Humans have been getting their daily coffee fix for longer than most people realize. This year the oldest-operating coffeehouse in the world, Caffè Florian in Venice, is celebrating its 300th anniversary, and even Starbucks will turn 50 in 2021.
When H-town’s first Starbucks opened its doors in 1994 in Highland Village, coffeeshops were around. After all, the Yale Street Grill had been serving up cups of Joe with scrambled eggs since 1923, you could always snag a coffee to go with your danish from Three Brothers Bakery, and Café Artiste had been packed with people ordering up pour-overs and paging through the books on the (now departed) Montrose joint’s shelves since it opened in the early 1990s. But Houstonians weren’t necessarily immersed in the wider world of coffee consumption, in the latte, the espresso, and the other then-exotic iterations. The Seattle-based coffee chain changed that, of course—we now have roughly 300 area locations and many of us do love those $5 tall, skinny PSL lattes. But there’s a lot more to coffee than that. Nearly every culture has its own approach to how it uses those beans, and the results are distinctive and delicious.
Since Houston attracts people from all over the globe, many coffee traditions can be found—and sampled—right here via the mix of small, independent coffee shops, mom-and-pop eateries, and posh cafés that serve our city’s large immigrant populations. Even if you’ve never heard of caffè Marocchino or sampled a Vietnamese egg coffee as of this moment, don’t despair. There’s still time to expand your caffeinated horizons with the help of this guide highlighting 12 distinct takes on coffee, drawn from cultures around the world, and all on offer right here in the Bayou City.
Just be sure to pace yourself. A little caffeine can go a very long way.