Situated on the Gulf Coast of Florida, the town of Naples has developed such a strong reputation for its stellar coffee options that it is becoming known as “the Seattle of the South.”
Well, that’s not actually true. I mean … it could be true. That’s what I call it. To be honest, I never REALLY called it that, but it seemed to make sense while I was typing it. I’m just going to run with it. As I was saying …
Naples is “the Seattle of South,” and anytime I have the privilege to visit there, I make it my mission to uncover all the caffeinating combinations that this quaint town by the sea has to offer. A week only gets you so much time to sample so many beverages, and in the interest of not prematurely ending my life through a cardiac issue brought on by over-caffeinating, I can’t try every combination that Naples has to offer. I do my best, though.
This 2016 list revisits old favorites with new information along with some new favorites. In the interest in fairness, drinks were broken into hot and cold categories only with no separation given to espresso-based versus coffee beverages. The locales sampled include:
- 5th Ave. Coffee Company
- The Brick Coffee and Bar
- Bad Ass Coffee
- Tony’s Off Third
- Three 60 Market
- Black Tulip Coffee
Behold, the best coffee drinks from Naples.
The best: 5th Ave. Coffee Company’s iced mocha. This isn’t the first time that I have gushed over the finest cold coffee drink in Naples, and it probably won’t be the last time. This year, I actually paid attention to how my favorite was crafted. Several pumps of Hersey’s syrup into an iced cup, add a coffee concentrate from the fridge, and fill cup with milk is all it takes to craft this beauty. Can you technically call this a mocha if they use concentrate rather than espresso? I guess so. After all, they do. The low acidity of the concentrate helps make a smooth drink that’s perfect for a walk to the beach on a hot day. Dilution isn’t an issue as the drink maintains a good consistency until the last slurp of the straw.
I also tasted this beverage at the shop’s new Marco Island location, and it did not provide the same thrill as the Naples version. Perhaps there is a difference in preparation, or perhaps the closeness of Wake Up Marco makes all other coffee on the island pale in comparison.
The runner-up: Tony’s Off Third iced mocha. I like iced mochas because I think they are universally a safe drink in uncharted coffee shops, and because there is such deviation in the way they are concocted, you can explore a range of styles. The off third version offers freshly-brewed espresso poured over ice and topped with pre-made chocolate milk. What’s not to like about that? Nothing. My first sip was a bit shocking, though. The smooth and light taste of the 5th Ave. version of this drink is replaced with a thick and creamy alternative. I mean thick. It drinks more like a frappe than a mocha and though this drink isn’t ideal for a morning trip to the beach, it would be perfect following a delicious meal on Third. Let some dilution occur to thin it out or chug for the full mocha milkshake experience.
The winner: The Brick Coffee and Bar’s caramel macchiato. Naples doesn’t lend itself to the hot coffee drinks, but when the weather drops below 65 degrees, hot coffee can be had. For a cool morning or a chilly evening on the main drag of Naples, you can do no better than this macchiato. The layered beverage is highlighted in all of its glory. As you drink, you experience several different tastes with rich, dark espresso in the first sips that gives way to a caramel latte in the latter. Interestingly, The Brick uses to-go cups with a small, spongy filter at the fluid escape point keeping the foam in the cup. Whether intentional or not, the whole drink works well in or out of The Brick’s very cool atmosphere.
The runner-up: Bad Ass Coffee’s Snickers latte. Whereas The Brick is a one-off coffee shop, Bad Ass Coffee is a multi-national chain with locations in Japan, Puerto Rico, and other bastions of caffeine like Montana and Utah. To me, good coffee is good coffee, even when the good coffee is covered and manipulated with no more than three flavored syrups. People in Naples know that Third Street is the place to be on a Thursday night. This makes Bad Ass Coffee the perfect stop. Encourage the females in your party to poke around in stores you couldn’t be bothered with as you hang out in the seating beyond the store front with your latte, that does well to emulate its namesake. Though the drink is heavily sweetened, it will not overwhelm if you do your best to redistribute the syrups with a post-swig swirl.
Please note: Three 60 Market’s iced coffee lost points for poor service and lack of customization within a restaurant setting. Black Tulip’s iced cold brew lost points for the same concerns but more forgiveness can be granted since it was sampled during the Saturday morning farmers’ market.