America's Best Boutique Coffees
Rebecca Ruiz: Forbes.com
What's more difficult to find is the unique cup: the single-origin espresso or freshly roasted French press. Even though Starbucks (nasdaq: SBUX - news - people ), in its fight to retain customers, today unveiled a new brewing strategy and an inaugural blend called Pike Place Roast, most coffee snobs argue that the best java is found at small cafes where each cup is painstakingly crafted. Often tucked away in neighborhoods outside of a city's financial district, these shops can be difficult to get to for a business traveler, but aficionados say it's a worthwhile trip.
He also recommends independent coffee shops for business travelers bored with the same four hotel walls.
At Ninth Street Espresso's Chelsea location in New York City, for example, patrons sidle up to a 24-foot-long coffee bar, where they order from a list of seven straightforward coffee drinks, including an espresso, macchiato and French press. Customers include a mix of tourists, locals and business travelers drawn partly to the neighborhood by its high-profile art galleries. Owner Ken Nye thinks the elbow-to-elbow experience is quintessentially New York.
Small shops like Ninth Street Espresso and LA Mill are now easier to find, particularly with the advent of blogs and Web sites devoted to their discovery.
Bill Walsh, who writes about his adventures exploring independent cafes on a blog called Pure Coffee, says the country's choice shops and roasts can be found with some sleuthing. He frequents the Web site CoffeeGeek.com for leads, but also solicits tips from friends in different cities.
"My goal is to find the hidden gems around the area," says Walsh, who is based in Syracuse, N.Y. Instead of assessing a cafe's atmosphere, he looks to its credentials, including its roaster, whether it belongs to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, and any awards it might have won. Also important to Walsh is the barista's ability to discuss where the coffee was grown, under what conditions and how the company sourced it.
Ninth Street Espresso's Ken Nye, who seeks out high-quality java while traveling, recommends starting the day a little early with a trip to a cafe .