Top 5 Cappuccinos in Houston

When I go to a coffee shop, nine times out of ten I order a cappuccino. To me, it reflects the true talent of a barista -- getting the foam-to-espresso ratio just right; making sure the java is strong enough to ensure a caffeine boost; and guaranteeing every sip is warm, smooth and comforting. It's quite a difficult task.

Because I am not equipped with the necessary tools (or talent) to make a cappuccino at home, I venture to several Houston coffee shops for my coffee drink of choice. Here are my five favorite places to get a perfectly executed cappuccino in Houston.

5. The Nook Cafe

This new coffee shop on UH's campus is a casual, relaxing abode in which to read a book or get some work done while sipping on a hot cup of coffee and snacking on a pastry, muffin or cookie. And one of the standout items on the menu is the simple cappuccino. As I wrote in my first look at The Nook Cafe, seen from far away the cappuccino appeared to have whipped cream sitting on top of the espresso. But, as I approached the counter I realized it was a layer of thick, super creamy frothed milk. I also ordered this cappuccino with nonfat milk and the barista was able to make the milk that frothy -- props! The espresso is silky underneath the giant layer of froth and almost resembles the texture of a latte, making it heart-warming and comforting. Pair it with a moist pumpkin muffin from Sinfull Bakery for the perfect lazy Saturday afternoon.

4. Inversion

While it is ideal to enjoy a cappuccino in a wide-rimmed mug at the coffee shop, sometimes that isn't possible. So, when I'm on the go, I head to Inversion, because these baristas know how to make an excellent frothy cappuccino to-go. Before I discovered this Montrose coffee shop, my to-go cappuccinos came from Starbucks, but I can't remember the last time I went into that coffee-mecca for a cappuccino -- I'm always getting mine from Inversion. The coffee is perfectly smooth underneath the light and fluffy layer of milk. But, the milk isn't the star, the espresso is. Strong espresso blends with the cloud-like milk, creating smooth sips every time. It warms your heart and your stomach.

3. Catalina Coffee

Catalina's cappuccinos are always frothy, always hot, and always just what I need in the morning. The baristas make sure the foam hits the rim of the mug without spilling over, but one sip and you'll coat the tip of your nose in frothed milk. Just make sure you're with someone who will tell you you've got milk on your nose. Pair it with one of the sweet pastries, such as the apple-cinnamon danish, for the first meal of the day or for an afternoon snack. And when the weather is nice, sit outside on the patio; it makes your coffee-shop experience ten times better.

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2. Agora

This Greek coffee shop is an excellent place to catch up with friends during the day over sugary Greek frappes, or extend a date past dinner with wine or coffee and dessert. Even if I try to order something different, my brain always follows my gut instinct and I order a cappuccino. Served with a small cookie, this cappuccino's espresso is strong (order decaf late at night) and the milk is smooth, creamy and won't disappear as you sip your way to the bottom of the cup. Drop the sugar cubes into the center to let the crystals melt into the espresso, then alternate taking a bite out of your cookie and a sip from your drink. It's the way we were intended to enjoy a cappuccino.

1. Blacksmith Coffee

It's fun to watch the baristas make coffee drinks at Blacksmith, especially the cappuccinos; you'll get lost in the masterful display of talent as the barista on-site coats the wide-rimmed cup with espresso, then gently pours the frothed milk on top and creates a beautiful design within the foam. Blacksmith baristas make me excited and eager to take the first sip from my drink. Order the small biscotti and dip each bite into the creamy cappuccino. If only the cups were larger, because you'll definitely be sad when it's all gone.

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