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Coffee is everything we need it to be. It's a necessary start to the day for millions and the afternoon pick-me-up. And it's the vehicle for gathering, the fuel to some raucous conversations.

It's a part of who we are, says Jason Burton, founder of LAB, a Kansas City-based marketing company that sowed the seeds for a series of Caffeine Crawls throughout the Midwest over the last decade.

"They've been very popular, we've found, in Division I towns," he said, citing Madison, Wisconsin, and Boulder, Colorado, as cities that have embraced the Caffeine Crawl concept. "We feel like these events build on a city's coffee scene.

"It's created a bridge that spans the gap between the consumer and professionals."

For the second straight year, Lincoln will host a Caffeine Crawl. On July 14, six local coffee establishments, along with the Green Leaf Tea Co., will show off their wares.

The shops are:

* Arbor Day Coffee

* The Coffee House

* Meta Coffee Lab

* Method Cycles & Craft House

* The Mill

* Roasting Space

"Lincoln is a great coffee town," Burton said. "It's got some old-school shops, but a real craft presence when you look at places like the Mill and Coffee House."

The interesting thing about both of those places is they thrive in their downtown locations while doing business in the shadows of established national franchises, like Starbucks, Panera and Scooters.

"We're never going to hold it against anyone if they start their day at Starbucks," Burton said. "But we know that when you go to one of the local shops, you're experiencing a local language and the local vibe."

There are two routes in Lincoln. The first is six stops where a beverage will be served at each. The cost is $25. The second is four stops and an optional bonus stop for $20.

Burton said there is a 20% discount for groups of six people or more.

Top coffee shops in Lincoln

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Night news editor

I am night news editor of the Lincoln Journal Star.

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