It may not be a pioneer of the coffee frontier like Portland or San Francisco, but Atlanta is home to a growing number of baristas and roasters with a passion for the bean and love of the (caffeinated) brew. During our culinary adventures in the city, we tasted with creative coffee venues boasting impeccable technique and drinks rivaling more coffee-forward metropolises.
Case in point, the Cascara of Finca Tanzania, a "coffee-tea" brewed by Empire State South Barista Emily Letia. Letia takes dehydrated cherries (usually discarded after the beans are harvested) and, by steeping them in hot water, creates a fruity, cinnamon-y hybrid beverage, lighter than coffee but more potent than tea. We also got a kick out of Octane Coffee's espresso, which uses a three-bean blend (Brazil, Guatemala, and Ethiopia) roasted in house at their plant in Alabama. The combo delivers balanced drinks full of brightness and acidity, with notes of chocolate and nuts.
While innovation is at the heart of Atlanta's coffee scene, accessibility and education are also key, as the market is still very much in its adolescence. As Letia puts it, the public must learn that "coffee is not just a simple espresso button." As a result, coffee professionals are pulling double duty, slinging orders behind the bar while spreading the gospel of the java bean. There may be challenges to pushing the culture forward (Rev Coffee's Barista Aajay Murphy and Roaster Daniel Riggins told us some shops in Atlanta have tried to serve only manual pours, but were eventually pushed to include automatic drip as well), but Atlanta's coffee scene is most definitely perking up.