We used to write more regularly about the steady stream of meaningless, unscientific coffee polls that frequently fill the pages of magazines, newspapers, and Web sites. We got tired of writing incessant rants about how the polls were poorly constructed and lacked any stated criteria nor methodology, and most assuredly you all certainly tired of reading them. What’s different this time — with Travel + Leisure magazine’s recent “America’s Favorite Cities” poll — is that they’ve provided just enough data for us to reexamine and draw some different conclusions.

Travel + Leisure sells a lot of magazines with inter-city dick measuring contestsYou may recall Travel + Leisure‘s America’s Best Coffee Cities poll earlier this year. The magazine also conducts an annual reader poll to appeal to the insatiable human appetite for what is essentially a city-by-city dick measuring contest. Coffee is one of their polls’ rated subjects, and Seattle couldn’t wait three hours yesterday before bragging about their measurements.

However, that’s not the interesting part of this story. Although it may be just another popularity contest, Travel + Leisure not only compiled numeric polling scores for each city, but they also segmented the scoring between “residents” and “visitors“. Our idea was to simply compare a city’s score between the two audiences and rank cities along those lines. We call it, “Which U.S. cities are the most delusional about the quality of their local coffee?

Coffee Cities Most Overrated by the Locals

The winner of this dubious honor, by a significant margin, was Anchorage, Alaska. There visitors ranked the town’s coffee nearly two-thirds of a point lower, on a five-point scale, than what residents rated it. At the other end of the spectrum, Miami clearly ranked tops in the “locals just don’t appreciate you enough” category. Perhaps all those Cuban expats still believe that the coffee tastes that much better in their former homeland, and yet the tourists wonder why they are complaining.

Travel + Leisure ranks America's Favorite Coffee CitiesSan Francisco ranked in the middle of the pack at 17th out of 35 cities for most overrated by the locals. However, the most telling figure was that 28 of 35 cities were rated lower by tourists than by the locals. Just look at all the red in the right-most column in the table below.

Of course, local residents should know best where to get the good coffee. Meanwhile, tourists often either have no clue, play it safe by frequenting only the bland-but-recognizable coffee chains, or never venture into the good coffee neighborhoods. For example: when is the last time any of our SF resident readers actually visited Fisherman’s Wharf? And do you realize how bad the coffee is there?

Another major pattern in the data is — with the exception of Anchorage and Portland, ME at the very bottom — much of the American South got General-Sherman-style ravaged by their tourist scores, suggesting that tourists think the locals are a bit full of themselves. In any case, here are the numbers…from the most underrated by the locals to the most overrated:


Coffee Cities Most Underrated by Locals?
Rank City Visitor Rank Visitor Score Resident Rank Resident Score Vis – Res Rank Vis – Res Score
1. Miami 27 3.73 32 3.55 -5 +0.18
2. Washington, D.C. 19 3.94 29 3.83 -10 +0.11
3. San Antonio 29 3.58 34 3.5 -5 +0.08
4. Denver 6 4.33 13 4.26 -7 +0.07
5. Chicago 15 4.04 21 4.01 -6 +0.03
6. Boston 17 4.02 22 3.99 -5 +0.03
7. Providence, RI 4 4.52 6 4.52 -2 +0.00
8. New York City 5 4.34 11 4.37 -6 -0.03
9. Portland, OR 2 4.77 6 4.85 +0 -0.08
10. Honolulu, HI 26 3.77 27 3.86 -1 -0.09
11. Seattle 1 4.82 1 4.92 +0 -0.10
12. Atlanta 24 3.82 24 3.92 +0 -0.10
13. San Diego 12 4.07 18 4.18 -6 -0.11
14. Philadelphia 25 3.79 25 3.92 +0 -0.13
15. Minneapolis/St. Paul 10 4.18 12 4.32 -2 -0.14
16. San Juan, P.R. 14 4.05 17 4.19 -3 -0.14
17. Las Vegas 32 3.44 31 3.59 +1 -0.15
18. Savannah, GA 7 4.25 10 4.41 -3 -0.16
19. San Francisco 3 4.53 3 4.70 +0 -0.17
20. Phoenix/Scottsdale 21 3.88 20 4.06 +1 -0.18
21. Kansas City 28 3.71 26 3.90 +2 -0.19
22. Charleston, SC 13 4.06 14 4.26 -1 -0.20
23. Los Angeles 20 3.91 19 4.13 +1 -0.22
24. Dallas/Fort Worth 34 3.32 33 3.54 +1 -0.22
25. New Orleans 8 4.24 7 4.47 +1 -0.23
26. Austin, TX 9 4.20 8 4.43 +1 -0.23
27. Orlando, FL 33 3.44 30 3.71 +3 -0.27
28. Baltimore 31 3.53 28 3.85 +3 -0.32
29. Memphis, TN 35 3.15 35 3.47 +0 -0.32
30. Nashville, TN 16 4.03 9 4.42 +7 -0.39
31. Salt Lake City 30 3.54 23 3.93 +7 -0.39
32. Santa Fe, NM 22 3.85 15 4.26 +7 -0.41
33. Houston 23 3.83 16 4.25 +7 -0.42
34. Portland, ME 11 4.14 4 4.60 +7 -0.46
35. Anchorage 18 3.95 5 4.55 +13 -0.60