I should begin by stating that my name is Sue and I am a coffee addict. I have no objection to Starbucks; in fact I have their app on my iPhone so that I can easily get my fix whenever the big green sign calls my name. However, I do love to try other coffees (actually I love to try any and all other coffees) so I thought I would share a few other options available here in Houston and will do the same once Im back in London then Mumbai – oh the sacrifices I make:)
There are around 120 Starbucks locations in the City of Houston. That’s an impressive number, and probably explains why many think that Starbucks is the only coffee option; but far from it actually. If you are in the Montrose or Heights neighborhoods of Houston then you are really spoiled for choice, with numerous coffee shops that consistently get great online reviews. Out on the west side of town, where I am based, thankfully more brave souls are setting up shop in competition with the giant in the market that tries to monopolize the coffee arena. Let me offer you 5 alternatives coffee locations to Starbucks in Houston.
Matthew Toomey opened Boomtown Coffee in 2012 in the Heights neighborhood of Houston. Boomtown aims to be an artisan coffee roaster/retailer and roasts batches of their coffee daily to ensure freshness. Sourcing local suppliers for their produce, and preparing dishes mainly in-house, Boomtown strives to keep their limited menu high quality and supremely fresh.
When I visited recently, the place was hopping, with most of the tables in the large inside space full. Many of the tables are against the walls with close access to power outlets, and free Wi-Fi on offer that seems to make the shop a popular place for students. The menu also has various bottomless* coffee options available which indicates that they like their guests to hang around for a while. There is a small outdoor seating area at the front of the shop that appeared popular with patrons with dogs in tow.
After a few Google searches last week to find recommendations for a coffee shop on the west side of town failed dismally, I turned to a closed Facebook group that I belong to called Memorial Area Eats. This site is perfect for posting questions like, what’s the best place for lobster in our neighborhood, sharing cool recipes, and finding local restaurant reviews. When I asked for this group’s recommendation for a coffee shop in our local area, many came back with the name Pura Coffee.
A quick five minutes drive from my house, this shop is easy to find as it is on the feeder road* right next to the I10 freeway. Located in a fairly new strip mall* where many shops still seem to be empty so parking was not an issue. Foot traffic was pretty minimal, which makes me wonder how viable this location is for the shops that are open? Then again, most people drive everywhere in Houston so I’m not sure that is a fair statement.
Greeted by the owner who had just stepped outside as I was parking, we struck up a conversation about the type of coffee offered at Pura. I ordered a flat white coffee and loved the smooth taste of the Seattle blend they serve. Turkish coffee is also on offer here for those that like a stronger, stand your spoon up in your coffee, kind of drink. The coffee menu is very extensive with a large number of syrups available, although sadly none were sugar free. There were a few food items in a display cabinet; breakfast tacos, ready-made rolls, and boxes of fruit salad. They advertise that they offer gluten free products but I did not notice any on display, perhaps more products are available over the weekend.
There are quite a few tables set up inside the shop with a few near outlets to encourage people to stay and study. There is no outside seating, which is a shame, as perhaps this would encourage people to stop rather than take their drinks to go. Lack of space on the sidewalk would prohibit this kind of set up sadly. The store was extremely clean, the staff super friendly, and the coffee delicious so I can see why this store gets rave reviews online.
This store was also suggested by many of my Memorial Eats FB community and gets an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp reviews. Having now visited, I can see why. There is an abundance of comfy seating inside the store and a few tables and chairs set up outside that are perfect for all the dog walkers. Some of the tables inside had maps laminated onto their surface that made it fun trying to work out the countries. The walls are decorated with artwork produced by local artists that is offered for sale and makes the whole shop very colorful. Free Wi-Fi is available and a few people were taking advantage of this by setting up work at the tables. Generally I would say the patrons were a little older than that at the Montrose/Heights coffee shops.
We ordered a latte and an Americano and both were very smooth. Our toasted wheat bagel with cream cheese and breakfast roll with egg and turkey were tasty and fresh when delivered to our table. The muffins seemed a popular selection for many of our fellow diners. Weekly chef’s specials, grilled cheese, Panini, and omelets are also on the menu.
Beans advertise that they offer locally roasted coffee beans, a large selection of teas, and also a selection of smoothies. Perhaps a little surprisingly, they also offer craft ales and wine that probably works well when they have their events when local musicians play at the store making this so much more than just a neighborhood coffee shop.
I remember reading an article a while back about a blind taste test whereby McDonalds beat not only Dunkin Donuts and Burger King for taste but also the java giant Starbucks. If you add the differential in cost then it would seem crazy not to give this store a chance. But why do people choose to pay so much more for a barista in a green apron to serve them? According to research there are five main reasons:
But I would add one more to the list above – the snob value of holding that Starbucks logo cup in your hand over the golden arches equivalent is a statement of style as much as the purse you carry or the clothes you wear (waiting for the backlash now). I just ask that if it is the coffee flavor that is driving your desire to find a great cup of joe, then give the fast food stores a try.
I recently shared the details of my Houston kitchen remodel. One of the new additions to my kitchen is a Wolf built in coffee system. The first few weeks following the completion of the remodel probably saw my daughter and I totally overdose on caffeine, but thankfully we have managed to check our addiction to a healthier daily intake.
Prior to having this built in unit I got my daily fix from my Nespresso machine. I remain a huge fan of the Nespresso coffee, as I love the great variety of pods on offer with the added excitement that new seasonal tastes are frequently added.
There are now a huge variety of the pod-style machines available, and many get great reviews. Obviously there is a huge cost saving (over time) and as this market continues to grow, so do the varieties of flavors. While you forfeit the social factor of going out for a coffee, the newer machines produce a pretty tasty coffee. Here are a few of the machines that friends have recommended and appear on Real Simple best single serving list.
For my non-US readers I have added a definition section to this post as I recognize that sometimes there are words that have entered my vocabulary since living in Houston for 16+ years that need a little further explanation.
Strip mall = a shopping mall consisting of stores and restaurants typically in one-story buildings located on a busy main road.
Bottomless = free refills
Feeder road = a road that acts as a traffic feeder to a more major road, typically runs parallel to a freeway
Featured image attribution: jon – coffee with sugar