In the 21st century, preparing coffee has become an art form, with highly trained baristas competing in latte art competitions and coffeehouses hosting educational tasting events featuring unique coffees, called “cuppings.” Coffee also has a socially conscious aspect, with Direct Trade sources preferred since they insure the ethical treatment of the coffee farmers, as well as sustainable growing methods. Artisan coffee roasting companies, aimed at satisfying this new interest in coffee, prepare small batches of single origin, estate, heirloom, shade-grown and organic beans sourced from destinations around the world. Charlotte has several local roasters including Magnolia Coffee, Boquete Mountain Coffee and Enderly Coffee. Some coffeehouses are getting in on the action, as well, roasting their own beans on site. Here are some spots in Charlotte where the coffee is guaranteed to be freshly roasted, freshly ground and have an interesting provenance.
1235-B East Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28203
Charlotte’s original coffeehouse, Dilworth Coffee broke new ground back in 1989 when Don and Aleyne Keen opened this neighborhood spot on East Boulevard. Soon they were roasting their own beans in small batches of the best coffees sourced from around the world. Their Dilworth Espresso Traditional and Breakfast blends achieved a legendary status among Charlotte coffee enthusiasts. In 2011, Dilworth Coffee joined forces with Raleigh-based roaster Stockton Graham & Co., which continues to roast the distinctive Dilworth blends. In addition to the original location in Kenilworth Commons, you can find Dilworth Coffeehouses at SouthPark Mall, in Matthews and at the Shoppes at Highland Creek.
8640 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28213
Jackson’s Java opened in 1994 and immediately became a favorite hangout for the UNC-Charlotte community. Coffees are roasted in a small-batch roaster in the shop, creating a delicious aroma that both soothes and stimulates. Six different types of freshly ground coffee, plus espresso, a wide selection of teas and smoothies, are served daily, as well as pastries and desserts, house-made fudge, ice cream and bottles of wine. More than just a coffeehouse, Jackson’s is a community center, hosting poetry nights, live music and complimentary wifi.
Park Selwyn Terrace
5126 Park Road, Suite 1D
Charlotte, NC 28209
Conveniently located on Park Road, Mugs is a locally owned, independent coffeehouse dedicated to serving the community. Numerous meetings, open mics and game nights are held here, and the walls display works by local artists. The coffee served at Mugs comes from the Magnolia Coffee Company, a Charlotte-based artisan roaster specializing in small batches of beans harvested in a socially conscious manner. Try the Dreamlands Blend. Magnolia donates 10 percent of all in-state sales to the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.
Not Just Coffee Shop
7th Street Market
224 E. 7th St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
This coffeebar inside the 7th Street Market offers a handcrafted espresso and pour-over coffee experience. For each cup of coffee, the beans are ground individually, then bloomed by soaking them briefly in warm water (a method said to reduce bitterness), before a thin stream of hot water is poured over them, a process that takes nearly four minutes. Beans come from several Direct Trade sources including Counter Culture Coffee in Durham. The bar’s small size offers customers a more intimate relationship with the expert baristas who host frequent “cuppings” of single origin and estate-grown beans from top coffee-producing areas around the world. A second Not Just Coffee is located in South End’s Atherton Mill Market.
Smelly Cat Coffeehouse
514 E. 36th St.
Charlotte, NC 28205
Set in the heart of NoDa’s entertainment district, this a favorite neighborhood hangout with a loyal following attracted by the vegetarian-friendly menu, frequent live music, cat décor and free wifi. The Smelly Cat recently joined the micro-roaster movement with the installation of a one-ton, bright-red Probat drum roaster, used to roast small batches of premium beans. The freshly roasted and ground coffee is available prepared a number of ways, including pour-over, drip, cold brew and French press. A half-dozen different fresh coffees are available each day, along with teas, chais, milkshakes, frappes and a variety of pastries and other goodies.
Related: Best Coffeehouses In Charlotte
With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.