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Columbus considered an ‘underrated’ coffee city

Caption Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Barista John Justice prepares an espresso beverage at Café Brioso. Columbus was mentioned as one of ‘5 Underrated Coffee Cities’ in an article on coffee website Sprudge.com
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Columbus might have been off the grid for coffee aficionados in the past, but not for much longer.

Emily McIntyre, writer for coffee website Sprudge.com, gave Columbus and four other cities — Houston, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Calif., and San Diego — attention for their well-developed, yet under the radar, coffee communities in her article “5 Underrated Coffee Cities” on the coffee website.

McIntyre said that the criteria for her list ­— which mentioned local businesses such as Café Brioso, One Line Coffee and Boston Stoker — required a different number of things.

“First of all, there have to be a certain number of independent shops and a certain number of roasters. Then there’s the quality aspect, which varies a lot and makes cities unique. The people involved in the coffee culture have to people (who are) enthusiastic and knowledgeable as well,” McIntyre said.

McIntyre also added that the “maturity of the coffee scene” is what usually separates the underground cities from the coffee giants — New York, Portland and Seattle — along with a lack of press coverage.

Some members of Columbus’ coffee industry shared similar sentiments.

“The coffee culture in Columbus is under the radar even here, but the national recognition it’s been getting has legitimized it for the people in Columbus,” said Jeff Davis, president of Café Brioso, a coffee house and roaster located downtown at 14 E. Gay St.

Tim Stiffler-Dean, CEO of Guddina Coffee, a website that helps people purchase micro-roasted coffee and find shops in their area, said the community as a whole is what makes Columbus’ coffee stand out.

“With the guys in Columbus, it’s a healthy but friendly competition. They’re all doing their own thing, all trying to make better experiences for people, but they’re all friends. They visit each other’s shops and go to each other’s events,” Stiffler-Dean said.

Mick Evans, managing partner for retail operations at One Line Coffee, located at 745 N. High St., said this collaboration and competition is making the coffee industry stronger in Columbus.

“We’re on the precipice of even greater collaboration, as the coffee culture has really honed and developed. But it’s also at the point where style is becoming very important, and shops are becoming more specialized. There’s been an evolution of quality that just wasn’t here a couple years ago, and the competition between different shops has helped make everyone better,” Evans said.

One of the ways Columbus’ coffee community gathers is through the North Market Coffee Roast — a public event held at the North Market where roasters and shops get together to educate, celebrate and show off what they know about coffee for the public.

North Market Executive Director Rick Harrison Wolfe said the event is growing.

“In past years, it was a collection of local coffee roasters that gathered for a day at the market and provided samples of their wares. This year we are moving the event a month later and outside due to the popularity — last year we had thousands show up and it was inside,” Wolfe said in an email.

Wolfe further explained Columbus’ local coffee growth by comparing it to his experiences on the West Coast.

“Columbus is at the forefront of local coffee for sure. I moved from L.A. three years ago and there were not nearly the amount of local roasters as we have here, there are 10 million folks there and most of them drink Starbucks,” Wolfe said.

McIntyre said the North Market Coffee Roast was one of the reasons Columbus made her list.

“I loved the North Market Coffee Roast, it was just so cool. You have all these people coming together from all aspects of the industry, and people are really enthusiastic about it, which was exciting to see,” McIntyre said.

Erik Fenstermacher, manager of campus’ Boston Stoker, located at 1660 Neil Ave., said it is the customers who are making the local coffee industry grow.

“Each year, increasingly higher standards are being set from customers, which is a great thing for the industry,” Fenstermacher said.


  1. What the heck is a “coffee” city anyway? Is that like a “wine” city?

    Given that you can get great coffee FedEx’ed to anywhere practically overnight, I’m not sure how geography has anything to do with it anymore.

  2. I would put Columbus and Cafe Brioso at the top of the 3rd wave coffee experience. Compares favorably to Portland. The single origin espresso available in CMH is world class.

  3. To me, paert of “coffee culture” is the atmosphere in the shops themselves.. laptop warriors, hipsters, casual coffee drinkers, suburbanites, etc.. all attend the coffee shops here in columbus making them a great diverse group of people… I dont feel out-of-place banging on my macbook pro in any of the shops here.

    of course I really enjoy the 24 hour short north coffee house just because.. well a 24 hour independent coffee shop in a city our size is unusual!.. and its a great late night hangout for studiers, code-writers, and chess players alike.

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