Of course, best case scenario, you hire some one like me to take you on a coffee tour when you are visiting a city. We know the ins and outs; we can tell you the little bits of info that make a coffee shop the best coffee shop in NYC or wherever you are visiting. But, let’s just say, you can’t do that.
The next best thing is to find some shops yourself. In fact, you really only need to find one shop and a friendly barista who will tell you where all the coffee geeks are hanging out. Here’s my tips are cracking the coffee geek code for the best coffee shops when traveling.
#1 Google “Speciality Coffee” and “Third Wave Coffee” on Google Maps.
If you just google “coffee,” you’ll end up with every place that sells general swill. You want to find some place that is trying to distinguish themselves.
#2 Look for shops that sell bags of freshly roasted coffee.
This is one of the best indicators of actual coffee goodness. Coffee expires about a month after it is roasted. It doesn’t matter if you put it in the freezer. It can help if you keep it in its original sealed bag and you don’t grind it until right before you brew. But, generally, it expires.
Coffee’s quick expiration post-roasting means that when you walk into a shop that has a lot of coffee in clear bins for sale, this place probably isn’t taking coffee seriously.
#3 Avoid any place that hypes syrups or flavors.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. Here, in New York, Cafe Grumpy usually has a seasonal coffee drink that they’ve amped up with some sort of flavoring and I’ve been known at Thanksgiving to order a honey oat latter with the best of them. But, generally, the more syrup bottles, the more “flavored” coffees you see for sale, the less these folks are expecting you to be aspirating their brew like the coffee geek you are.
#4 Chat up the barista.
Hang out by the espresso machine and tell the barista you are from out of town and are looking for great shops to try. Get a pen and paper or your phone and thumbs warmed up because most of the time, within a few minutes, you’ll have a list of shops to try next.
Rinse and repeat. At the next shop, tell them the last shop sent you, tell them you are from out of town, show them your list, see if they’ve got anyone to add.
All you really need to one good coffee geek barista to set you on your path.
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