For many who read food blogs and magazines, the exercise is one of frustration as much as inspiration. While the fine people of Asheville may be able to get a bacon, bratwurst, and pulled pork hoagie with cheese, the rest of us may not be quite so fortunate. And the same can be said for coffee: in San Francisco or Portland or even New York, creative, small-scale specialty coffee roasters are cranking out roast after roast of fresh, delicious coffees that residents of those cities can easily waltz in and buy a cup or bag of.
But what if you live further-flung from the nation's most delicious coffee sources? We've rounded up a few online retailers who, through the miracle of drop-shipping, do a great job of curating a wide range of coffees that allow you to continually taste and experiment with something new and exciting—or in some cases, something simply beyond the local grocery store.
Go Coffee Go
Okay, we'll admit it's a little hard to take this website seriously as a tastemaker when it's festooned so gaily in flower-power iconography and hosted by a rotund "Professor Peaberry". But appearances aside, Go Coffee Go has gathered an esteemed panel of roasters, from Good Food Award winners MadCap to Bay Area favorites Ritual. They're joined by the likes of Equator, Dallis Bros., and elite Denver roaster Novo, to name only a few. Again, ignore the website copy of "hottest" and "ripest"—I'm hoping all this coffee was picked ripe, anyway. Drop-shipped from the roasters fresh to you, and featuring regular shipping specials, options for automatic ordering, and more.
Filling a niche in the world of exposing smaller regional roasters to a national audience is ROASTe, whose repertoire of roasters range from Ann Arbor to Hawaii, from San Antonio to San Diego. Look for selections from Brown Coffee Co., Ceremony Coffee Roasters, PT's and others, including many lower and mid-priced selections. With a fairly democratic selection that relies on user ratings to differentiate between coffees, it may be a little harder to identify the best of the best here, but then again—the price is right enough to take a chance on something new. Coffees will ship directly from the roaster to you, and a regular buying club offers discounts on shipping (as well as a Barista Hotline!)
Editor's note: ROASTe is now operating as CoffeeKind after the original date of this publication.
We've reviewed the Misto Box sampler before in these pages, but beyond offering diminutive-sized monthly tasting flights (a great way to get to know new coffees), MistoBox sells coffee in full bags from the roasters they work with. Bringing together artisans like Oklahoma City's Elemental, Santa Cruz, CA's Verve, and Portland's Coava, MistoBox offers both coffees they've offered as samples and a range extending well beyond. They also offer an AmazonPrime-like incentive to purchase unlimited free shipping no matter how many times you order. A capital idea if you drink—or would really like to drink—lots and lots and lots of good coffee.
And in another vein completely, you may find the venerated Coffee Review website helps fill in gaps where online retailers are understandably biased. While Coffee Review does not offer much in the way of shopping ease—they don't even link to the roasters' homepages, much less the coffees—they offer one of the web's longest-standing independent review databases. Not sure if the four star rating on a coffee-buying website just means the roaster's boyfriend liked it? Look up the same coffee on Coffee Review and see if they liked it, too.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is the creator of Nice Coffee Time, a book of photographs of the best coffee in the world, published by Presspop.