MLS Mornings: Pre-Game Roasts & Brews

Eric Giardini spills the beans on what should be in your mug….the first in TSG’s MLS Travel Series

Morning...

It’s 7:00 in the morning and you’re settling in on the couch to begin a long day of soccer viewing.

What are you reaching for?

If you are like me, perhaps 7:00 is a bit too early for beer (and if it isn’t, you are my hero).

Perhaps you need something else. Something that can wake you up for a long morning and afternoon of games.

Or, if you’ve ever road tripped to see your club or national team play and have had to leave first thing in the morning, what are you in need of? If you are anything like me, you are reaching for a cup of coffee.

Coffee, much like beer, has undergone a revolution in recent years. Gone are the days of the giant tubs of pre-ground coffee, scooping it into a machine and hitting “Brew.” Coffee is becoming more and more like beer with localized roasters fine-tuning their craft around the country, which allows for a higher quality, fresher product.

And so, piggybacking off the success of any of the beer focused pieces we’ve done in the past, we though we’d reach out to local roasters in cities with MLS clubs and compile a list of those doing great things with coffee.

Our goal is to provide a resource for places to grab a cup when in town for a match, or beans to brew at home. We contacted roasters in each of the 19 MLS cities and, while we weren’t able to hear back from all of them, we had quite a few that were more than happy to participate and were gracious enough to send samples. It was a difficult task drinking fantastic coffee every morning from some of the best roasters around, but I did it for you.

(Also, I’m not a professional taster so forgive my amateur tasting notes. Thank you in advance.)

Eastern Conference

Old City....Philly vintage...

Philadelphia: Old City Coffee

Founded in 1984, these guys have been a staple in the Philly coffee scene for 27 years. Roasting in small batches guarantees that the freshest coffee will be available at either of their two café locations in Philadelphia. I was fortunate enough to be able to taste their best selling Old City Blend coffee, and I can see why they sell so much of it. The Old City Blend nicely combined the earthiness that South American beans tend to give with the more floral, citrus notes of Ethiopian beans. If you find yourself in the Old City District of Philadelphia, stop by their location on Church Street.

Kansas City: PT’s Coffee

While technically not in Kansas City, we would have been remiss to leave out a former Roast Magazine Roaster of the Year out of Topeka. After beginning as a single café in 1993, PT’s has grown and supplies coffee around the country. Of the coffees we were able to try, the Guatemala Finca El Injerto was my favorite. The caramel and chocolate flavors were pronounced; yet overall the coffee remained round and well balanced.

The "make-it-happen" team at PT's

And to tie this into soccer, PT’s has partnered with the Prodigy Youth Soccer Association in Topeka to help Topeka-area youth soccer players receive the funding to offset annual dues. Through the sales of Flor del Sol, PT’s hopes to raise $1500 for the Jon Kaspar Memorial Scholarship Fund in memory of a former barista and soccer player in the Prodigy Soccer set up. The Flor del Sol is only available for a limited time, so if you are into great coffee and helping youth soccer players and their families, act quickly. I know I will.

Dynam-ic

Houston: Java Pura

With five cafes in the Houston area, there are plenty of locations for Houston coffee drinkers to find Java Pura. Named the Best Coffee Roaster in Houston by the Houston Press, Java Pura’s mission is to provide drinkers the freshest, locally roasted coffee possible. Many of their coffees are Fair Trade and organic. The Costa Rica “Don Teofilo” was sampled and the earthy, nutty aroma was balanced with chocolate and citrus flavors to create a very enjoyable cup.

Western Conference

Portland: Stumptown Coffee; Public Domain Coffee

Stumptown...hard to go wrong...

Not surprisingly, two roasters from Portland participated in our guide. Stumptown is a fairly easy-to-find coffee that can be purchased by the bag across the country, and they have cafés in Portland, Seattle, and New York City. The Hair Bender blend is their most popular coffee and most versatile as it worked well in my French Press or as espresso.

Public Domain has been in business for 40 years providing quality coffee in downtown Portland. Their Guatemala Finca Santa Felisa coffee was a favorite with a fruity, berry-like flavor that created a smooth cup that made getting up early to watch a 0-0 draw a little more palatable.

Seattle: Victrola Coffee

Recently named by Food & Wine magazine as having one of the country’s best cafés, Victrola Coffee has been providing Seattleites coffee since 2000 and have been roasting their own on site since 2003. I tasted the Finca Vista Hermosa coffee from Guatemala and was impressed by the chocolaty, nutty flavors that were present in each cup.

Surprise brew!

Colorado: Novo Coffee

Not knowing this ahead of time, we hit the jackpot with Novo Coffee out of Denver.

Not only has their coffee and café been recognized by Denver Magazine as one of the Top 100 Things to Taste in Denver, by Westword as the Best Local Roaster in 2011, AND as one of the Top 10 Boutique Coffee Shops in America according to Bon Appetit, but Jake Brodsky, one of the owners/co-founders, is also a self-described “huge soccer fan.” After finishing his collegiate career at UMASS, Jake played semi-pro soccer in Colorado, where he was able to train with the Rapids and Arizona. After “retiring” in 2002, he started Novo but still plays in a weekend men’s league in Denver. Both of the coffees sampled (an Ethiopian and Columbian) were fantastic and it was easy to see why Novo is held in such high regard around the country.

Los Angeles: Handsome Coffee

Last, but certainly not least, we have a roaster worthy of the city that’s home to the defending MLS champions. Three guys who’ve been around the coffee business in locations across the country formed Handsome Coffee in 2011, and only the Galaxy’s Big Three of Donovan, Beckham, and Keane only dwarfed this partnership in media exposure. They had garnered such a reputation built upon social media and coffee blogs that I was a little skeptical of whether their coffee would be any good. My skepticism proved to be misguided, as the coffee is good, very good. Their first café in the Arts District of Los Angeles opened earlier this month and heavy lines are the norm. Don’t worry, like everyplace else on this list, you can order online from their site

This is by no means an all-encompassing list of the roasters in every MLS city, or even all of the roasters within the cities highlighted. We tried our best to reach out to at least one business in each location, and sometimes we were lucky – other times we weren’t. If you know of any that I may have missed, please add them into the comments section. This also goes for little coffee shops, cafés, and breakfast joints. Our ultimate goal was to create a communally developed source of information for supporters traveling to see their teams play. Enjoy!

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15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by LandoCalrissovan on 2012/03/21 at 6:09 AM

    Matt, Matt, Matt. I love your site and the premise of this post is fantastic … but you badly clip your credibility by omitting Philadelphia’s premier — and world beating — coffee roaster: La Colombe. They are not just the best roaster in the city, they’re crafters of a java that swats down just about anything else nationwide (with the very modestly possible exception of Blue Bottle in the Bay Area).

    Old City is a fine place, but as far as coffee goes, La Colombe is a runaway winner (and would be in almost any city it’s located).

    Reply

  2. [...] The Shin Guardian recommends Old City Coffee to its readers in this look at the coffee offerings in MLS cities. [...]

    Reply

  3. Posted by EFG on 2012/03/21 at 7:24 AM

    While I can’t recommend DC coffee, I can point you to some great coffee shops. Chinatown Coffee Company in Chinatown (duh), Baked & Wired in Georgetown, and Peregrine Espresso with two locations (Capitol Hill, 14th St).

    Reply

    • Posted by Jellenp on 2012/03/21 at 10:49 AM

      And Filter (just north of Dupont Circle) – delish and potent.

      Reply

    • I don’t know of any DC roasters, but if you’re in Maryland, you should try Ceremony Coffee (recently re-branded from their original name, Caffe Pronto). Their main location is just outside of downtown Annapolis, and their other cafe (still named Caffe Pronto) is nearer to Rt. 50 – essentially a straight shot to RFK – in a shopping center. The former virtually overlooks the site of some of my greatest soccer moments, though sadly it is no longer a soccer field.

      They’re always cycling through different roasts. Of what they have right now, I highly recommend the Brazilian Cerrado Gold (it smells like a PB&J on toast, and tastes even better) and the Guatemalan El Socorro. Their Central American and African beans are reliably no worse than good and are often outstanding. They also sell some top-notch equipment for making coffee at home.

      http://www.ceremonycoffee.com/

      Reply

  4. I love that you are referencing coffeehouses and roasters all across the country! I would like to post your post on my blog today! I love bringing people and coffeehouses together.

    Lisa
    TheLocalCoffeehouse.wordpress.com

    Reply

  5. Posted by supermansoccer18 on 2012/03/21 at 8:22 AM

    Columbus has some great coffee. I’d recommend Cafe Brioso and Stauf’s!

    Reply

  6. Posted by Landrewc on 2012/03/21 at 8:50 AM

    I love both Stumptown and Hairbender in general. You really can’t go wrong with any of the single origins. Such good coffee.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Nathan on 2012/03/21 at 9:23 AM

    You missed Chicago: Intelligentsia, Metropolis, Wormhole…etc.

    Reply

  8. You could use Intelligentsia for Chicago or L.A.

    Nothing from NYC either? Cafe Grumpy and Gorilla are both pretty great. Or should the Red Bulls really be represented by some roaster from NJ?

    Reply

  9. Posted by Radmonkey on 2012/03/21 at 1:59 PM

    Chicago: Intelligentsia and metropolis coffee

    Reply

  10. I would suggest Descartes’ Cafe for Chicago, hands down.

    Reply

  11. In Vancouver, BC

    Go to Momento Coffee on 4th and McDonald in Kitsilano.
    Definitely the best coffee in Vancouver. Even if you doctor it up with cream and sugar, try it black first. You just might be able to drink the whole cup that way.

    Reply

  12. I would happily contribute to this series if you need places in Columbus in the future.

    For coffee: Stauf’s and ‘Yeah, Me Too’ (http://t.co/2zeJYteI) are both great local coffee roasters in Columbus.

    Reply

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