Birmingham,  Nom Noms

The Search for Birmingham’s Best Coffee

Alabama is finally starting to get a chill in the air (this week, at least), making it perfect sweata weatha. It’s also perfect weather to hibernate in local coffee shops clutching a caffeinated beverage. Luckily, Birmingham is chock-full of delicious coffee.

I’m kind of a coffee snob. I worked at a coffee shop in Tuscaloosa during my college years, and by default got hooked on the liquid gold. Black-as-night, thick-as-mud is my preference.

With no big race to train for at the moment, I decided to create my own Tour de Beans and decide once and for all which spot has Birmingham’s best coffee. Here’s what I found:

SatteliteThe coffee shop component of new music venue Saturn, Sattelite is bright and cheery and kind of retro. They proudly serve Stumptown coffee, which is decent, but I can’t wrap my head around why it’s so popular. I can take it or leave it. Verdict: B

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Like drinking java in a retro spaceship

OctaneHailing from Atlanta, Octane is Bham’s Venus Flytrap for all caffeinated hipsters. They serve cocktails and a smooth pour-over coffee that I liken to a light lager you can sip all day. It goes down nice and easy. Verdict: B+

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Pro tip – the Uptown Octane is far less crowded and loud than Homewood

O’Henry’sO’Henry’s is the #1 place to go to socialize. Many runs begin and end at their coffee-scented doors, making it the only reason I go there. Their coffee has a distinct burnt flavor that makes me wrinkle my nose. Maybe cream and sugar help mask the taste? That’s not how I roll, though. Verdict: C

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Gotta give them props for hosting our Sunday runs, though!

The AbbeyBirmingham’s quiet, shy coffee shop, The Abbey is a cozy place for good tea or coffee. The coffee is nice and smooth—nothing to write home about, but not bad by any means. Points deduced for its Jesus theme, but that’s strictly my opinion and has zero to do with the drinks. Verdict: B+

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Rather than coffee, I recommend their teas and chicken salad

Urban StandardFull disclosure—I knew Urban Standard would win before I even started this post. Their coffee. Oh, their coffee. It’s so thick that you can practically eat the dregs with a spoon, but it’s so delicious. If I could walk around with an Urban coffee IV drip, I would. The shop is adorably hipster and I adore going there to work, write, or meet with friends. But on that note, warning—do not go there unless you have time to bump into every single person you know in Bham. Verdict—A+

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I could set up a sleeping bag and live here

Red CatA close second to Urban Standard, Red Cat is the cat’s meow. Their coffee is a bit thicker, which suits my tastes perfectly. It’s the kind of java that makes me want to develop a coffee addiction. And their atmosphere is nice and cozy—perfect for holing up to write for hours on end. Verdict—A

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When Urban Standard kicks me out, I’ll move in here

RevelatorModern. Clean. Beautiful. Hipster. Revelator also does a pour-over coffee that tastes just fine, but what really strikes me are their delicious breakfast treats and their pretty, pretty, interior design. The lack of people and noise compared to other coffee shops is a welcome change, too. Verdict—B+

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Pro tip – You MUST get a We Have Doughnuts treat
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Doesn’t this just make you drool?

Starbucks—Not local by any means, I still had to include Starbucks because people flock to it like shoppers on Black Friday spending money on subpar sales. I think people come here because it’s convenient? A place to be seen? The red cup societal status? It surely isn’t because of the coffee—burnt and lacking proper caffeine. Verdict: C-

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Don’t count me in as one of Tay Tay’s “Starbucks lovers” (yes, I know that’s not the lyric…)

Tell me—what’s your favorite coffee shop in the ‘Ham?

4 Comments

  • Pollone

    How does a professed “Jersey Girl” include Starbucks but not ubiquitous northeast coffee-temple, Dunkin’ Donuts? For shame.

      • Darrell

        Yes! DD iced coffee, hazelnut swirl and cream! A large is only $2.61 with tax and it is 32oz. I get one every morning on my way to work and I may or may not grab a donut on occasion.

  • Jennifer

    I live in Birmingham and always get coffee at McDonald’s! I like Relevator but I need to try some of the others, I will make sure to go to Urban Standard sometime!

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