Regardless of where we are traveling to, we are always on the lookout for a great local coffee shop. This is true wherever we are across the globe and of course, this starts in our local city of Memphis. Given that we visit Memphis several times every month, we have been fortunate enough to experience some of the best local establishments. This post is focused solely on the best coffee shops in Memphis and hopefully, you will be inspired to check out some of these for yourselves when you next venture to western Tennessee.
Whether you are a Starbucks fan or prefer the local coffee scene, you can be assured that there is something for everyone in Memphis. Let’s take a look at where we think you need to visit for your all-day caffeine fix. That’s right, coffee is a great idea at any time of the day and in many of these local coffee shops, you will find that they are open until late in the evening!
Black Coffee vs Creative Espresso
What type of coffee do you prefer? Are you a plain, black coffee type of individual? Or do you prefer something a little sweeter with a little flair and creativity thrown into the mix? We have found that many of Memphis’ local coffee shops offer the perfect blend of both. This is what local coffee spots do so well.
The need for locals and visitors alike to be able to enjoy a traditional morning coffee versus the desire to sample a macchiato mixed with espresso, caramel, and other delicacies mean that local establishments need to ensure their menus are diverse, yet maintaining the high quality that helps them stand out from the threat of chains such as Starbucks.
Why Coffee Shops?
You may be wondering why we opted to focus our attention on coffee shops in Memphis. Surely there are many other interesting things to do in this part of Tennesse? It’s true, Memphis is not short of things to do but finding a great local coffee shop is one of our passions.
if you are looking to enjoy a relaxing afternoon to catch up on some work, read your favorite book or simply have an engaging conversation with a friend, there is really no better place than a coffee shop.
Best Coffee in Memphis
So where exactly can you find the best coffee in Memphis? The reality is that if you are visiting Memphis for the first time, you are in luck! There are A LOT of options available to you and regardless of which location you are staying, there is likely a local coffee shop not too far away.
Our journey has seen us visit a variety of areas, many of which are in Memphis neighborhoods that you may not normally consider visiting. Frequently we hear about downtown Memphis because of Beale Street and Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid or perhaps the Graceland area of the city because of the late Elvis Presley.
But when you start thinking about neighborhoods such as South Main, Midtown, and Cooper-Young, perhaps these are not necessarily areas that are top of your radar…until now that is!! Below is a map of the coffee shops we are covering, putting into perspective exactly why we think Memphis is fortunate to have such a plethora of awesome spots that cover such a wide geographic area.
Bluff City Coffee and Bakery
Although downtown Memphis is undoubtedly a popular spot for visitors, we always encourage folks to hop on the local trolley and head to the South Main Arts district. Not only can you experience the Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Motel where MLK was fatally shot, you also can visit the amazing Bluff City Coffee and Bakery.
If you love high-quality Italian style espresso beverages, Bluff City Coffee and Bakery is definitely going to satisfy your palette. It’s all about the creativity and distinctive combinations that create delicious drinks when you visit Bluff City as there is no brewed coffee here.
A few of our recommendations include the following, though I would argue that you cannot go wrong with any of the options here. Don’t forget to sample one (or more) of the appetizing and freshly made pastries:
- Caramel Macchiato – It may just be a “standard” espresso beverage but there is something extra special about the way Bluff City Coffee makes their caramel macchiatos. Definitely one of my favorites here!
- Haley’s Comet – Espresso, milk, chai and caramel/apple flavor – sound appetizing? It should because this combination works really well! Not too sweet but you can certainly appreciate the flavors as you enjoy this unique concoction.
- Raspberry Smoothie – Visiting a coffee shop but don’t particularly like the taste of coffee/espresso? Don’t worry, Bluff City Coffee and Bakery accommodates everyone! Heather falls into this category and opted for the raspberry smoothie and can attest that it was a great choice.
Signature espresso beverages are what make Bluff City Coffee such a popular option. Each time we have visited, we have thoroughly enjoyed “hanging out” in this trendy neighborhood, enjoying the awesome drinks. If you are staying downtown Memphis, Bluff City Coffee is going to be an option you won’t want to miss out on!
For those of you that cannot get enough of Bluff City Coffee, you will be delighted to know that as of October 2017, a second location has opened in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of Memphis. Although we haven’t tried this alternative spot yet, we are convinced it will be just as good as the original along South Main.
505 S. Main Street,
Memphis, TN 38103
Website: Bluff City Coffee and Bakery
945 S. Cooper,
Memphis, TN 38104
Tel: (901) 249-3378
Venturing into the Midtown neighborhood of Memphis will open up the opportunity to visit Cafe Eclectic. As the name suggests, you can experience an “eclectic” variety of not only delicious espresso beverages and pastries but also a diverse menu that ensures this is truly a cafe to satisfy everyone’s needs.
Whether you are planning a visit to Cafe Eclectic to enjoy your morning coffee or perhaps intrigued by the breakfast or lunch menu, be prepared to experience a vibrant, trendy location that always seems to be bustling with locals and visitors alike that cannot resist the temptation on offer.
Located just one block from the Memphis Zoo, visitors to Cafe Eclectic can enjoy an “eclectic” (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) variety of menu options accompanied by Illy coffee. You may be a little surprised to hear that a local establishment uses a “chain” style coffee blend but I’m not going to lie, it really does produce a great beverage!
Ready for a bite to eat at lunch? Local favorites such as the Marlimu Farms hamburger on a homemade egg bun or “chicken-n-waffle” are popular choices but it’s one of those places that regardless of what you choose, you can’t really go wrong.
If you want something a little sweeter, consider one of the delicious pastries such as the blueberry lemon scone or the delectable cookies that have plenty of curb appeal with their whimsical designs.
Here are our top recommendations:
- The Karamel Sutra – I can’t resist sampling caramel inspired espresso drinks and the Karamel Sutra was definitely one that I was looking forward to experiencing…it didn’t disappoint. The drink combines steamed & frothed milk, sweetened with vanilla and caramel sauce and finished with two shots of espresso.
- London Fog – For those of you that are like Heather and prefer non-coffee drinks, the London Fog latte is the perfect option at Cafe Eclectic. An Earl Gray latte sweetened with vanilla is a great way to start the day!
603 N McLean Blvd,
Memphis, TN 38107
Website: Cafe Eclectic
Ugly Mug Coffee
Are you ready to sample something away from the norm when it comes to coffee shops? If so, you have come to the right city! Memphis is home to Ugly Mug Coffee and to be fair, it’s the epitome of a unique coffee establishment…so it’s no surprise that we absolutely LOVE it there!
Focused on providing excellent customer service along with a distinctive blend of locally roasted coffee beans, Ugly Mug Coffee is actually far from the concept the name may suggest. “Ugly” in terms of coffee could be used to describe the taste given that it’s so unique and unlike anywhere else that I have experienced.
We only roast coffee that’s traded and grown in a way that benefits the growers and the environment. (Ugly Mug Coffee)
If the above philosophy doesn’t inspire you to pop in the location along Poplar Avenue, well you need to start considering it!
Ok, so once you figure out that this place is worth experiencing, you can then start embracing the diverse collection of “coffee mugs” that line the interior. But the real experience starts when you gaze up to the menu behind the counter…and trust me when I say, there is A LOT to choose from!
Recommendations at Ugly Mug Coffee include:
- Blue Suede Macchiato – Why not wear your blue suede shoes like Elvis and head to Midtown Memphis to sample a delicious “Blue Suede Macchiato?” Before purchasing this drink, I knew the Blue Suede blend included a smooth caramel taste mixed with a hint of nut and a “special ingredient.” Banana may not be the first thing you think about adding to a coffee blend but let me tell you, it works well!
- Butterfinger Frappe – Of course, Heather opted for the non-coffee beverage and Ugly Mug is proud to have several delectable variations. The Butterfinger frappe tastes just as good as it sounds but perhaps the Heath or Oreo will be more appealing.
4610 Poplar Ave,
Memphis, TN 38117
Website: Ugly Mug Coffee
Otherlands Coffee Bar
The Cooper-Young neighborhood of Memphis is a thriving and trendy community for local musicians and artists to promote their work. What better place to showcase their talents among locals than at the eclectic Otherlands Coffee Bar.
This local establishment is more than just a coffee shop and is certainly the most unique of all that we visited around the city.
Arguably, Otherlands Coffee Bar is perhaps the best place to relax for several hours. Spacious, comfortable, a relaxing ambiance and most importantly, a delicious collection of menu options to choose from, creates the perfect place to catch up on work or simply relax with friends.
Otherlands Coffee Bar and Exotic Gifts is not only a coffee shop, it’s a cultural oasis in a plastic wasteland. (Otherlands coffee bar)
Renowned as a “funky, artsy” coffee shop, Otherlands is definitely the perfect fit for the Cooper-Young district. Whether you choose to visit first thing in the morning or late in the evening (we learned that between Monday to Thursday, if you visit between 5-6PM, you can enjoy “happy hour” where all coffee drinks are 1/2 price!), you will see locals and visitors alike networking and relaxing in this coffee shop.
Let’s take a look at the menu and of course, starting with coffee. The standard espresso beverages can be found here and you can always add your favorite syrup to customize your drink. The affordability of these drinks is certainly something worth noting but for those that are a little more adventurous, the selection of “alternative” beverages will surely spark your interest.
Heather opted for her namesake, “Heather’s Ale.” Lemonade mixed with fresh orange juice, served over ice is definitely a refreshing start to the day. If you are ready for a bite to eat, a variety of breakfast and lunch items are freshly prepared to order.
641 South Cooper Street,
Memphis, TN 38104
Website: Otherlands Coffee Bar
Ready to experience one of the oldest and well-recognized coffee shops across Memphis? Java Cabana is another trendy and vibrant coffee shop in the Cooper-Young neighborhood that is perfect to enjoy your favorite espresso while mingling with young locals.
Dating back to 1992 when the doors first opened, the history of Java Cabana is all about Elvis! Various wedding ceremonies took place in the back with Elvis impersonators at the forefront of those sharing their wedding vows at this location.
If you love “hipster” style coffeehouses, Java Cabana is a no-brainer if you are looking for the best options in the Memphis area. Whether you are looking to relax on one of the couches or perhaps enjoy life passing you by outside among the floral collections, Java Cabana is a perfect choice and definitely worth experiencing regardless of your coffee shop preference.
I’m not going to lie, Java Cabana is not going to be for everyone but the unique style and charming character is what is going to attract you to this location. And all of that is before you salivate over the various beverages available.
Recommendations on what to sample at Java Cabana include:
- Sweet Jane – That’s right, you guessed it…another caramel inspired drink! Java Cabana’s Sweet Jane combines the smooth and sweet taste of caramel with a hint of vanilla. A double shot of espresso ensures you have plenty of energy to explore the Cooper-Young district after sampling this delicacy.
- Raspberry Mocha Iced Drink – The distinctive blend of mocha mixed with raspberry flavoring is a combination you may not initially think about but on a hot summer’s day, this is the perfect choice to keep you refreshed. Heather was a little skeptical, particularly by the appearance, but soon realized that looks can be deceiving and loved this choice!
2170 Young Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38104
Website: Java Cabana
Memphis is home to a plethora of inviting coffee shops. Whether you are looking to find a place to catch up on work or simply relax among locals while enjoying your favorite coffee, you can be sure that pretty much every neighborhood around Memphis will have a coffee shop worth experiencing.
We have only covered five coffee shops in Memphis but there are plenty others that we are eager to sample. We are always looking for recommendations so please feel free to share your experiences on the best spots to enjoy a cup of Joe in Memphis.