Full disclosure: I drank decaf for years and then I saw the light roast. Now, I really know my beans. Although we have many chic new coffee cafés here in Albuquerque, let me tell you about the java joints that know how to brew it up old-school. They all have Wi-Fi and are open seven days a week unless otherwise noted.
Because coffee doesn’t count as breakfast (I’m told), I head for Duggan’s Coffee. Wedged into a row of storefronts, it reminds me of living in New York City—not Manhattan, more like Queens or Staten Island. Duggan’s neighborhood has its arms around Presbyterian Downtown, the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College Main Campus and all of those bleary-eyed commuters on their way to the ART-exhausted businesses along Central.
An honest cup of Joe best describes the coffee, but you can get all of the lattes with foam art you need, and they taste all swell and Starbucks-y. Breakfast here is down-home, filling, reasonably if weirdly priced ($7.70?) and they have good pastries. You can read free newspapers. If you forget your laptop, you can sit outside at tiny tables and watch the daily autocross on Lead.
One quibble: Duggan’s almost comically bad website/blog functions as the Anti-Website. In a town overflowing with graphic designers, won’t some enterprising customer step up and pull their digital beans out of the fire?
Duggan’s Coffee, 2227 Lead Ave. SE, 505.312.7257, dugganscoffee.com. Closed Monday.
Trifecta Coffee Company
Trifecta Coffee Company makes me smile even if I’m just driving by. It’s owned by serious coffee people (Roasting/Wholesale/Coffee Bar make up the trifecta) and it’s in a serious location—more industrial, less retail.
This outpost of civilization has two things that make it a quiet place to get some work done: “coffee bar” is only a day job, and most customers order takeout. They open at 6 a.m. on weekdays, so after rush hour, count on just you and your laptop on a small bench in the back corner. Freelance Euphoria. They should name a coffee after it.
Coffee is mostly from Latin America and Africa, and you can buy otherworldly gift packs. Try out the bespoke blends Trifecta brews for their wholesale customers, and scope the daily specials. If the smell of coffee gets you high, simply walk in the door for a hit. No one will question you. Don’t ask me how I know.
All kidding aside, the place is Nirvana for caffeine fiends. Did I mention their elevated baked goods are handmade on premises? Fat Freelancer. They should name a galette after me.
Trifecta Coffee Company (Fat Boy Roasters), 413 Montaño Road NE, 505.803.7579, trifectacoffeecompany.com.
My friends and I were happy enough with Napoli when they were in a much cozier space, but the large place they now occupy farther west on Menaul is a whole other country. I still see people I know, but they are there to be seen. Many use it as a space to meet and market themselves; personal conversations can be challenging. Remember to speak UP. Even with a steady crowd, though, the high ceilings and ambient light keep it feeling fun.
Coffee is good and varied, featuring some from Moons Coffee & Tea, another locally owned company. Pastries are nothing special but the biz crowd doesn’t seem to mind. It’s the lunch menu that makes Napoli a standout. Their Mediterranean-style sandwiches are inventive and delicious. Customers have their favorites and the staff takes pride in remembering yours. It’s as if your corner Italian place ditched the wine and checkered tablecloths in favor of splendid coffee and, well, no tablecloths at all.
Napoli Coffee Shop, 3035 Menaul Blvd. NE, 505.884.5454, napolicoffee.com.
Humble Coffee Company
“Stay grounded.” That’s their tagline, and you can get it on a T-shirt, tank, hoodie or onesie at Humble Coffee, where you can also get a $10 gift certificate. I liked these folks before I ever met them. They often lend out their parking lot for community events, and sometimes people like Bryan Cranston, Bob Odenkirk and James Franco show up. Also motorcycle fans and artisans, nonprofit fundraisers, salt-of-the-earth types. And you.
Seating is communal, too, so make some new friends. Let these amiable folks brew you up a cup of handcrafted coffee from Ethiopia or Columbia. I am partial to the espresso myself, but then I have to stay up all night and write about coffee. Humble opens at 6 a.m. on weekdays and is located on a rush-hour corridor, so stop by and make your day worth it with a home-made breakfast burrito in hand. Keeps you from texting and driving.
Humble Coffee Company, 4200 Lomas Blvd. NE, 505.289.9909, humblecoffeeco.com.
Michael Thomas Coffee Roasters
OCD me is always early, so when someone says, “Meet me at Michael Thomas,” and I end up at the wrong one, I still have enough time to drive to the other one. The one in Nob Hill has patios fore and aft, and an old-house feel with non-level floors that make you roll as if you are sailing The Flying Dutchman. The other one near UNM is your old college dorm room with even more hand-me-down chairs.
Both serve Caffe Americano and the people I meet there always order it, although I’ve never asked them which roast they use. Try the light roast Yemen if you like citrus and butter ($18.95/pound to take home). I love the Dukes Runner’s Blend ($12.95/pound), named after the Albuquerque Dukes Track Club and made for them. I like to think that Runner’s Blend is the real reason their heads bob up and down when they run.
Michael Thomas Coffee Roasters, 1111 Carlisle Blvd. SE, 505.255.3330; 202 Bryn Mawr Dr. SE, 505.504.7078, michaelthomascoffee.com.
Customer service is so fine at Espresso Fino that—I hate to say it—the espresso is even better. I treasure this shop and the owner and the tininess and the downtown location. Like Duggan’s, it makes me feel as if I live in the neighborhood. (Duggan’s, please take a look at Fino’s website and get a referral.)
It’s all about customizing espresso here. Just put yourself into these experienced hands, and you’ll learn a lot about the bewitching beverage. Take your barista’s educated suggestions for flavoring and foam. The pastries are baked fresh every morning and delivered. A cappuccino and fresh fruit will make you feel you are in Europe. Or that you could fly there all by yourself. Last week, I took a “Shot in the Dark,” coffee with espresso added, and got my work done in two hours. For the week.
Espresso Fino, 222 Gold Ave. SW, espressofinoabq.com.
Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery
Many friends and colleagues drink only tea. I know, I know, why are they my friends? So I had to include Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery and tell you that they do sell Ajiri coffee (and black tea of course, ajiritea.com). Ajiri is a fair-trade whole-bean or ground coffee, with handmade labels by Kenyan women, the proceeds of which go to schooling fees for Kenyan orphans. It’s a lovely coffee with citrus notes; inside each box is a bead strung on twine, made by one of the artisans out of recycled magazines. The price is competitive with other brands.
A trip to Figments can be an oasis in your day. After you choose from nearly 150 teas, your cup is hand-brewed. Nestled in back of the shop is a darling tearoom where you seat yourself among eclectic tables and visit with other tea drinkers. The shop itself carries crafted home goods, many of which are accessories for tea and coffee, many made by locals.
Call me when you’re ready to have a real cuppa.
Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery, 8510 Montgomery Blvd. NE, 505.323.1606, figmentsteashoppe.com.
Story by Stephanie Hainsfurther