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Published November 18, 2014

The Four Best Coffee Shops In Raleigh

If there’s one thing I love about Raleigh, it’s the local coffee scene. Truly, I’m no coffee aficionado, and I add unreasonable amounts of cream and sugar. Still, there’s something magical about a latte that makes the air a bit more sparkly.

Caffeine makes conversations brighter and creative writing easier, and cozy coffee nooks hidden around Raleigh are like secret wonderlands waiting to be discovered. So for a while, I’ve fantasized about spending a day traveling to various shops around Raleigh, sampling dark and foamy cappuccinos, macchiatos, and lattes. Today, I made that dream come true.

Yes, I’m extremely hyper.

I started by taking a poll of dozens of Raleigh natives, the majority of which responded from the largest Raleigh group on Facebook. Many local favorites were suggested, but I narrowed it down to the four with highest votes across all channels.

Then I got a group of friends together, and we went on a Coffee-Tasting Dream Tour across Raleigh. Here are the results.

 

New World Coffee House

The Four Best Coffee Shops In Raleigh New World

The Atmosphere

Our first stop was New World Coffee House, which is one of my personal favorite hangouts. The atmosphere is the ideal balance of open and relaxing, with bold paintings by local artists providing quirky conversation-starters. Most patrons sit quietly engaged in front of glowing laptop screens. The menu offers lots of healthy meals, overflowing with veggies. Because of its variety of lunch and dinner options, it’s honestly a good place to get a caffeine buzz when you need several hours to work on your next project.

The Coffee

Our group tasted two coffees and one espresso-based drink. Again, I’ve never claimed to be a coffee connoisseur. I drown the flavor in sugar and cream. However, if you have a true palate for roast, this is definitely the shop for you. New World Coffee House is passionate about coffee beans. Any barista can give you a serious lesson on the history of their beans, and they will help you find the perfect flavor.

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We tried the Alemu Wako, which had a mixture of fig, plum, and milk chocolate flavors. Very complex. We swirled it around our mouths and commented on the smoothness. We also tried the Baroida and a very frothy and delicious cappuccino. New World Coffee House proudly serves Counter Culture coffee–the only one of the shops on our trip that does.

 

The Third Place

The Four Best Coffee Shops In Raleigh - 3rd Place

The Atmosphere

My companions suggested we visit The Third Place third, but un-ironically, it is second on the list of shops we visited. Ornate rugs decorated the walls, welcoming us in from the chilly fog rising on Glenwood. A snug atmosphere, with burgandy and gold carpeted walls and puffy couches, gives the room a warm feeling of community. Closeness. The outdoor seating is cozy, too, with the wool-wearing creative-types sitting around little tables, deep in conversation. This is the place to meet a stranger and have long, meaningful conversations about life.

The Coffee

The Third Place baristas served us two lattes. The first was Pumpkin Pie Spice, adequately cutting the brisk Autumn chill. The real jewel, however, was the second latte. Lane Hurley and Nick Lerew, working behind the counter, promised to “surprise us.” The surprise turned out to be a blissed out Lavender-Vanilla Latte. There’s nothing more I can say. Just go taste it.

The baristas share a warm passion for coffee and community. As I was leaving, they stopped me briefly just to ask what we’d thought of their surprise latte. They, apparently, enjoy surprising any customer who requests it. Lane explained, “We are all creative people, and we get the opportunity here to let that come out in our food and drinks.”

 

Benelux Coffee

The Four Best Coffee Shops In Raleigh - Benelux

The Atmosphere

Benelux Coffee sheds the generalization of the chill, relaxed coffee shop. From the bright orange pillars, to the crisp white Raw Juice vending machine, to the spoke-spinning bicycles decorating the wall, everything about Benelux Coffee screams eco-friendly and energized. Benelux embraces both the Belgium and Raleigh cultures, smooshing them together and creating something beautiful. They even run a local cycle club, keeping our city healthy and caffeinated. It’s a bright, electric environment, good for college students who need a jolt while studying or athletes who need a raw juice before their next marathon.

The Coffee

Benelux boasts the #WorldsLargestCoffeeMural, an elaborate sign made out of various shades of coffee beans. We tasted a regular drip-coffee, which even our non-coffee-lovers enjoyed. But the real show-stopper was The King, a caramel and cinnamon latte. Unlike many, sugary lattes, The King has a good blend of sweetness and creaminess, with a cinnamon-spiced kick at the end. This very unique flavor impressed several of our judges.

 

Cafe De Los Muertos

The Four Best Coffee Shops In Raleigh - Cafe De Los Muertos

The Atmosphere

I’ve heard so much about Cafe De Los Muertos, I was excited to finally have the opportunity to see it for myself. It has a unique “garage door” feature. When it’s open, the front part of the shop becomes open-air, with a banquet-length table half inside, half outside. Sitting there, soaking the heat from the inside, but admiring the foggy night-scene along Hargett Street, this was definitely the coolest seat in the house. The downstairs is bustling with local Raleighites on the town. The upstairs offers a quieter, more relaxed scene, where I imagine Raleigh writers wile away the hours working on their next novel. Sugar skulls and zombies decorate with vivid colors.

The Coffee

Cafe De Los Muertos is known for its excellent coffee. The barista presented us with a regular latte and a “secret” latte called the Genesis, the ingredients of which he would not reveal. Both were satisfyingly rich and foamy, and he neatly circled the mugs with cookies, delicious dipped in the espresso and milk. The Genesis was sweet and mysterious, and I sipped its warmth as I sat surrounded by friends in this unique downtown Raleigh shop.

 

Raleigh Coffee-Tasting Tour

Photography by: Gregory Trombley
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To sum up, coffee shops are fun. Four coffee shops are even more fun. There are plenty of other quirky and tasty coffee shops in Raleigh, like Sola, Cup-a-Joe, BREW, and Jubala Village Coffee, which got high votes in our poll. That being said, there may well be a part two to this slice coming up in the future. Which coffee shops are your favorites? Do you have a favorite Raleigh hangout? Tell us about it in the comments!

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  • heather

    Heather

  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. My resume. All my articles.

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