The Best Coffee Shops In Houston
Houston’s culture of local coffee shops serving delicious brews has existed for more than a decade, and the scene continues to grow and thrive. There are solid standbys, eccentric newcomers and everything in between, including ideal spots for working remotely, hanging out with friends or simply grabbing gifts and brewing supplies for home. Read on for the best-of-the-best when you need your fix, whether in the form of freshly roasted beans or a restorative espresso.
This is a “best” list, so let’s set some parameters. The most important aspect is the coffee. If you get a bad cup at one of these shops, that is not a par-for-the-course experience, whether it roasts its own beans (true for most of the places on this list) or serves from a local roaster. Additional criteria are important, too, such as comfort, location, expedience, Wi-Fi, food and how staff members add to the experience.
The Benchmark: Blacksmith, 1018 Westheimer: After a few years of serving coffee in the food court at Greenway Plaza, the aptly named Greenway Coffee was ready to raise the bar for the Houston coffee scene with a brick-and-mortar location. Now a Montrose icon, Blacksmith is arguably Houston’s most well-known shop.
In contrast to many shops that came before, Blacksmith curated a welcoming environment. It’s quiet, with plenty of seating and dependable Wi-Fi. Over the course of the past decade, the shop has been home to multiple award-winning baristas, including current general manager Antoine Franklin. Another feature that sets Blacksmith apart is the food. There is an eclectic variety of pastries, sandwiches available on biscuits or croissants, Mexican dishes and one of the city’s best takes on bò né (Vietnamese steak and eggs).
Greenway has several high-quality shops also worth looking into, such as the original inside Greenway Plaza, Coral Sword and the newest shop, Fruit Service Co. (in the former Morningstar space in the Heights).
The Innovator: Blendin Coffee Club, 3201 Allen Parkway: This shop originally opened in Sugar Land, but despite its good intentions, it missed the mark in terms of execution. It offered a range of unique and award-winning coffees for guests to choose from, even giving the customers the chance to change espresso with each order. This is a nearly impossible task as it takes several tries to make sure the settings for espresso are dialed in properly. However, after a few years of practice, Blendin Coffee Club now far surpasses the expectations set by the original location.
Unlike the old, repurposed bank building of the original, Blendin’s new space on Allen Parkway is sleek, modern and the space is more open. The color scheme is familiar but softer, resulting in a more relaxed vibe. The interior is small, but the doors lead out to a foyer with several comfortable seats. The shop has expensive top-of-the-line equipment and well-trained baristas to adjust the espresso grinds, successfully pulling off the espresso-switching idea. That said, Blendin’s best cups come in the form of brewed-to-order pour-overs that are made using another unique, top-of-the-line machine.
New Kid On The Block: BlueTile, 1504 Chapman: While his brick-and-mortar is under construction at 3663 Washington, Jonathan Elkins is building steam by hosting coffee pop-ups five days a week at Local Group Brewery (which is rebranding to Gristworkz). Elkins is part of what feels like an increasingly rare breed of barista-turned-owner, having been in the industry since 2010. His hands-on approach and years of experience working with Houston’s finest already has Blue Tile producing some of Houston’s best espresso shots and pour-overs.
Blue Tile’s current home has copious amounts of space to relax with a large dining area, patio and bar seating. In addition to the extensive selection of beer, the brewery will soon offer spirits and cocktails. Chef Daniel Leal (formerly of Night Shift) created breakfast and lunch dishes, which are offered during coffee service and include housemade kolaches, breakfast sandwiches and burgers on Fridays.
Old Reliable: Boomtown, 242 West 19th: When Matt Toomey opened his first shop in 2011, it was nearly impossible to find high-end coffee in the Heights. Today, the landscape is drastically different, with Boomtown having served as the catalyst; 19th Street alone is now home to several coffee shops. In the years since, despite Toomey’s departure, Boomtown maintains its status as a go-to stop for Heights visitors and area residents alike.
It’s not uncommon to see lines running out Boomtown’s front door, but there is rarely a long wait thanks to plenty of staff. In addition to the prompt service, the shop’s well-trained employees ensure the extensive menu is executed with precision. There are plenty of places to sit, too, and good Wi-Fi. To eat, the shop serves a variety of breakfast dishes including tacos and toast. Industry veteran Dean Borgerding roasts all of the shop’s beans in-house.
Great Coffee from a Restaurant: Cafe Louie, 3401 Harrisburg: At this point, it is difficult to think of anything that Cafe Louie doesn’t do right. The Houston hotspot opened this spring in the Greater East End and is more of a restaurant than a coffee shop.
The features depend on the day, with distinct service times and two days where the shop is restricted to pop-ups, coffee and pastries only. That said, coffee fiends can order their brew daily, and there is a walk-up window for those on the go. In addition to the usual specialty coffee beverages, there are unique choices, such as Black Sesame Latte and Cardamom Mocha. Pair drinks with selections from the full pastry case and a handful of sandwiches. In the evening, the eatery converts from counter-service to full-service.
The Original: Catalina, 2201 Washington: 2022 marks the fifteenth anniversary of Houston’s oldest specialty coffee shop. Since opening in 2007, Catalina Coffee has been unwavering in producing high-quality espresso drinks, cold brew and drip coffee in a timely manner. Its sister company, Amaya Roasting Co., supplies the beans to Catalina and other locations around Houston.
Much like Boomtown, long lines during peak hours are a given, but Catalina employs baristas who are excellent at keeping the mail moving. Unlike some of its counterparts, Catalina is not intended as a place to linger and there is no Wi-Fi or cushioned seats for extended visits. The owner, Max Gonzalez, designed the shop for guests on the go, and it serves this niche exceptionally well.
Back to Basics: Little Dreamer, 1223 West 34th: After departing from Boomtown Coffee, Matt Toomey started a new boutique roastery in 2019. When Little Dreamer launched, it could originally be found in farmers markets or as a third-party roaster in shops. Now, the best spot to get Little Dreamer is from a shipping container-turned-shop at the Stomping Grounds development in Garden Oaks.
The shop is small and lacks many of the usual amenities, such as indoor seating and Wi-Fi, but there are plenty of places to sit outdoors in the development’s park-like courtyard. The Stomping Grounds complex is still developing with only a few shops currently open, so there is rarely a wait for coffee. However, with Houston’s weather cooling, that could soon change. For beverages, Little Dreamer serves coffee hot, iced and bottled and has just started serving cocktails. In addition to Toomey’s little blue box, customers can visit the booth at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market every Saturday to pick up beans and one of Little Dreamer’s bottled beverages, such as the G.O.A.T made with oat milk, cinnamon, honey and espresso.
Quickly Rising Star: Luce Coffee Roasters, 1717 West 34th: When Helen Choi built the first Luce coffee shop in Upper Kirby in 2017, it was a small project built simultaneously with a sister shop in Seoul, South Korea. With a small staff and using an already established Houston roastery, the opening phases were slow. Fast-forward to today, Choi is roasting her own coffee — for her shops as well as for businesses around the city — and has several locations including the stylish flagship in Garden Oaks.
The massive two-story headquarters is one of Houston’s most aesthetically pleasing establishments and a one-stop shop for everything craft coffee. Customers can enjoy brew served in almost every way imaginable and a food menu of tacos and pastries. The amenities of the shop are a step above and beyond its competitors with two floors of seating, Wi-Fi and nearly enough coffee-making supplies to open your own shop. Lastly, Luce uses the space to its fullest by regularly offering public tastings and classes on various barista skills.
No Frills, Just Great Coffee: Xela, 4409 Canal: Writer’s Favorite. This Second Ward roastery-turned-shop arguably provides Houston’s most robust and flavor-forward coffee beans. Owners Benji Aguilar and Kaitlin O’Brien founded the grassroots roastery in 2015, and it originally provided beans only to other businesses. The pair took advantage of delivery stops to talk up their brand and product to anyone who would listen, developing a cult following in the process. True to form, when the shop opened in 2018, they continued doing everything their way.
The Greater East End coffee shop is unique for multiple reasons. There is no indoor seating, but Xela has built a secluded patio with plenty of tables, chairs and shade, which is primarily provided by a forest of greenery curated by O’Brien. Guests are encouraged to sit and relax for a while, but contactless service and flash-chilled, bottled coffee drinks make it easier for people to grab their fix on the go. Stepping beyond the coffee, Xela has increased its following by producing clothing and apparel that showcases the brand’s personality.
The Second Office: Active Passion, 803 Usener: While the rest of this list is entirely about where to get Houston’s best coffee, the city is filled to the brim with shops dedicated to comfort. For a highly populated and spacious city like H-town, these shops are a necessity. They can be ideal for many reasons such as quick pick-me-ups, studying, meet-ups or even writing an article about where to get the best coffee. However, for some, the coffee isn’t on par with the best in the Bayou City. But worry not, Houston has plenty that do serve worthwhile drinks.
This was by far the most challenging spot on the list to fill. Until a recent, major upgrade in coffee providers at Active Passion, it was an even more difficult choice. It now offers patrons coffee from two of the city’s best roasters: Cleo Coffee, a flavorful and ever-improving local roastery, for its espresso drinks and Xela for drip and cold brew. The staff is well-trained and friendly; they are consistent in putting together great drinks, which sets them apart from many other similarly-styled shops. Additionally, the drink menu features mocktails, teas, fresh juices and a selection of sandwiches, salads and pastries. The shop is somewhat hidden in a corner of Woodland Heights, so it’s rarely too busy and usually has plenty of seating. It is spacious with multiple styles of seats that appease different comforts. There are also two patio areas, one that gives a tremendous view of greenery and a portion of the downtown skyline.
Houston Area Farmers Markets: Houston-area farmers markets are a great place to check out up-and-coming roasters that do not have a shop to call home. Personally, I’d recommend Amanecer Coffee Co, which can be found at Urban Harvest’s farmers market as part of Ema HTX, a collaboration with Papalo Mercado, and at Henderson and Kane. Between the quality of the roasts and creative bottled drinks, Amanecer Coffee is easily one of Houston’s best coffees, despite not yet having a brick-and-mortar to call home.
Blockhouse Coffee & Kitchen, 9910 Gaston (Katy) and 611 Jackson (Richmond)
CAVO Coffee, 2617 Bissonet and 3773 Richmond
Red Light Coffee Roasters, 2728 Market (Galveston)
Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee, 9935 Barker Cypress (Cypress)
Lava Coffee, 23227 Mercantile (Katy Asiatown)
LoveBeans Coffeehouse, 8522 Creekside Forest (Woodlands)
Pearland Coffee Roasters, 4106 Broadway (Pearland)
Third Gen Coffee, 25136 Grogans Park (Woodlands)