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Coffee first became popular in the U.S. after the Boston Tea Party, when the switch was seen as “patriotic,” according to PBS. And since Starbucks debuted in 1971, the drink is now accessible almost anywhere you go. In a recent Reuters poll, sixty-three percent of Americans age 18 or older said they drank coffee the previous day.
What gave way to java culture? Science, for one, has convinced us that caffeine possesses multiple health benefits besides mental stimulation. At the right dosages, caffeine may contribute to longevity. Perhaps just as important, though, is coffee’s social purpose. Today, coffee stations are a staple of the workplace, and tens of thousands of shops serve as meeting places for friends, dates and coworkers. The creation of these drinks has grown increasingly professional, too. Being a barista has become less a part-time job than a career field. Latte art has even inspired a national competition.
But some local coffee scenes are stronger than others. To determine the best among them, WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities across 14 key indicators of coffee lover-friendliness. Our data set ranges from coffee shops, coffee houses and cafés per capita to average price per pack of coffee. In addition, we compiled a list of top coffee retailers extending special savings in honor of National Coffee Day on Sept. 29. Read on for the winners, coffee-lover insight and a full description of our methodology.
Best Coffee Cities in America
The Specialty Coffee Association of America values the U.S. coffee market at $48 billion. Not only does that indicate how much Americans are willing to spend on the beverage, but it also signals business potential to aspiring entrepreneurs. For more insight on the coffee industry and consumption, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What tips do you have for a person that wishes to enjoy his/hers daily java cup while on a budget?
- Why are some folks willing to spend two or three times more for a comparable cup of coffee?
- In the current economic environment, is opening a coffee shop as a first business for young entrepreneurs still a good idea, or are most markets already oversaturated?
To determine the best cities for coffee lovers, WalletHub compared the 100 most populated U.S. cities across 14 key metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric also was graded on a 100-point scale.
We then determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. A total score of 100 represents the most favorable conditions for coffee lovers.
In collecting our sample, please note that we considered only the “city proper” in each case and excluded the cities in the surrounding metro area. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we used the square root of the population to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
- Average Price per Pack of Coffee: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
- Average Price of a Cappuccino: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
- Average Spending on Coffee per Household: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
- Share of Adult Coffee Drinkers: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
Note: This metric measures the share of adults who reported drinking “ready-to-drink” coffee in the past six months. “Ready-to-drink” includes already prepared coffee found in the cold section of grocery stores.
- Share of Households that Own Coffee Makers: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
Note: This metric includes households that own electric coffee grinders, coffee makers (single-cup/pod-brewing) and/or espresso/cappuccino makers.
- Affordable Coffee Shops, Coffee Houses & Cafés Rated 4.5+ Stars per Capita: Double Weight (~12.50 Points)
- Coffee Shops, Coffee Houses & Cafés per Capita*: Double Weight (~12.50 Points)
- Coffee & Tea Manufacturers per Capita*: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
- Coffee Shops with Free Wi-Fi per Capita*: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
- Donut Shops per Capita*: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
- Google Search Traffic for the Term “Coffee”: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
Note: Search traffic was measured as a share of the national average.
- “Coffee Lovers” Meetups per Capita*: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
- Presence of Coffee-Centric Events or “U.S. Coffee Championships”: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
- Average Ranking of Coffee Shops on The Daily Meal’s ‘50 Best Coffee Shops’ List: Full Weight (~6.25 Points)
Note: This metric is based on The Daily Meal’s ranking of “America’s 50 Best Coffee Shops,” which “measured the spots based on a wide range of criteria,” including: the quality of coffee beans used; the relationship of the shop with its roasters or whether the shop roasts its own beans; the culture of the shop; knowledge and training of the shop’s baristas; and the quality of snacks and pastries.
Sources: Data used to create this report were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, Numbeo, Google Trends, Yelp, Esri’s Updated Demographics (2019 estimates), Meetup, Specialty Coffee Association, The Daily Meal, Caffeine Crawl and Coffee Fest.