How do you know it’s time to move if you want a decent espresso? Why, when your local paper (here the Arizona Daily Star) overwhelmingly tells you Starbucks is the best thing going in town: Best place for Coffee | www.azstarnet.com ®.

Why is it that so many presumed “respectable” media sources often aspire to such mediocrity? Undoubtedly there are those who cite Taco Bell as the best Mexican food in Tucson, as disconcerning as that may sound. However, the other truth is that many places don’t have real options for quality beyond what the big chains offer.

I’m a bit skeptical in this case, however — given the opinions of others that I consider “in the know”. One reported Tucson gem that strangely didn’t even make the cut is Coffee Vein. What about other espresso café gems around the country that may be negligently overlooked?

I have been accumulating my own database of them myself over the years — just that they’re too sparse to be consistent with my San Francisco listings to surface in any intelligent way here (ah, one of these days…). But last week, reader Eric Schrepel wrote to me about his new non-profit Web project that fits the bill: EspressoMap.com.

As Eric wrote to me:

It’s a subjective map of excellent espresso in North America, so that when I travel from Portland, Oregon, I can find espresso on the way. Cafes are only added based on consensus from competition-level baristi or other respected palates.

Check it out. It looks like Eric has done his homework — and not just because I could not find a single Starbucks on the map.

UPDATE: March 7, 2007
The Oregonian picked up Eric’s site in an article today: With Espressomap.com, Portlander puts coffee on the map.