Rochester, New York Is a Hub for Good Coffee

Rochester's third-wave coffee shops and local roasters are thriving. (And we're totally into it.)

meraki coffee
Photo: Courtesy of Lily Kweon

Years before there was even a Starbucks in New York State, Rochester had Java's. A quintessentially '90s-cool coffee shop, mostly because it opened in 1992, Java's on Gibbs Street in Rochester's central business district was the handiwork of Joe Palozzi, a local guy who left to grow coffee in Hawaii, eventually making his way home, where he opened his eclectic café.

Back then, Java's was the sort of place you went out of your way to visit because there just weren't enough places like it at the time. Palozzi found the sweet spot, apparently, because not only did Java's stick around, it begat other Java's, including a location at the historic Rochester Public Market. Next door, in the building with the "Best Coffee at the Market" sign, you could often find Palozzi at the roaster. He worked there until close to the end of his long and colorful life, at home among a crowd of coffee lovers.

Java's is still on Gibbs Street. It's part of a wide-ranging scene that includes other local shops and chainlets that followed in its wake. By the mid-2000s, when much larger East Coast cities were only just starting to climb onto the modern coffee culture bandwagon, Rochester's scene appeared to be firmly entrenched.

Not content to slide into complacency, however, a wave of newer coffee shops has shaken things up once more. Stopping by to check it all out? Here are the need-to-know addresses.

ugly duck coffee in rochester new york
Courtesy of Cris Van Grol

Ugly Duck Coffee

Talk about a front-row seat to the future. After starting out as a pop-up espresso bar, Ugly Duck Coffee has now settled into a modern, permanent home directly across the street from a giant urban improvement project that converted an old freeway into an up-and-coming residential neighborhood. Try their Ugly Duck Shop Blend, a full-body morning coffee blend that's locally roasted. 89 Charlotte Street

rochester new york coffee company glen edith
Courtesy of Paige Auber / Glen Edith Coffee

Glen Edith Coffee Roasters

Glen Edith Coffee Roasters operates one of the city's all-around best (and most fashionable) cafés. Business partners John Ebel and Mark LeBeau are constantly innovating on their offerings, which include canned nitro cold brew. In addition to beans and beverages, their Somerton location also serves local pastries from Baker Street Bakery and Biscotti Brewers. 23 Somerton Street

joe bean
Courtesy of Rachel Liz Photography

Joe Bean Roastery

Practically a member of the old guard at this point, Joe Bean Roasters has roots going back to 2004. This Good Food Award-winning third-waver now operates a successful coffee subscription service. Meanwhile, its roastery has evolved into an all-day café serving coffee, food, and beer. 565 Blossom Road

Honorable mentions

If you're downtown, pop into the cool Fuego Coffee, a micro-roaster and café. Then head to Fifth Frame Brewing Co., which brings the best of coffee and craft beer together under one roof — they serve coffee beer, too.

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