The Best Independent Coffee Shops in the South

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The coffee shop has become so much more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee on our way to work over the years. The best ones are homes away from home, with coffee and espresso drinks impeccably sourced and made with care, and they’re warm and welcoming places to hang out, socialize, and sometimes work. (You’ll find a concentration of these in the best coffee cities in America.)

The term “coffee shop” used to imply what today we think of more as a diner (think of Monk’s Café, the coffee shop the “Seinfeld” gang used to frequent), but today the term is more-or-less interchangeable with a café, a place specializing in coffee and maybe pastries and other light fare – like Central Perk, the beloved hangout on “Friends.” 

To determine the best independent coffee shops in the 14 Southern states (as defined by the census Bureau), 24/7 Tempo reviewed and extrapolated from articles and rankings on a wide range of websites, including Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, Fodors, The Culture Trip, Time Out, Eater, Cheapism, Big Seven Travel, and Yelp, as well as numerous state and local coffee shop listings. Only shops with three or fewer locations were considered – so don’t look for Starbucks here. (If that ubiquitous chain is your thing, though, you’ll want to make note of the Starbucks capitals of America.) 

What makes a coffee shop great? Many of them source their coffee beans from the world’s best producers, build close relationships with growers, and roast their own beans in-house (some also supply beans to other establishments and/or send them monthly to devoted subscribers). Those that don’t roast their own beans often curate their offerings by partnering with like-minded roasters. Good examples of top-notch coffee shops abound around the South, in big cities and small towns alike.

Whatever the particulars, all great coffee shops have something to offer beyond just a caffeine buzz.