American coffee: so darned good

It’s amazing how easy it is to get a really good coffee in the big American cities. I’m not talking about going and getting a latte the size of a pillarbox in a Starbucks or an over-stewed filter coffee in a diner, but instead getting a proper fresh brew in one of the indies – the small cafes that pepper the streets of the places that I visited on my recent trip. It quickly became apparent to me that the Yanks take their love of coffee to almost evangelical heights – sometimes it’s quite amusingly serious and beardy! And each coffee shop has its own personality and quirks, as you shall see below…


Here is Ninth Street Espresso in Alphabet City (East Village), New York:




Stern-looking baristas with beards and trilby hats served us; the clientele comprised of people tapping away silently on iMacs. Shhhhh!



The perfect shape atop a deliciously strong and milky flat white:


The hilarious house rules – woe betide you should come here with children, as the bottom bit of the sign says: ‘Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free dog’ (ha ha):



Cafe Pedlar on the Lower East Side is a beautiful ‘artisanal’ coffee shop where the beards and the brews are strong:






They use a local brand called Stumptown Coffee, produced in Brooklyn. I wish I had brought some beans back, it was delicious, as were their cakes – behold this slab of ginger cake and olive oil sponge:




In San Francisco, the coffee scene is fantastic. You can go to indie cafes run by trendy hippies, earnest anarchists, sexy arts students and grizzled old intellectuals.


Caffe Trieste, in the North Beach area, is where the beat poets (Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg) allegedly used to hang out, and is deservedly famous. It simply reeks (in a good way) of the atmosphere of a bygone era, and has been open for 50 years. People actually sit around reading proper novels by Jean Paul Sartre and John Steinbeck, and old and young mix with each other. The walls are covered in black and white photos of all the artists that have hung out here over the years, and the tables are decorated with funky colourful tiles. I drank the best mocha of my life here, drenched in whipped cream…while an old dude with a MASSIVE white beard sat next to me and hoovered down an enormous wedge of vanilla cheesecake in less than three minutes…happy days.


Mmmm mama!



Do not sit and read a trash mag in here – it’s strictly novels, poems and scripts please:




Groovy friendly ladies – Lory on the left came over to our table and hung out with us, sharing all sorts of tips on where to go in California. Lovely lady!




History is on the walls:




Cafe Divis in the Haight District served me the best decaff coffee I have ever drunk – it tasted way better than a lot of caffeinated coffee that I have had in the UK, and I am upset I won’t taste this fine brew again anytime soon:




So trendy innit! There were lots of cool young good looking people tapping away on laptops…but less beards than elsewhere.




And finally onto LA – where we went to Intelligentsia in Venice. The name should say it all, but it was SO UPTIGHT that I got the uncontrollable urge to giggle. Everything was very 1990’s – all brushed steel and glass, with everyone yapping into their BlackBerry’s and punching the keyboards of their laptops, talking about real estate and contracts (which in my imagination could only be about the movie business, of course)…


Achtung: do not spill anything, cough, sneeze or make a mess in here! And laughter shall not be tolerated:



See how beautiful my coffee is below? Well, it took two baristas to make it – a very amusing sight. Bearded earnest barista was in charge of grinding the beans and getting stressed with Blonde Barista, who just looked thin, bored and beautiful as she heated the water in slow motion, and then made the shape of the heart on the milk foam, sighing. They kept bumping into each other and exchanging cross whispers. Blonde Barista was clearly just slumming it here, as the job was clearly quite beneath her, and an agent was going to discover her that very afternoon and get her an audition for a pilot. Bearded Barista just looked incredibly stressed, and was dressed a bit like a farm hand. Bless. But the coffee was nice though!




And thus endeth my mini journey through the indie coffee shops in the States – if only I worked near a decent coffee shop in London (I don’t). All I can hope for is a cup of something not-too-bad from Pret or Eat…


Ninth Street Espresso

Cafe Pedlar

Caffe Trieste

Cafe DiVis

Intelligentsia Coffee



  1. Oh I'm here with you! Cant believe how depressing London coffee scene is! Lets not even start talking about other parts of the country.. I am very keen on independent cafes (where coffee ALWAYS tastes better, although nowhere near as good as in Southern Europe (why is that?! water, perhaps?)) and often end up walking around for an hour or so only to give in for a cup at Nero's 😦 Sad!!


  2. Hi Ziupsnelis, Yeah, I'm with ya on the indies – they always make a better brew. If only I worked near one of those trendy new London coffee shops like Prufrocks or something, then my life would be very different! But then I might have to wear a trilby hat to get served… :o)


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