Austin - A Thriving Coffee Community Deep In The Heart Of Texas

13 min read JUL 20, 2023

When I think of Texas, I imagine herds of cattle, tumbleweeds, pastures, and of course extremely hot temperatures.

I suppose I’ve been watching too much Yellowstone though, because this state certainly isn’t defined by the scenes surrounding the 6666 Ranch.

In reality, Texas, in fact, is more urban than rural…nearly 84% urban to be exact.

And, Austin, Texas, the city we’ll be exploring today, is actually the 10th most populated city in the United States, growing faster than any other city in our nation since 2010.

With its ever-growing population, what is it that has folks flocking to the capital of the Lone Star State?

Could it be their craft breweries? Austin is said to have one of the largest populations of award-winning craft breweries in the nation, even dubbed the “top beer destination in the world.”

Or, maybe it’s this city’s love for fresh, whole foods? No really, Whole Foods was founded in Austin, and most locals still prefer this chain when it comes to grocery shopping.

Perhaps some love the city for its unique, even endangered, wildlife, with both the endangered Barton Springs salamander and the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler specifically calling Austin their home. And, did we mention the city is also home to the largest urban bat colony?

Or, maybe being the ‘live music capital of the world’ with more live music venues per capita than any other US city is what’s drawing folks to this southern hub?

Then again…could it be their coffee?

Austin, Texas doesn’t exactly seem like a big name in the bean business. In fact, this city certainly wouldn’t rival well-known coffee communities like Seattle, Portland, or NYC, would it?

…would it?

One thing I’ve come to learn through both research and experience is that coffee seems to have a thread in the seams of nearly every city in our great nation, small and large.

And, Austin is no different.

In fact, this city’s caffeinated history, claims to fame, and current coffee scene just might surprise you!

So, grab a cup of joe and journey with me for a few moments to Austin, Texas, where we’ll take a look at how the South does coffee.

Brew Beginnings In The Republic

Austin was first known as Waterloo, founded in the 1830’s and named as the Republic of Texas’ capital in 1839.

And, that’s how far back we need to journey to learn of the city’s brew beginnings.

Coffee and tea have been staples in Austin (then Waterloo) for hundreds of years, with German and Austrian immigrants having opened the first coffeehouses in the city by the late 1800’s.

Most of the coffeehouses then were small businesses, mom and pop shops as we’d call them today. And, like most small, family-run establishments during this time period, they were often gathering places for the entire community.

But, Austin’s bean scene in these early stages was ever-evolving, as new waves of immigrants brought a little taste of home with them to the city’s coffee culture.

Actually, cultured is possibly the most accurate way to describe Austin’s coffee community throughout the early 1900’s.

Adding to the German and Austrian influences, Italian, Jewish, and Chinese immigrants also opened many coffee houses throughout the city during this time with each offering their own take on the traditional American cup of coffee.

These beginnings have greatly contributed to the city’s coffee culture even today, allowing residents and visitors alike to experience deliciously diverse cafe creations.

This diversity and the unique and amazing coffee offerings it has brought to the city are easily thought to be at the root of why Austin has been named one of our nation’s top ten cities for coffee lovers.

What Happens In Austin

No worries, that wasn’t a “what happens in Vegas,” type of reference in that subheading. No, what we’re referring to here is how this city evolved yet again.

In its beginnings, Austin’s coffee scene was shaped by the diverse offerings from various cultures around the world. And, while such culture is still felt throughout the coffee community here today, a different trend within the city is considered to be an equally important part of how Austinites enjoy their brews.

Residents of the city know this trend as local coffee.

This term, local coffee, is defined by Austin’s residents as “coffee that is grown, roasted, and brewed locally, often by small, independent businesses.”

Texas is one of only three US states that are said to grow coffee commercially. And, aside from what’s grown locally, in those small cafes that specialize in local coffee, you can always expect to find single origin, fair trade, organic brews roasted and brewed in-house.

Also unique to the local coffee scene in the capital city is their inclusion, on a large scale, of music in many small cafes.

We mentioned above that Austin is considered the live music capital of the world, and many cafes within the city provide a stage for such music, from calming coffeehouse classics, to jazz, and more.

In other words, when in Austin, you’ll find a cultured selection of coffee, local brews, and local tunes catering to the city’s coffee and music loving residents.

Capital City Claim To Fame

Something else you’ll find served up in the capital of the Lone Star state is a cup of controversy.

Austinites likely only know this as a part of the city’s famed coffee history, but folks in the Pacific Northwest would challenge what Texans believe to be cold, hard facts.

In 2013, in Portland, Oregon, Stumptown Roasters employee Nate Armbrust, a food scientist, is said to have created nitro coffee when seeking to carbonate cold coffee.

And, while this creamy, smooth, nitrogen-infused method of enjoying cold brew on tap is sometimes credited to have originated both in the South and the Pacific Northwest, Austin residents recognize nitro’s public debut a little earlier on the timeline.

In 2012, at Cuvee Coffee in Austin, Mike McKim brought his nearly 10 year old idea to his customers:

The CEO of Cuvee Coffee states, “The idea came to me in 2005 when I was selling La Marzocco espresso machines and saw that a customer had installed a coffee beverage on one of his beer taps. The drink was just a flat, cream and sugar kind of thing, but the idea of coffee on tap stuck with me.”

McKim explains that after Cuvee Coffee was well established, he revisited his idea from 2005, dedicating months to research and development, serving small samples to friends and family throughout 2011, perfecting a way to “make a more complex, flavorful cold brew coffee.”

Finally, in the summer of 2012 (nearly a year prior to Armbrust’s discovery at Stumptown Roasters), McKim served Cuvee Coffee’s first pint of nitro cold brew coffee.

By 2016, nitro cold brew became so popular amongst coffee connoisseurs that Starbucks picked up this serving method and placed taps in many of their locations bringing popularity to this nitrogen-infused brew all across the country.

Obviously, nitro cold brew isn’t the only unique, delicious, and wonderful way Austinites enjoy their coffee though. So now, let’s take a walk down the streets of Austin and explore all their bean scene has to offer.

Taking It To The Streets

There’s so much to enjoy when it comes to Austin’s coffee houses and cafes, it’s hard to know where to begin. So, as we take to the streets of Texas’ capital city, we’ll highlight two or three cafes or coffee shops from each of the following categories: cultured, local, weird, and wonderful.


When we looked at Austin’s history as it pertains to coffee, we discovered a great amount of diversity as various cultures shaped the caffeinated landscape of this town. So, today we’d like to introduce some of the culture-rich coffee houses still thriving in the city.

1- Proud Mary Coffee

Imported from Portland, Proud Mary Coffee serves up brews with an Australian flare. And, since they believe great food and great coffee go hand-in-hand, you’ll find plenty of Aussie food favorites here to enjoy.

The cafe offers what they’ve termed as a curious selection of coffee for those feeling adventurous. And, this category includes their double anaerobic honey bourbon coffee from Honduras.

You can also enjoy complex, fruity, and tropical flavors in their wild coffee selections.

In their cafe on Lamar Street in Austin, Proud Mary Coffee serves up high quality coffee with fresh, ethically sourced ingredients.

Here, they seek to “blend the innovative spirit of Melbourne’s coffee culture with Austin’s adventurous taste buds.”

2- Opa Coffee And Wine Bar

Opa is a Greek-inspired, family owned coffee shop in Austin that locals describe as “my happy place,” “simply incredible (atmosphere),” and “awesome.”

Opa showcases live music, local comedy, and more as their daytime coffee house, like many Austin coffee shops, transforms into a bar/lounge in the evening.

Offering classic Greek salads and other dishes, their coffee selection provides connoisseurs with typical American favorites as well as Greek coffee, their house specialty.

3- Plaza Colombian Coffee

Plaza brings a taste of Colombia to the Lone Star State with their tropical tiki drinks served in the evenings, and their all-Colombian selections of coffee served throughout the day.

They also feature local art, live music, and a menu filled with Colombian food to enjoy either with a cup of joe or an evening cocktail.

Other than their coffee roast selections, some of their Colombian coffee menu items include a cafe con leche, which is a Colombian coffee served with steamed milk as well as their mocha which is made with Colombian dark chocolate, espresso, and milk.

A few of their specialty coffee selections include a latte sweetened with Colombian arequipe and their Sweet Bee which is a honey cinnamon latte topped with house made whipped cream.


As we mentioned above, Austinites love their local coffee, with brews grown, roasted, and brewed in the great state of Texas, rather, in the great city of Austin. So, the following establishments roast and brew just that…local coffee.

1- Cuvee Coffee

With our detailing of Austin’s claim to coffee fame, nitro cold brew, we couldn’t omit Cuvee Coffee here.

Cuvee CEO Mike McKim has been serving nitro cold brew since 2012, but before (and after) this creamy, delicious treat, Cuvee Coffee has been roasting ethically sourced, sustainably grown coffee beans in-house for more than 20 years.

Their nitro offerings now come canned, with selections like nitro horchata (yes, please), nitro black, nitro vanilla, and nitro mocha.

And, each bag of Cuvee Coffee explains this company’s, and the city of Austin’s, pride in their local coffee roasting practices, stating: “handcrafted in the fine city of Austin, Texas.”

2- Greater Goods Roasting Company

Winners of the 2023 Good Food Award, these local roasters impressed a panel of tasting experts with their locally roasted brews.

While these local roasters pride themselves in their knowledge and expertise regarding time, temp, and true quality when it comes to beans (coffee beans, of course), their mission shows that this company cares about more than just coffee.

Greater Goods serves up “coffee with a splash of kindness,” explaining that they source the best beans, roast them with love, then seek to give back.

The best beans? This refers to the high quality coffee beans that they source from sustainable producers all over the world.

Roasting with love? This refers to their expertise in roasting their coffee to precisely bring out the best flavors in each batch.

Then, giving back? Greater Goods Coffee Company makes a donation to a Texas charity with each bag of coffee purchased.

That’s about as local as it gets…roasting local and giving back local as well!


Know, when we say weird, we’re not dissing, instead, we’re looking at all the truly unique things Austin’s coffee community has to offer.

Still, Keep Austin Weird is a common saying you’ll likely hear in Texas, so we’d like to see if any of Austin’s coffee houses hold up to this unique nickname…

1- Cosmic Coffee And Beer Garden

I mean, most of us have heard of coffee and wine, but coffee and beer? Does this classify as weird?

Cosmic Coffee And Beer Garden has been dubbed the perfect place to start your morning (coffee) and end your day (beer).

With their rainwater-fed pond, nature-filled atmosphere, pumpkins lining the pathways in the fall, Pickle Rd address, dog-inclusive dining, and classic coffee items filling their morning menu, Cosmic Coffee is doing their part to Keep Austin Weirdand wonderful with selections such as Cosmic Cold Brew, CBD add-ins, and classic espresso-based drinks.

2- Buzz Mill

Also serving up coffee with a side of beer, Buzz Mill is a lumberjack themed coffeehouse and bar.

You can get a cold brew growler filled at Buzz Mill for long lumberjack work days or just at-home java needs, of course.

Or, you can try one of their many unique coffee drinks such as the honey badger latte which is flavored with honey, cinnamon, and vanilla, their honey lavender latte boasting flavors of local honey and fresh lavender.

Then, you could also try another creative offering like their flapjack latte which incorporates maple syrup, sea salt, and cinnamon.

All lumberjack themes aside, Buzz Mill’s aim is something we can all relate to, a desire to cultivate community, from building gardens to cleaning rivers and creating places people can enjoy within their community in new and exciting ways.

3- Intelligentsia

With pastries supplied by Easy Tiger and Odd Duck, with offerings like a nitro matcha latte and a mushroom goat cheese pastry, and with classic coffee selections named after felines, we had to include Intelligentsia in our weird cafe category.

What’s more uniquely wonderful than a black cat espresso, their sugar glider espresso with notes of peach, mandarin orange, and sugarcane.

Then, Intelligentsia’s coffee selection from Honduras boasts notes of pear, lime, and rocky road.

And, slightly more weird…and wonderful…is their summer solstice seasonal blend with notes of blueberry, lime, and honey.

Many of these selections are available on tap, but customers also come for their nitro cold brew, nitro lattes, and nitro matcha.


Lastly, we’d like to close out with a couple of cafes in Austin that have been declared truly wonderful according to their patrons. Rooted in both excellence and nostalgia, these cafes hold a special place in the hearts of Austinites.

1- Halcyon

Halcyon is considered a local favorite as it’s located in one of the last remaining sections of Austin’s old city center.

More of a social setting than a cozy, quiet cafe, Halcyon often attracts a younger crowd. And, by the evening, the scene transitions from coffee house to live music lounge.

So, you can swing by in the morning for a great cup of joe, or plan a night out with friends where you’ll enjoy coffee selections with a twist, like their chocolate espresso martini.

Those who love Halcyon describe this gem as nostalgic, its original location still hanging on even as glass windows, office buildings, and towering hotels are built up around it.

2- Bennu Coffee

To close things out, we had to include a coffee shop that caters to coffee lovers all day and all night!

Bennu Coffee is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Serving high quality, fair trade coffee and locally sourced foods, Bennu pleases their customers…aka Austin’s coffee crowd…any time.

They specialize in gourmet mochas, and locals recommend The Raven, a house favorite complete with dark chocolate powder, dark chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and extra dark chocolate sauce drizzled on top.

Bennu also offers personal French press service with their many organic coffee options, their custom mochas (of course), a wide variety of espresso drinks, and their acclaimed cold brew.

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Cold Brew.

Headshot of Becky Livingston Vance
Becky Livingston Vance Content writer

Becky is a mother, educator, and content writer for Lifeboost Coffee. She has had three years’ experience as a writer, and in that time she has enjoyed creatively composing articles and ebooks covering the topics of coffee, health and fitness, education, recipes, and relationships.


Drop a Comment

All comments are moderated before being published