Don't get me wrong: I love Starbucks. The coffee shop chain is dependable, and no matter where I am in the world, my grande latte with almond milk tastes the same every time. However, whenever I travel and visit a Starbucks, it's hard to tell whether I'm at a Starbucks in my town or 3,000 miles away. I propose we ditch chain coffee shops and invest our coffee budgets into locally-owned, independent coffee shops, especially when we travel.

When I visit different cities, I love visiting local coffee shops because it is here that I learn about the local culture. I see the vast arrays of people walk in and out the door, I see the variety of sometimes locally-roasted coffee beans and I see the specialty coffee drinks featuring different local ingredients. 

Coffee Shops With a Twist

Some coffee shops have an art exhibit connected, like Pentacle in San Francisco. Pentacle boasts an attached artsy walk-through gallery, and there's also a wall of word magnets where you can show your own creativity. Other times, the coffee shop has an Insta-worthy wall or sign (like Alfred in Los Angeles). Alfred has locations scattered throughout Los Angeles. Visit them all to snap a pic with the different murals, signs and artsy decorations at each shop. When in LA, make sure to also stop by The Butcher, The Baker, and The Cappuccino Maker, a shop where artists' medium are the lattes. 

#SpoonTip: Order the latte with whole milk if you want a colorful decoration like the one pictured above.

Coffee Shops With a View 

I love finding coffee shops that exist in unique environments, too–overlooking the Sunset Strip in LA (like The Butcher, The Baker, and The Cappuccino Maker), overlooking the beach in Malibu (like coffee at Malibu Farm) or situated inside an art museum (hello, Sightglass at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). 

The Benefits of Buying Local Coffee 

Yes, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Peet's and all the other delicious coffee chains are reliable and quickly fill the caffeine-shaped hole in your heart. However, locally-owned coffee shops are more likely to use organic coffee beans, take the time to confirm you're truly happy with your drink and present a unique, creative aesthetic and atmosphere. 

At locally-owned coffee shops, I have met the owner as he poured my espresso, conversed with locals willing to engage with me rather than quickly getting in and out the door, and interacted with many patient baristas as they carefully explained the nuanced details of the menu.

I'm not saying that I won't ever visit a chain again, but I love reinvesting in local communities and experiencing local culture through smaller coffee shops, especially when I travel to new places. Next time you visit a new city, instead of auto-piloting your way to the nearest Starbucks and ordering your regular, browse social media or the internet for a nearby, locals-only coffee shop–this coffee shop adventure will be much more memorable than adhering to your usual coffee chain routine.