Sure, here in the South we are famous for our tea as well as our preference (or die-hard rule) to drink it iced down and sweet. But we like a good cup of coffee too.
Thankfully for us, coffee roasting is a growing trend in the South. Forget the chain shops popping up on every corner, we’re talking about the real deal. Real people. Real roasters. Real good coffee. And while it might not be too hard to find a decent cup o’joe in most Southern neighborhoods, these places have something special—a little something extra that makes them stand out, be it a house special we just can’t get enough of, or an atmosphere that we just want to blend in and be a part of. Whatever that special something is, these Southern coffee shops and roasters have it.
- Crema – Nashville, Tennessee
Rachel and Ben Lehman began roasting their own beans in 2010. A relationship with their sources guarantees they’re serving not just the best cup but best trade practices as well. (photo courtesy of Crema)
Crema has been described as having everything you would expect from a high-end Seattle coffee shop with a dash of Southern hospitality. While we’re confident our favorite Southern roasters rival anything the Northwest can offer, that’s a high compliment in the coffee world and well earned by this Nashville hot spot.
Rachel and Ben Lehman brought the dream of Crema to life back in 2007, opening in February the following year. The duo literally created the shop from nothing, building what was needed with their own hands while searching high and low for good quality, used equipment to serve their first patrons.
But hard work does pay off, and Crema has since become a favorite of Nashville natives and visitors alike, receiving high praise on both the local and national coffee scene. Since they began roasting their own coffee beans in 2010, Crema has won awards from the Specialty Coffee Association of America three times, taking home second place in the Roasters Choice Competition in both 2012 and 2013, along with being named a finalist in 2014.
With some of the best baristas and roasters the South has to offer (and probably beyond), a cup at Crema is an experience in coffee art not to be missed. Whatever they’re serving up, we’ll take two.
What to sip: The Cuban or the Coffee Soda.
Crema’s signature coffee soda—the best of their brew with a shot of CO2 (photo courtesy of Crema)
- Dynamite Roasting Co. – Black Mountain, North Carolina The Asheville scene needed a local roaster and a high quality one at that. In 2008 Gibbs and If Gibbon started Dynamite Roasting Company in neighboring Black Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Dynamite Roasting Co.)
If the pretentious, high-end establishments just aren’t your thing, let Dynamite Coffee change your mind about coffee shops. It’s more like hanging out at your best friend’s house, except your friend makes one killer cup of joe.
But an atmosphere is just a reflection of the people who inhabit it. And when Josh Gibbs and Andy Gibbon, two friends who met while playing in a band, started having “coffee talk,” a coffee shop wasn’t their first goal. Beans were. The Asheville scene needed a local roaster and a high quality one at that. In 2008 Gibbs and Gibbon started Dynamite Roasting Company in neighboring Black Mountain. While selling commercial was their plan, when the people ask for a cup of coffee, you give them a cup of coffee. The aroma from the roasting beans drew customers to the doors of their operation, seeking a cup of what they had been smelling.
And so it was. Dynamite Roasting became a favorite out-of-the-way coffee shop of the Asheville metro. The fresh cup draws them in, while the down-to-earth people behind Dynamite keep them coming back for more.
What to sip: The Daily Drip.
If you come for a taste of one of Dynamite’s freshly roasted blends, stay for the view (photo courtesy of Dynamite Roasting Co.)
- O’Henry’s Coffees – Homewood, Alabama Today, despite their growth, O’Henry’s still puts as much quality in every cup as they did when they changed the face of coffee in the Birmingham area (photo courtesy of O’Henry’s Coffee)
Orthodontist and coffee aficionado Dr. Henry Bright started O’Henry’s in 1993 in Homewood. Apparently, the Birmingham coffee scene just wasn’t cutting it for Bright, and he traveled coast to coast in search of what it took to make a good cup of coffee. One key he found was to roast it yourself. And so O’Henry’s Coffee and O’Henry’s Coffee Roasting Company were born. And Birmingham hasn’t looked back since.
Six years into the biz, Bright sold his rights to the current owners and roast masters, Randy and Mary Adamy. Bright is still a customer, which speaks a lot of the newer owners. They still roast in small batches, often in the little red roaster that started it all. Seeking only the best beans in the world and their attention to detail in the roasting process is apparent in every taste of a cup of O’Henry’s. And while they have grown into a small chain, they’re still credited for giving life to Birmingham’s ever-growing coffee scene. So to experience O’Henry’s the way it was meant to be experienced, visit them at their first home. There’s no place like Home(wood).
What to Sip: The O’Henry’s Blend or the Southern Pecan Crème.
Bright sold to the Adamy family in 1999, who kept the tradition of roasting high quality beans in small batches (photo courtesy of O’Henry’s Coffee)
None of these shops along your daily route? Here are some notable Southern coffee shops (not all roast their own beans) and what we would be sipping if we were there now.
Killer ESP – Alexandria, Virginia
What to Sip: The Nutella Latte, served with a spoon of Nutella on the side. And maybe (okay, absolutely) a side of pie with at least one scoop of house-made gelato.
Black Tap Coffee – Charleston, South Carolina
What to Sip: The Lavender Latte. Not your thing? Think again. Otherwise, drink it black with a shot of brown sugar syrup.
Mojo’s Trailside Coffee House – Damascus, Virginia
What to Sip: Six of the area’s seven major trails begin right at Mojo’s, so best to power up before a hike. Sit and sip a latte, but take a cold brew to go.
Mylo Coffee Co. – Little Rock, Arkansas
What to Sip: The French Press, but make sure you have it with a side of the kouign amann (pronounced “queen uh-MAHN”), a flaky, caramelized Breton pastry layered with sugar and butter.
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