A young, energetic college city dotted with cutting edge companies and a vibrant and dynamic food scene. This mix is usually a tell-tale sign of good coffee to come. Here’s my pick for great drip coffee, espresso, and milk-based beverages around the city.

The modern third wave coffee scene, think single origin, terroir driven coffee, is anchored in Durham (30 minutes outside of Raleigh) by Counter Culture Coffee. They are the old guard of the new wave, so to speak. You can find their wholesale coffee beans brewed all around town at hotels, restaurants, and cafes. Counter Culture operates a wholesale coffee roasting operation but does not operate retail stores of their own. If you find a spot carrying their beans, it’s a good sign that you’ll enjoy your cup. I found their Colombia La Golondrina on offer at my hotel, The Longleaf, which is a great funky vibe, boutiquey spot in an amazing location. Stay and sip here if you’re in town. La Golondrina was served on batch brew on a Wilbur Curtis coffee brewing system. The cup was crisp and sweet with a raisin-like finish. Tons of body paired with just the right amount of peppy briskness that I love in my first cup of the day.

The Long Leaf Hotel is located at 300 N. Dawson St., Raleigh, NC 27603


Benchwarmers – I love a great bagel just as much as a great cup of coffee and there is no better spot in town than Benchwarmers. Located in the cool and hip Transfer Co. Food Hall, you’ll find great coffee (and everything bagels) at the north end of the building. I truly enjoyed my espresso with a cortado back. Counter Culture was in the espresso hopper and the result was a balanced and rich pour, minimal acidity, and a sweet, snappy finish. Amazing milk pour on the cortado as well. Shots were pulled on a La Marzocco Linea. Don’t sleep on the bench and miss this spot!

Benchwarmers is located at 500 E. Davie St. STE 107, Raleigh, NC 27601


Heirloom – If you’re in the mood for an all day sort of spot, head to Heirloom. Here you can sip great coffee, in a great space, and nibble on some fresh, clean, and vibrant Taiwanese food. Espresso shots are pulled on a sweet bright pink La Marzocco Strada (much like the one we use in CURRENT’s coffee quality control lab, minus the pink). I enjoyed my Cortado here. The milk pour was lacking aesthetically but the flavor and ratio of dairy to espresso was well executed.

Heirloom is located at 219 S. West St., Raleigh, NC 27603


Iris Coffee Lab – A last minute find on my way out of town. Iris Coffee Lab is a super cool, tucked away spot in the Glenwood South area serving Junto Coffee. I enjoyed a perfectly pulled espresso on their Slayer Espresso machine (totally outer space looking). Maybe more of a standout was their signature blue matcha latte served hot or on ice. Just look at that color and latte art. WOW! What a gem of a spot.

Iris Coffee Lab is located at 725 Tucker St., Raleigh, NC 27603


Black and White Coffee – Located adjacent to Videri Chocolate Factory  is Black and White Coffee. Loved the [http://(%20https:/]Kees Van Der Westen system on bar. I am a sucker for these machines. I only had a quick espresso here which was bright and floral. A bit too much for my palate, but I think this coffee would sip quite well in short milk, especially with a nib of direct trade chocolate on the side. If you’re in this part of town, stop by.

Black and White Coffee is located at 314 Brooks St., Wake Forest, NC 27587

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