Hot coffee, sure, but #HotTakes? The internet is chockablock with them, as major media companies both online and off take a moment to peer briefly into the coffee scenes around the world and rank individual cafes numerically. Everywhere you look it’s a new top can’t miss coffee best list, and while we shy away from such #HotTakes here on Sprudge—our board deems them too potentially #viral, and thus a public health hazard—we are not shy about compiling, and of course curating, the myriad carefully Googled HeatLists from across the internet for your reading pleasure.
In the spirit of last year’s Ranking On The Rankings, we’ve updated the Sprudge.com #HotTake HotMap with 10 incredible coffee listicles from around the United States (this sort of ranking predilection seeming to be a particularly American hobby). Our listicle is ranked in sequence from 10th to first, even though when you read the list it will seem deeply arbitrary to say any one entry is better than another. That’s how listicles work, people. #1 is #1, and you don’t want to be #2.
10. The Lo Down, “10 Best NYC Coffee Shops“
Lo Bosworth, star of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County and The Hills wants to give you some recommendations for coffee, with photos mostly ganked from company websites and this one post on the travel blog Trotter. This listicle succeeds as a listicle in that it is a listicle–it tells you, in list form, 10 places to drink coffee in New York City–but it fails as a listicle because it does not include links, addresses, or other useful information about the shops in question, and it doesn’t come anywhere close to naming the 10 actual best cafes in New York, which is a ridiculous thing for any journalist to think he or she can adjudicate in the first place, especially on a blog owned by someone who was on The Hills.
9. Thrillist, “Best Drinks At Starbucks“
Thrillist is a list-forward internet journal designed to sell butch clothing. Their list mill game is strong, some nonsense, and some rather good, but we like their recent #HotTake on the Starbucks menu, starting with a three-way tie for 51st place (shared by the some lesser berry concoctions) all the way up to a controversial fourth place finish for the Starbucks Flat White, not to be confused with a real flat white, which may not actually exist in the first place. We agree with Thrillist on their #1 pick: the Frappuccino is clearly the best beverage at Starbucks by a lonely country mile (with a Starbucks drive-thru).
8. We Like LA, “17 Spots for The Best Coffee in Los Angeles Every Java Addict Needs To Have On Their Radar“
We’re fond of this listicle not just for its dizzying, questionably capitalized headline, and not just for its scintillating opening line (Coffee, java, Joe. The magical elixir…), but for the oddly confessional tone throughout, and of course the use of emoticons. The author promises the hemp milk at Javista is “just milk “, dishes about her bad blind date at The Conservatory, and concedes that the vibe is “a bit elitist” at Spring For Coffee. It’s a hoot.
7. Swide, “Top 10 best songs for coffee lovers“
Now here’s a listicle we can sink our teeth into. Swide’s compiled a list of the 10 songs you’re most likely to hear at a barista competition, from Frank Sinatra’s kinda racist “The Coffee Song” to Blur’s kinda druggy “Coffee & T.V.” to two different songs called “Cigarettes And Coffee”, plus offerings from both Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. This is an example of the dark art of the listicle being used for good, not evil. Here’s a collection of nice music themed around coffee, rather than an arbitrary qualitative value ranking of human-owned small businesses designed to drive ad clicks. Otis Redding’s voice sounds beautiful.
6. Eater, “21 Outstanding Coffee Shops In New York City“
Earlier this week Eater’s national bureaux published a veritable deluge of coffee listicles for major American populations, 11 in total. Their New York list gets stuff right—having a staff byline instead of a single arbiter for example—and we happen to agree with several of the staff’s choices, such as the Joe NYC location in Grand Central Station and Everyman Espresso in SoHo. It also makes some stretches: the listing on Cafe Devoción takes the freshness claims a little enthusiastically, and how is it that any one cortado—even a cortado from Everyman—could be the single-best cortado in all of New York City? Do we really need wild claims like that made to us as readers in order to think a place is good? Can’t you just say, “This cortado is really good.”
Perhaps this perfect cortado, like the mythical perfect #HotTake, is served hot, but not *too* hot.
5. BuzzFeed, “24 U.S. Coffee Shops To Visit Before You Die“
[Begin Scene] [Rural America, possibly Oklahoma. A small, contemplative man sits in his study, alone with his thoughts. He reaches for the telephone, possibly the last rotary phone in regular use, and dials a familiar phone number with tired, arthritic hands. He waits a breath with the receiver in one ear, and then…]Percy?
Horace, is that you?
It’s me, Percy. I have bad news. I’m dying. The doctors give me just 30 days.
That’s terrible news, Horace, but it’s news we should all expect someday…one way or another. What will you do with your last days?
You know, that’s just the thing. I think I know what…what I want my last wish to be. I want to see an arbitrary number of cafes across the United States, chosen by the Community of some sort of large publishing platform. I want to visit them all…before I die.
Horace! It’s a miracle! I’ve done a a search of some sort on the Googles and it’s just the most splendid thing! I will send it over now.
[A chime from MSN Messaging is heard, and Percy looks at the computer screen. His face, at first quizzical, shatters into a thousand emotions. Overwhelmed, we watch as he slowly places the phone receiver down on a small side table and begins to weep. Tears of joy stream down his weathered cheeks, reflecting pure joy off the lenses of his thick prescription glasses. Before him, on a flickering, ancient computer desktop that seems older than he is, is an article from BuzzFeed titled “24 U.S. Coffee Shops To Visit Before You Die”] [End Scene]
4. Thrillist, “The 14 Best New Coffee Shops In America“
More listification from Thrillist, this time courtesy of Dan Gentile, who is actually a pretty fun coffee writer. This is a good coffee list, and mirrors much of the “new, now, next” reporting found in our annual Build-Outs of Summer Series, but it’s a coffee list nonetheless, and the amount of worthwhile cafes not making it in below the arbitrary “14 Best New” qualifier is mind-boggling. What, for example, would make BREW Five Points in Jacksonville more deserving than the new Buddy Brew location in Tampa, one of the most beautiful new cafes I’ve seen in years? Why would San Francisco’s booming, fascinating, and constantly evolving coffee scene be reduced to just one entry over the last 2 years in such a list?
It’s because this list, like all coffee hot lists, is based on random and subjective whims, rather than any clear system.
3. The Huffington Post, “Top 5 Coffee Shops in New York You Must Try in 2015“
Relationships and lifestyle columnist Amy Chan peruses her own Instagram to determine the top 5 for new cafes in New York City, including little tidbits along the way. The owners of Happy Bones, for example, are from New Zealand, and thus able to make “a proper flat white”, which does not exist. She recommends Toby’s Estate in the West Village for “social media types positioning their cappuccinos for that perfect Instagram snap (guilty).” This line of text is accompanied by a photograph from Amy Chan’s Instagram. Again, that link for Amy Chan on Instagram is available here. Learn more on Instagram.
2. Alton Brown, “Top Coffee Spots From AB Road Eats“
Noted food person Alton Brown is something of a coffee aficionado and loves a good road trip. He’s combining both passions together right now, traveling around the country for his AB Road Eats series and visiting cafes along the way. And by god, does AB have some piping hot takes to share from the road!
On Ninth Street Espresso in NYC: “I’ve spent enough time in this city to know this is the best coffee in New York City. There I said it. And I stand by it.”
On Cleveland: “There is a serious coffee scene happening in Cleveland and Rising Star is the epicenter.”
On day drinking at Octane Coffee, Birmingham: “Finally! A coffee shop and bar in one space so that at about 3 p.m. I can just walk to the other side of the room.”
On whatever this was: “I ordered a Sid Vicious: Seven shots of espresso mixed with five sugars. And then I danced under that big shiny ball … for 3 hours.”
1. Redfin Real Estate Blog, “The 10 Best Cities For Coffee Snobs“
This article was put together by author Joshua Crespo for Redfin, an American real estate company that specializes in online listing databases. Crespo pulled data from the website Foursquare, a “search and discovery” app with tens of millions of members. The article includes a very clear set of criteria before diving into the list, making sure the reader knows that what’s to come represents an intentional set of choices, rather than capricious whimsy. Here is that criteria:
This article is a well-composed opposite of a #HotTake, and of course it says Seattle and Portland are tops, with spots like San Diego and Scramento sneaking in on the back half. The information contained within the article is useful, and could not be reproduced simply by googling “best coffee shops ____fill in city___”, which is how many, many such listicles are composed.
Our #1 listicle on this list of listicles is from a real estate company. Believe that.
Jordan Michelman is the co-founder and senior editor at Sprudge.com. He prefers #HotCakes.