Today—Saturday, October 1—is a special day for most people, at least the 64% of American adults who admit to drinking coffee daily.
As a coffee drinker myself and proud Appalachian girl, born and raised in East Tennessee, I love small coffee shops, run by people I can “howdy with,” much more than big coffee chains that are spread over the whole country.
Appalachia has coffee shops in most towns. Despite the heartache and financial turmoil caused by the COVID-19 crisis, Appalachia has remained resilient, continuing to open small businesses and fighting to stay open in a stressful economy.
In honor of today, here are my favorite small Appalachian coffee shops.
Still Waters Coffee House – Gray, TN
Still Waters Coffee House matches its name: peaceful background music, big windows, and sun-hugged rooms make Still Waters one of the best study spots. A husband-and-wife duo, Erik and Bree, own the coffee shop, and their two young children are often found sitting at the bar drinking smoothies and visiting with customers. The atmosphere screams community, and the warmth of the baristas is delightful. Although I normally order chai, Still Waters’ raspberry herbal iced tea is superb and the best herbal tea I have had in a coffee shop so far.
Open Doors Coffee House – Johnson City, TN
Open Doors is the first coffee shop with which I fell in love—it is cozy but bustling and has the best white mocha, sweet and syrupy, perfect for a chat with a friend. The shop has booths, tables, a bar with 3 stools overlooking a patio, and a full patio with tables and a swinging bench. The baristas control the background music, so sometimes I know who is on duty even before I see the baristas at the counter. In general, the staff is young and fashionable with an outdoorsy vibe that matches much of the local college culture. Open Doors sells crafts and merch, so it is a great place to find handmade or local gifts.
Dos Gatos Coffee Bar – Johnson City, TN
Smack dab in the middle of downtown Johnson City sits Dos Gatos Coffee. With entrance doors on both sides of the building (Dos Gatos is squashed between other shops) and tables and chairs snugly populating the shop (even in the small hallway), Dos Gatos is cozy. The walls feature local art which switches out regularly, so it is a treat to experience new paintings or handiwork each visit. Its food is fresh and vibrant, up to date with current diets and expectations. It features foods such as vegan loaves of mini spice bread, egg salad sandwiches with pickled red onions and North Carolinian sprouts, and plant-based buffalo chickpea chowder. For a unique coffee option, try Dos Gatos’ salted tahini latte.
Pike House Coffee – Johnson City, TN
Set in an old textile mill in Johnson City, Pike House is one-of-a-kind. Its friendly staff and eclectic décor—framed Edgar Allen Poe quotes, old books, plants, vintage furniture, and exposed brick—make Pike House a unique experience. Because it sits in the middle of the long brick mill building, Pike House offers seating options outside of the coffee shop itself: walk down a hallway and find yourself in a huge open room with a fireplace, tables and chairs, and apartment doors around you. Pike House regularly offers new drinks, lately offering boba tea for the first time. My regular buys are a hot London fog, perfectly warm and creamy, and an iced Foster, Pike House’s white chocolate latte with the perfect sweetness and texture for a refreshing but luscious iced drink.
Black Bear Coffee Co. – Hendersonville, NC
Black Bear Coffee Co. is a dream, perfectly suited to the vibe of the Asheville-dominated region but matching Hendersonville’s smaller-town charm. Set on Hendersonville’s main street and decorated with carved wooden bear statues at the entrance, ceiling tiles covered by old, mismatched feed sacks, a black- and white-tiled ordering counter, and a cabinet full of fresh pastries, Black Bear is modern while also very Appalachian. On a chilly day, a hot Bear Hug (a hazelnut and chocolate latte) in Black Bear is simply delightful.
Methodical at Landmark – Greenville, SC Methodical at Landmark (one of three Methodical Coffee shops in Greenville) is a coffee shop that features curated outdoor retail from The Landmark Project and Topo Designs. Minimalistic, outdoorsy, and modern are the best words to describe Methodical at Landmark. Its aesthetic includes an old Boy Scout troop flag, plants, white concrete block walls, upcycled church pews as seating, and playing cards glued back-to-back as order numbers. For a popular coffee shop, Methodical at Landmark is surprisingly quiet, restful, and comfortably calm. A crafted latte in Methodical’s painted blue mugs is a wonderful addition to any day.
I hope you get to stop by one or two of the coffee shops to support the Appalachian economy while enjoying a hot cup of specialty coffee.