Erika Liftee knows coffee. As the reigning U.S. Brewers Cup Champion for the last two years and the Director of Education for Onyx Coffee Lab, his experience in coffee spans years of training and research, not to mention his own career as a barista. Lifter’s schedule as Director of Education has him racking up frequent flier miles, traveling all over the world training the world’s next best baristas, and allowing him to explore the ever-evolving coffee culture not just in the United States but around the world. And while it’s possible to find a good cup of coffee pretty much everyone on Earth, Liftee has thoughts on the best coffee cities — the places with creative, stylish, thoughtful takes on coffee. And they probably aren’t what you’re expecting, either (hint: he doesn’t pick Seattle).
Amid all of his travels, Liftee has uncovered some of the country’s best coffee cities for enthusiasts, and the places that make them stand out. Here are a few of his picks for the best coffee cities, and the coffee shops to visit in each one.
The best coffee cities in the world
Liftee’s home state of Arkansas has a bustling coffee culture that sources and roasts some excellent brews. “We’re spread out here in Arkansas”, says Liftee. “We’re small and somewhat rural, but the level of coffee here, I think, exceeds that of any other city.”
Where to Go:
Onyx Coffee Lab: Find Liftee training baristas at any of the four Onyx locations across Northwest Arkansas.
Arsaga’s: Onyx owners got their start at this established specialty roaster, which offers six locations, including a cute drive-through for a quick coffee fix.
Airship Coffee: “Natural trails are really big here in Northwest Arkansas”, says Liftee. “Airship happens to have an open air cafe right on a biking trail that is really cool.”
Confident Coffee Roasters: Woman-owned Confident Coffee Roasters in Fayetteville is one of Liftee’s favorite spots. “I love their ambiance.” says Liftee. “It’s a really small and neat roasting program that’s a part of the local community.”