It takes more than beans to serve a great cup of coffee. The country's best coffeehouses also specialize in hospitality, says David Heilbrunn, who runs Coffee Fest, a trade show that promotes specialty coffee: "They know their customers. You feel like family when you walk in the door." He works with industry expert Chris Deferio on an annual competition to find the country's top coffeehouses. They share some of their favorite spots with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY 2014.
Charlottesville, Va.It's not surprising to find a busy shop in a university town, but it's much rarer to find good coffee, Deferio says. "Mudhouse has both. It has the local art and the quintessential coffeehouse feel — and they have amazing coffee." 434-984-6833;mudhouse.com
Slate Coffee Bar
SeattleHeilbrunn says this spot in Starbucks' hometown is unlike any other coffee shop he has visited. The staff avoids flavored syrups and complicated preparations, instead emphasizing the taste of the coffee. Although it started in an Airstream trailer, the company now has a brick-and-mortar location in the Ballard neighborhood and uses glassware, creating an atmosphere that's almost like wine service. "It's really done in a different way and really done well." 206-240-7174; slatecoffee.com
Heart Coffee Roasters
Portland, Ore.In a java-crazed town like Portland, you can find great coffee shops on almost every corner. But Heart makes the cut because of its devotion to the product, which is roasted in-house. "They're very professional. Their shop is very sleek and clean, and they take their coffee very seriously," Deferio says. "Their approach to coffee is very pure." 503-206-6602; heartroasters.com
Washington, D.C.Coffee choices can be overwhelming, but this tiny chain keeps things uncomplicated and laid-back. "They have a simple menu done very well by humble craftsmen," Deferio says. "D.C. is a city where humility is not a very common property, and I think their customers appreciate it." 202-629-4381; peregrineespresso.com
Holland, Mich.Over the course of more than 20 years, this shop has become an integral part of this small town. Though the staff is young, it understands hospitality, Deferio says, and the owner emphasizes making sure the baristas are educated about their coffee. "There's no espresso machine that makes you the best coffee shop," he says. "Not only do they care for their customers, but they really care for each other, and it shows when you walk in there." 616-396-5465; jpscoffee.com
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.The two-time winner of the United States Barista Competition, Heather Perry works and now trains staff at this roaster, which is owned by her family. "It's big-time, and they're very proud of it," Heilbrunn says. And not only are the drinks well-prepared, but "they source and roast some of the best coffee on the planet." 909-944-5282;klatchroasting.com
Palace Coffee Co.
Canyon, TexasGood coffee can now be found all over the country. Although just 3 years old, this town square shop on the West Texas plains already has made a name for itself. "They've mixed the feel of small-town America with the more contemporary style of big-city coffeehouse," Heilbrunn says. "Their mission is to be kind and serve great coffee." 806-476-0111; palacecoffee.co
ChicagoGiven Chicago's winters, a successful coffee shop must have a warm, welcoming atmosphere. But this spot takes it to another level, Deferio says. "It's an energetic warm hospitality, a unique vibe of their passion for their customers and for the coffee and for their shop." 773-904-8177; ipsento.com
Dog River Coffee
Hood River, Ore.This decade-old shop stands out for its staff's knowledge, speed and friendliness to regulars and newcomers alike. "It's a great place in a cool town, and the service is awesome," Heilbrunn says. "This could very well be America's best coffee shop." 541-386-4502; dogrivercoffee.net
Muggswigz Coffee & Tea Co.
Canton, OhioThis decade-old shop keeps up with the latest coffee trends. "They're very community focused and they want to do high-quality coffee in a place where you wouldn't expect to find it," Deferio says. "It's one of those eclectic shops with chalk boards and lots of different flavors, run by high-energy young people." 330-452-6336; muggswigz.com