their second location and roasting lab are close by no matter where you find yourself wandering in the city.
Cups: Multiple Locations, Mississippi
Your first gift here: Free tastings are often offered when this small Mississippi chain adds new menu items. The coffee comes from Central America or East Africa, having passed scrutiny for quality before boarding a boat and winding up in the 11 Cups cafes. They have classes to teach brewing techniques, and if a local organization needs coffee and mugs, Cups races to the rescue. In the occasional Latte Art Throwdown, baristas compete for the most intricate foam design to top a dark beverage—but not too dark, because the owners favor light and flavorful roasts in keeping with the region's love of sweet tea. Favorite brews include Costa Rica and the polarizing Blueberry Cinnamon (you love it, or you don't). The Blondie is a latte with textured milk, caramel, and white chocolate. Take time to peruse the art on the walls, perhaps created by your barista. It's all for sale, and Cups takes no commission.
The Black Dog Coffee Company: Shenandoah Junction, WV
Contemporary coffee emerges from a rare 1931 roasting machine called Plutonius, one of the secret weapons at The Black Dog Coffee Company, which turns out nearly 2,000 pounds of beans weekly. Aiming to put West Virginia on the serious coffee map, around 115 clients already are buying and serving the brand throughout the state (it's also available in nearby Virginia and Pennsylvania). Yet the center of the Black Dog universe is the shop itself, a small, charming dot on the Eastern Panhandle. Order the simple drip with its right-from-the-roaster freshness. The best-selling lattes feature local organic milk. Work by West Virginia crafters fills the shelves. Stop by often to enjoy the weekly Taco Tuesday food truck, Wild & Wonderful Wednesday (which is a farmers' market), delicious jerk chicken every day but Monday, monthly drum circles, and an always warm welcome.
Refuge Coffee Co.: Clarkston, GA
Forget your drink order for a moment, though it'll be fantastic, and consider the broader mission at Refuge Coffee Co., where your barista has transplanted to Georgia from a refugee settlement in a faraway, often dangerous, corner of the world. The idea at this nonprofit shop is teaching refugees life and career skills as well as English while providing them with a positive environment in their new land. Lasting friendships, job connections, and promising futures are by-products of the year-long training. Customers fuel the spirit of community, chatting with baristas as they order their lattes, cappuccinos, and chais. There's also room to enjoy the coffee inside the former auto-repair shop, which is now tricked out for all things caffeine and comfort. The shop's many activities, like their artisan markets and gift fairs, add to the appeal.
Woodlawn Cycle Cafe: Birmingham, AL
The only thing that could make Woodlawn Cycle Cafe better is if it were located closer to Southern Living’s offices. Despite that, this bright new beacon in the Birmingham cafe scene has become our editors’ de facto meeting spot. Come in for a cup of Madcap-roasted coffee, stay for an escalivada sandwich and the choice vinyl selections spinning on their record player. If you’re a cycling enthusiast, you can park your ride inside at this bike-friendly shop.
Baby's Coffee: Key West, FL
This place began when Olga Teplitsky challenged husband Gary to flip a quarter: Heads, open a coffee shop; tails, a barbecue place. Lucky for all of us, heads won. Now, 28 years later, Baby's Coffee roasts 18 varieties for the shop and a mail-order business. The couple has also brewed decades of goodwill, giving out free coffee when Hurricane Irma nearly swept Key West away; fund-raising for sick children; and supporting the local softball team. Each barista trains for 80 hours before serving the first espresso and must know every specialty drink (from frozen to steaming hot) by heart. All beverages are served in recyclable cups—you'll never spy Styrofoam here. If you can't make it all the way down to the Keys, order a shipment of Conch Republic Coffee, Baby's Private Buzz, Death by Coffee, Hemingway's Hair of the Dog, or Baby's Havana Roast. Even if you live far away from the nearest beach, you'll be sipping like an islander.
Wake the Dead Coffee House: San Marcos, TX
The town's nickname is San Marvelous, its people dubbed San Martians. And so the fun begins at Wake the Dead Coffee House, with San Martians flowing in for bountiful brews and community building. Come for poetry readings, guitar strumming, Irish jams (open to anyone who plays), Movie Mondays with avant-garde films, stand-up comedy, music from hum-along tunes to hip-hop, a writers' circle, and even guys who bring scaly critters in for show-and-tell. The connection throughout is the coffee. The add-on syrup selection alone is staggering, with Irish cream, kiwi, toffee crunch, amaretto, butterscotch, and more. Each of the three rooms here features monthly shows by local artists (who receive 100% of the profits). To find this place, just look for the blazing red-and-black striped exterior.
The Quirk Hotel Coffee Bar: Richmond, VA
The lobby of the new Quirk Hotel is a must visit whether you’re spending the night there or not, but the inhouse coffee bar with a specific roast by Blanchard Coffee Roasting Company (It has notes of tobacco and candied citrus.) gives you one more excuse to relax in their pink velvet arm chairs.
Rivertown Coffee: Florence, AL
In the small, but progressive town of Florence, Rivertown has transcended its role as coffee shop and become something more of a city hall. Inside you’ll find musicians, fashion designers, financial advisors, doctors, artists, professors, and everyone in between talking about their new ambitions and latest projects over cups of powerful Muletown-roasted coffee. Owner and chef John Cartwright also has a knack for serving sophisticated sandwiches, salads, and burritos that belie the ultra-affordable prices.
Onyx Coffee Lab: Bentonville, AR
Onyx does everything but grow the beans—and you can count on co-owner Jon Allen to find the best ones for you. With help from his team, he sources them during travels to East Africa as well as Central and South America. "We sample all the coffees, scoring them from 1 to 100, much like wine," explains his wife, Andrea, the shop co-owner. Each of four Onyx locations—in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville—serves the popular Southern Weather Blend (as a brewed cup or espresso), bringing together Colombian and Ethiopian flavors. Join the coffee community at Onyx for a Cupping 101 class to experience the scoring process, or attend training sessions at the lab to learn how to brew at home.
The Wydown: Washington, DC
Southern Living Assistant Editor and former D.C. resident Katherine Owen is fan of this new U Street shop that started out as a raved-about pop up by brothers Chad and Alex McCracken. The brothers jerry rigged a 1970s hot water boiler to make their coffee super consistent and efficient.
Big Bear Cafe: Washington, DC
Big Bear is a fixture in the Bloomingdale neighborhood where Washingtonians come for coffee sourced from Durham-based Counter Culture and local roaster Apothekary DC. The ambience of their shop is so serene that they offer it as a venue space for weddings.
Lineage Coffee Roasters: Orlando, FL
We learned about Lineage while pursuing Rifle Paper Company founder and Winter Park resident Anna Bond’s Instagram account. You can find this husband-wife owned shop in Orlando’s East End Market, a bustling collection of shops and cafes, which is giving the Disney World-and-chain restaurants image the city might be known for a fresh new look.
Panther Coffee: Miami, FL
The colorful muraled walls of Panther Coffee are just as intense as husband-wife team Joel and Leticia Pollock’s devotion to letting their customers know where they source their beans for each cup of coffee they brew at this Miami favorite.
Foxy Loxy: Savannah, GA
Located away from the tourist-centric downtown in a house just down the street from Savannah College of Art and Design’s liberal arts building, you’ll see students, professors, and residents of the city’s Victorian District gathering in the living room-like space. The walls are papered with screen prints and postcards--an homage to owner Jennifer Jenkins who was a printmaking professor at SCAD before opening Foxy Loxy and their second location downtown, Coffee Fox. One of Savannah’s best kept secrets may be their tropical-Grecian courtyard where patrons roast marshmallows for s’mores to pair with locally roasted PERC coffee or Lone Star longnecks.
Jittery Joe's Coffee: Athens, GA
An Athens mainstay, Jittery Joe’s, which opened their first location in 1994 next door to the legendary 40 Watt Club, is a favorite of local Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and former resident Patterson Hood of the Drive-By-Truckers. JJ’s did single-origin sourcing and latte art way before it was cool.
Gallery Espresso: Savannah, GA
If you’re looking for the best people watching spot in Savannah, you’ve found it according to Southern Living travel editor and former Savannah resident Hannah Hayes. Order an iced latte and grab a table on the Bull Street sidewalk overlooking Chippewa Square, but if it’s chilly outside, the arm chair by the far window makes for a comfy vantage point.
Octane: Atlanta, GA
This Atlanta-based chain is partly famous for it’s powerful Gravy and White Lightening Espressos and partly renown for their contemporary, blonde wood-paneled spaces. We’re a fan of their Grant Park location with soaring ceilings and floor to ceiling garage-style windows.
Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party: Atlanta, GA
Okay, Dr. Bombay’s might be more of tea-focused spot than coffee, but the whimsical environment that is part library, part Indian bazaar, part front parlor keeps this place on our lists of Hotlanta haunts. The shop also uses a portion of their profits to support projects that advance education for impoverished girls in India.