A barista is preparing a shot of espresso on a shiny silver espresso machine at Stories Coffee Company
Photo courtesy of Stories Coffee Company.

Nebraska has experienced a surge in its coffee culture, with the number of independent cafes increasing in popularity and quantity. 

Nebraska is the 20th ranked state with the highest level of coffee addiction, but It is not just Nebraska that has seen an increase in coffee shops. In fact, during the past ten years, there has been an increase in coffee shops all throughout the United States. 

Six out of ten Americans already consume coffee daily, and since 2013, the number of specialty coffee shops has expanded yearly by 7.3% nationally, according to the National Coffee Association. 

The Mill Coffee and Tea, a coffee roaster and café founded in Lincoln in 1975, has opened a new drive-through location in Omaha.

The renovated art deco-style building on the corner of 31st and Leavenworth St. is now home to The Mill’s newest location, which marks its expansion in Nebraska.

According to Dan Sloan, the owner of The Mill, they chose to expand to Omaha strategically in response to the growing demand for high-quality coffee in the city. And, he said, Omaha is a suitable market for expansion as it is a sizable metropolitan area with the potential for additional coffee shops.

Additionally, it is located near Lincoln, where The Mill is based.

336552796 6842826909077261 3591175995164848958 n 300x200 - Nebraska's coffee culture heats up with the growth of independent cafes
The Mill Coffee & Tea located in Leavenworth street. Photo courtesy of The Mill Coffee & Tea.

“We see the specialty coffee industry as vibrant and with room for significant growth. We are not driven to grow for the sake of growth, but when we see a great opportunity, we are not shy about picking it up.” Sloan said.

The success of The Mill is indicative of a growing trend in the Nebraska coffee industry where local cafes are becoming more competitive against bigger chain establishments by providing distinctive products and experiences for their customers.

Sloan explained local shops are better able to specialize to the immediate market they are situated in.

One factor that distinguishes local cafes from chain coffee shops is the sense of community it fosters.

A number of factors, including growing consumer interest in specialty coffee, expanding demand for ethical and sustainable coffee products, and a thriving food and beverage culture in several Nebraska communities, have contributed to this rise, according to Brooke Loutzenhiser, co-owner of  Stories Coffee Company.

“People really love supporting their community,” Loutzenhiser said. “They love relating to the business and their story. They will drive out of their way to buy your cup of coffee versus buying for convenience.”

Stories Coffee Company has quickly grown its presence in Omaha and intends to expand to Lincoln by summer.

Loutzenhiser said the shop offers freshly roasted coffee and allows customers to try new flavors with its selection of wine and craft beer.

StoriesMidtown410x225 1 300x165 - Nebraska's coffee culture heats up with the growth of independent cafes
The image showcases the latest branch of Stories Coffee Company, which can be found in Midtown Crossings. Photo courtesy of Stories Coffee Company.

“We believe our customers prefer the specialty coffee experience,” she said. “After the pandemic, it has become more valuable for our customers to be able to sit in a coffee shop and enjoy a cup of coffee with friends or family.”

The growing interest in specialty coffee and the rise of remote work have also contributed to the success of independent coffee shops in Nebraska.

According to Forbes people are increasingly looking for locations where they may work, learn, and socialize outside of their homes as a result of the epidemic requiring them to work from home.

With remote work becoming more prevalent, some coffee shops have adapted to accommodate remote workers.

“Now remote work means working outside the office,” Sloan said. “This often does support coffee shops if they are set up properly to accommodate meetings and support the technology needed to get work done remotely.”

Coffee shops provide a space for people to connect and build relationships, making them an essential part of the social fabric of the state, Loutzenhiser said.

“We see many people on any given day doing work in our shops,” she said. “You can come to Stories and experience a very lively atmosphere. Some customers are working diligently, or others are meeting with friends for business partners. There is a lot of hustle and bustle at our shops, and we really enjoy seeing that.”

For Matilde Pinto, a coffee shop regular customer, coffee shops offer a friendly environment. 

“I personally like going to coffee shops. As a Gen Z person, I love the background noise and the people watching aspect to it, but it also keeps me focused on my tasks because I am there for only a couple of hours,” she said. “Therefore I feel as though I need to accomplish my tasks in the limited time I have there.”

Ana Chincoa is a senior journalism student with minors in English and Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln focused on social media marketing, brand strategy, features, and lifestyle reporting.