“Great coffee begins with great relationships,” begins the story of one of the most popular coffee shops in Nashville—Crema. It’s a subject that is not unique to Crema, but one that permeates through much of the coffee community. They care about their craft, where they get their coffee beans from, and how those trades affect the local community or the world. Coffee shops across Tennessee are varied. There are coffee shops that have a more modern setting and are appropriate for meetings or intense work, while others are artsy, featuring plush chairs, spacious seating, and paintings on the walls. Here is a list of the 10 coolest coffee shops in Tennessee.
Otherlands Coffee Bar is located on South Cooper Street in the historic Cooper Young District in Midtown Memphis. The Cooper Young Area is home to the city’s central artist hub, where musicians, artists, building murals, and more create an energetic atmosphere that breeds creativity. Otherlands is no exception, hosting music on Friday and Saturday nights, having a rotating art exhibit, and having a unique selection of merchandise to purchase. There is an assortment of drinks, from the standard array of hot coffee options like cappuccino and espresso to iced coffee and blended frozen drinks. Overall, it is a warm, comfortable atmosphere, perfect for doing some work in a quiet space or reading a book.
Eight & Roast is in Nashville’s Eighth South neighborhood and boasts a custom addition: a craft coffee roaster that roasts coffee bought directly from farmers. The shop also helps local businesses improve their coffee skills through training and quality control. The space has an industrial feel to it, with the brick walls and the long wooden counters set to each side of the shop. It is lit by small hanging bulbs and there are protruding pipes balanced high above the coffee bar. There’s coffee, espresso, and even alternative milks such as almond and coconut.
Remedy Coffee is in the Downtown North neighborhood of Knoxville, Tennessee. Its main philosophy is working with individual farmers and fresh ingredients. Intelligentsia Coffee, who Remedy Coffee buys from, works with actual producers of coffee and delivers in-season beans to Remedy. Milk is organic and comes from grass-fed cows in Eastern Tennessee. There are four coffee options—house brew, cold brew, Chemex pour over, and French press. The Chemex pour over involves heating water in a beaker to around 207 degrees Fahrenheit before pouring it over a single batch of coffee beans in a clockwise direction. They call it their “showcase” for single origin coffee beans.
Java Cabana bills itself as “Cooper-Young’s Coffeehouse” and was first opened in 1992 by Tommy Foster, who loved Elvis and officiated actual weddings in the back of the shop (known as the Viva! Memphis Wedding Chapel) accompanied by an Elvis Impersonator. As is fitting in the Cooper Young District, Java Cabana hosts music and open mic nights, as well as quite the eclectic décor. Their coffee is organic and free trade, and options include the standard options with the addition of twists. There are numerous specialty drinks to add to the selection: the “Mystery Train,” “Funky Monkey,” and “Lisa Marie,” to name just a few. Food options are plentiful.
Mean Mug Coffeehouse is in a two-story brick building near downtown Chattanooga. Some major pluses include a warm wooden interior that has a variety of different seating options (table, couch, etc.) and a good amount of options for quick food. The store, which opened in 2011, uses coffee provided by Velo Roasters, which is a locally owned and operated micro roaster. Coffee options include the v60 pour over, the French press, and the cold brew, which is a Kyoto style cold drip coffee.
Bluff City Coffee is in the South Main Historic District near the National Civil Rights Museum and Central BBQ. The shop opened in 2006 and established itself on Italian espresso basics, which the menu options reflect. In addition to drinks, there are a variety of pastries available, including donuts and scones, pop tarts and yogurt cakes. Sandwiches are served during lunch. One of the appeals of Bluff City Coffee is the location. It is in an area of Memphis where numerous locations are available in walking distance. There’s also the atmosphere of downtown Memphis, the trolleys and horse drawn carriages, which makes it excellent for people watching.
Crema sources their coffee beans from farmers, who they call “fellow coffee fanatics.” The shop has an interesting backstory. Rachel and Ben, the founders, built the store from the ground up, doing the physically demanding tasks like ripping out cinderblock themselves. That was in 2007. Now, Crema is one of the most popular coffee spots in Nashville. The location has proximity to downtown Nashville and there is outdoor seating for the better weather days. The atmosphere and décor seem to lean more to the “modern” vibe but it still has a comfortable atmosphere. The food is good and the drinks are delicious.
Frothy Monkey has numerous locations in Nashville, including two primary coffeehouses and a bakery. Frothy Monkey offers a great deal more in terms of variety for food and drink selections. While they still have their coffee as a staple (sourced from local farmers), alcoholic beverages are served, as well as significant lunches (think Crab Cake sandwiches) and breakfast meals (architect omelets). There is a large amount of seating at both primary coffeehouse locations. The current varieties of their coffee speak to diversity: Colombia, Rwanda, Ecuador, and Peru.
Old City Java is in the Old City in Knoxville and comes complete with authentic brick walls, alleyway seating, and a certain downtown air. They are well ensconced in the local community, selling locally-sourced pastries and sourcing dairy from local farms. What makes Old City Java unique in Knoxville is its artistic flavor. The ceiling is painted to resemble Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night and the art on the walls create a vibe that is both relaxed and imaginative.
Rembrandt’s Coffee House is in the art district in a French stucco building and offers a unique aspect to the coffee house scene in Chattanooga: the atmosphere of a European style café. It offers tremendous desserts and great coffee, providing either garden terrace or inside seating. There are over two dozen kinds of chocolate to choose from. Breakfast and lunch have a great deal of food options, and there are gluten-free options to for those with a gluten allergy. Drink options include house-roasted coffee, hot chocolate, and frozen drinks.