TAMPA BAY, FL — Whether you refer to it as a cup of joe, brew or java, coffee is an American staple and an indispensable beverage in Tampa, which ranks No. 5 among the top 20 cities in the country for the consumption of coffee drinks.

The personal-finance website WalletHub recently released its report on 2020’s Best Coffee Cities in America and reported that Miami (No. 4) and Tampa ranked behind Portland (3), San Francisco (2) and Seattle (1) for the best local coffee scenes.

WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities across 12 key indicators of a strong coffee culture. The data set ranges from coffee shops, coffee houses and cafés per capita to the average price per pack of coffee.

  • Miami and Hialeah, Florida, have the lowest average price for a pack of coffee, $3.44, which is 2.4 times lower than in Honolulu, the city with the highest at $8.10.
  • Fremont, California, has the highest average annual spending on coffee per household, $236.41, which is 3.7 times higher than in Detroit, the city with the lowest at $63.91.
  • Gilbert, Arizona, has the highest share of households that own a single-cup/pod-brewing coffee maker, 25.68 percent, which is 2.9 times higher than in Newark, New Jersey, the city with the lowest at 9.01 percent.
  • Orlando, Florida, has the most coffee shops, coffee houses and cafés (per square root of population), 0.4571, which is 7.5 times more than in Laredo, Texas, the city with the fewest at 0.0611.
  • Portland, Oregon, has the most coffee and tea manufacturers (per square root of population), 0.0219, which is 43.8 times more than in Riverside and San Bernardino, California, the cities with the fewest at 0.0005.
  • St. Petersburg ranked No. 3 for cities with the lowest average price of a cappuccino.
  • Miami ranks No. 5 for the highest percentage of adult coffee drinkers.
  • Miami ranked No. 1 for the lowest percentage of households that own coffee makers.
  • Tampa ranked No. 4 for most coffee shops, coffee houses and cafes per capita.

Not only do Tampa residents depend on caffeine to jumpstart their day but many Tampa residents rely on the aromatic coffee bean for their paycheck.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America says the U.S. coffee market is now a $48 billion-a-year industry. About 62 percent of Americans drink coffee every day, with the average coffee drinker consuming three cups daily, according to a survey by the National Coffee Association.

While Starbucks, which debuted in Seattle in 1971, has claimed the credit for the current gourmet coffee craze, Tampa is home to one of the nation’s oldest coffee roasters, Naviera Coffee Mills.

Spanish immigrant Carlos Menendez founded Naviera Coffee Mills in 1921, naming it for the shipping line that brought him to America.

Menendez worked in one of Ybor City’s cigar factories by day and roasted coffee at night. He’d deliver his fresh-roasted blends door to door by bicycle each morning before heading to his day job.

Menendez worked alongside Spanish, Italian and Cuban cigar rollers who relished their coffee breaks. Already familiar with the dark, rich roasts used to make espresso in his homeland and Italy, Menendez’s Cuban co-workers introduced him to cafe Cubano (Cuban coffee), made with the first and strongest shots of espresso sweetened with whipped natural brown sugar.

Menendez eventually gave up his day job and became a full-time roaster, opening Naviera Coffee Mills at the now-landmark building at 2012 E. 7th Ave. in Ybor City.

The building was also home to El Molino Gourmet Coffee Shop, a favorite gathering spot for Ybor City immigrants to debate the issues of the day over a cup of cafe Cubano or cafe con leche.

In 2017, Naviera Coffee Mills outgrew its headquarters in historic Ybor City and relocated to a 24,000-square-foot facility at 5401 E. Henry Ave. in East Tampa. However, four generations after Menendez sold his first roasted blend in America, the company is still family-owned and -operated, distributing espresso, Cuban and gourmet coffee to grocery stores around the country, including Florida-based Publix.

D’Ann Lawrence White/Patch

Carlos Menendez founded Naviera Coffee Mills in 1921 on 7th Avenue in Ybor City.

In recent years, Tampa has also attracted its share of new roasters eager to claim a share of the lucrative coffee market. Among them are two Tampa natives who were named among the 10 best coffee purveyors in America last year by Food & Wine magazine.

Coming in at No. 8 on Food & Wine’s list was King State Coffee, 520 E. Floribraska Ave., Tampa.

Brothers-in-law Tim McTague and Nate Young spent most of their adult lives working as touring musicians, playing with various bands around the country.

“In 2013 after those bands broke up, the idea to start a coffee roaster began to brew over many nights in a backyard drinking beers and smoking cigars,” said McTague.

McTague and Young bought a commercial roaster and started selling King State Coffee online in 2014. As their unique coffee blends including Antigua Hunapu Guatemala, La Flores Santa Barbara Honduras, Uraga Guji Ethiopia and Huila Acevedo Colombia Decaf caught on, the roasters took the inevitable next step. They converted an old abandoned gas station in Tampa Heights and opened a coffee shop in July 2019.

Also earning a spot on Food & Wine’s list was Union by Commune & Co., located in the Heights Public Market, 1910 N. Ola Ave., Tampa.

Owner Joel Davis began his business pedaling a trike through Ybor City, selling his pressure-brewed iced coffee from a crate attached to the handlebars. He opened his brick-and-mortar coffee shop on Feb. 1, 2018.

In addition to his nitro-tapped cold-pressure brew, Davis offers batch-brewed drip coffee, espresso, horchata lattes, mochas and coffee cola – pressure-brewed with citrus, bitter orange coriander, nutmeg and lavender.

However, one Tampa entrepreneur has rightly earned the title of Tampa’s coffee king after opening a series of successful coffee shops.

Roberto Torres first opened The Blind Tiger in Ybor City in 2014, and has since opened five more Blind Tiger coffee shops around Tampa.

In addition, Torres has partnered with Water Street developer and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik on a new coffee concept called Endeavr Coffee, located in Vinik’s Embarc Collective, a space for startup tech companies at 802 E. Whiting St., Tampa.

We asked Tampa Patch readers to name their favorite Tampa coffee shops, cafes and roasters. The list includes:

If you have a favorite that’s not on the list, let us know: dann.white@patch.com.

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