A Guide to San Diego Coffee Shops
Better Buzz Coffee experienced humble beginnings when first opening as a small coffee cart in 2002, since then, they have opened twelve jaw-droppingly beautiful San Diego coffee shops that locals and tourists alike regularly make the time to explore. Their massive three-story flagship location in the vibrant neighborhood of Hillcrest is no exception given its iconic hexagon tiles, trendy neon light fixtures, and mixed textures and materials, which certainly have the potential to serve as the glamorously aesthetic background for a dashing Instagram photograph. The overall bright and bubbly ambiance, combined with modern design features, makes Better Buzz Hillcrest an easy go-to for daytime meetings with colleagues or coffee dates with friends.
The husband and wife duo that operates Copa Vida originally began their entrepreneurial journey with a lone noodle shop, following the sale of that first business, they looked forward to bringing about a community-oriented cafe experience where everyone could feel welcome to gather. A peek inside the downtown location reveals just that: a creamy white, light hardwood-accented coffee bar set under intricately designed high ceilings, and surrounded by an ample array of comfortable seating arrangements – more pointedly, luxurious style meets cozily procured grace in a splendid crossover that devoted java farers and virtual, wifi-enabled nomads alike can appreciate.
Copa Vida brilliantly partners with multiple roasters in an effort to consistently showcase a variety of flavors and tastes that are savored by a myriad of palettes daily.
Finished in 1888, the big bright yellow Pannikin coffee house was built inside a historic Santa Fe Railroad Station along Highway 101, just a sea shell’s throw from the peacefully secluded shores of Leucadia. This bastion of java excellence roasts and bakes daily for each of Pannikin’s four beloved San Diego coffee shops; their tea list is also notable, you will not be disappointed by the wide range of infusions offered here. When it comes to fresh breakfast fare, they work with local vendors such as Rose Acres farm, Wildwood Flour, and Ebenhaezer Egg Ranch to produce an environmentally friendly farm to fork culinary experience.
For those more aesthetically inclined lovers, indulgers, and explorers of all things pretty – The Grounds Bean Bar will no doubt satisfy your interior designer cravings. Of course, there’s also a yummy selection of specialty coffee drinks that includes uniquely handcrafted creations like the turmeric-rich Dirty Tumi, pink Himalayan salt seduced Salted Honey, and cinnamon sweetened Horchata. In addition, its locality near the youth-infested waters of PB leaves sprinkled upon the surrounding neighborhood a dash of daring which beckons just beyond their front door. If you can resist all the thrilling external temptations, there’s no better place to get caught studying…at least not on camera that is!
Harboring the java talent that has set forth a tsunami of international acclaim, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters recently earned a once-in-a-lifetime Roaster of the Year award from Roast Magazine, consistently posts winning scores above 90 by Coffee Review, and always has a Q-Grader certified roaster on site. The Pacific Beach location is perfect for a cup on the go or when table seating is a must, they’ve also got this lengthy garage door window that gives way to the kinds of swift ocean breezes that compliment any hot summer’s day. Bird Rock maintains six meaningfully placed San Diego coffee shops, aside from serving the highest quality coffee, each takes pride in providing a platform for local musicians and showcasing masterpieces brushed to magnificence by local artists.
Of all the La Jolla cafes, Brick & Bell is the first to open each morning, warming to life well before the crack of dawn as expert bakers are extracting scrumptious scones from their glowing ovens by 4:00 am. This tiny brick house near the seashore is a beloved local hangout due to its posh coffee bar, homey outdoor patio, and welcoming vibes. Beyond legendary mochas, they also offer fresh juices, fruit smoothies, Italian soda, and a breakfast menu riddled with mouthwatering sandwiches, but most importantly, do not leave before getting your hands on a baked goody!
An intimately sized, community-focused, specialty coffee shop in the neighborhood of El Cerrito, near San Diego State University, Scrimshaw Coffee was started by, in their own words, “a bunch of kids who just want to hang out with our friends in a coffee shop and serve them and soon-to-be friends good coffee.” Needless to say, this minimalistic space brought to life by an artistically doodled whale mural keeps the vibes high! Don’t miss out on their locally sourced goods either, like the amazing bagels, or the generally two different, yet reliably delicious coffee roasters they serve at a time.
Speaking of Instagrammable San Diego coffee shops, Java Earth Coffee is a fairytale-worthy little cottage by the sea with an exposed red-brick wall, floral murals, and a beautifully furnished streetside patio perfect for a crisp people-watching morning by the water. Abe and Debbi (husband and wife) first opened the doors to this humble abode in 2010 and ever since then the Cass Street corner spot has been a haven for mouth-watering house-baked pastries, locally roasted java, and health-conscious options such as the Tuna Be Well bowl or Overnight Oats. In the end, the soul-warming ambiance here couldn’t be more on point and we’re so thankful the Artenstein family took a chance at sharing their deep-rooted passion with PB’s coastal community.
Originally started inside of a humble cottage at the Green Dragon Artist Colony, Pannikin Coffee & Tea has been a hallmark amongst La Jolla’s trendiest cafes since 1968. Having relocated during the early 70s, their current location on Girard Avenue occupies what used to be a typical family home but is now the intricate trinket-filled, vibrant garden-laced steampunk coffee house at the end of the world that San Diego’s jewel has come to love. From decorative tile tabletops to hand-carved gigantic chess pieces to all the atmospheric amenities any wistful tinkerer may desire, it’ll truly prove difficult to ever stumble across anything so purposefully, aesthetically, yet fortuitously assembled.
From the diligent hand that picks the coffee cherry to the thorough process of roasting, James Coffee strives to instill in you a confidence that the conclusion of your coffee’s journey will be a fantastic cup. Hosting java connoisseurs in locations spanning Southern California, what is perhaps their most spirited cafe can be found in none other than scenic Little Italy. “The Space,” as the property is referred to, houses James Coffee along with a great collection of well-curated boutique shops all under one inclusive roof. The classic barbershop, hand-poured candle store, and premium craft eyewear seller, among others, add to the lively atmosphere this bustling mini-market has become known for.
A stroll along the coastal streets of La Jolla’s seaside village at some point gives way to a ritzy, honey gold neon “BUZZ” sign distinctively featured over hive-like cream-colored tiles. To all those Instagram connoisseurs of cuteness ever on the prowl for an immaculate photo backdrop accentuated by gilded edges, flamboyant geometric shapes, and the occasional tinge of rosy pink pretty, look no further as there may have never been a more glamorous cafe than Better Buzz Coffee. Don’t hesitate to try some signature favorites; their Mocha De Mexico is a divine amalgamation of espresso, Mexican chocolate, and steamed milk, on another hand, the artistically fitting Rose Water Latte is espresso, rose water, and steamed milk topped with creamy foam and dried rose petals.
Playful quotes seem to be at every turn, from “a little bird told me” on their storefront window to a hottest pink neon sign placed above tabletops reading “birds of a feather;” we’re tempted to guess the rest. Ethically sourced beans and house-made syrups weren’t enough to satisfy Parakeet Cafe’s holistic java philosophy, they take daily rejuvenation one step further by concocting exotic wellness lattes made with adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms, and alternative kinds of milk. Par for the course, their food is made with organic – locally grown when possible – ingredients that bring tasty nutritional value to a diverse array of health-conscious folks including vegans, vegetarians, and those requiring gluten-free dishes.
If enjoying yummy coffees on an upscale, palm-tree surrounded terrace that overlooks shimmering Pacific Ocean waves crashing against miles of pristine sandy beaches sounds like the preferred breakfast method to you, then Caroline’s Seaside Cafe is the place to be. Located a stone’s throw north of La Jolla cove, on the UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus, they serve healthy and creative California-style cuisine made from organic and sustainably sourced ingredients. A hot summer’s day may even lead you to throw a bathing suit on, your shoes off, and caution to the wind as you go for a dip into some irresistibly cool blue water.
Elegantly nestled within Liberty Station, Moniker General is a new retail concept and community space introducing lifestyle and home goods, custom furniture, and craft coffee all into one unified store. Imagine a boutique as stunning as Anthropologie, but with a full coffee and toast cafe to soothe your hectic morning, and moreover, taking the fun one gigantic leap forward, the place serves handcrafted cocktails, wine, and beer through a ritzy upscale bar. Whether it’s a steamy cup of joe or a crisp pint from 32 North Brewing, savor that beverage whilst strolling through Moniker’s custom surfboards, bikes, and bags, of course, you could also just have a sit on their one of a kind furniture and sip away.
The King’s Craft Coffee Company was started by a Poway local and former San Diego Chargers professional football player who, after growing weary of his post-NFL corporate lifestyle, decided he would serve his community once again, this time with a mug full of freshly roasted java. The cafe’s comforting country interior features a gorgeous cowhide rug, wooden floorboards, and the occasional touch of verdure, meanwhile, venturing outside reveals a spacious patio dappled with picnic tables and red lawn chairs. Truly a family affair, you feel the passion this operation pours into each cup from their coffee that’s carefully selected from smallholder farms to acai bowls and Belgian waffles imported straight from the source.
Freshly made, inventive and conscientious, Spill the Beans is rapidly defining how adults should begin their day. With coffee shops perfectly situated in the heart of Gaslamp and beside the docks in Seaport Village, an early morning walk down by San Diego’s world-renowned hub of nightlife never sounded so promising. Pull up a seat and stay awhile because the Dark Horse Coffee, bagels crafted from scratch, and house-made cream cheeses will only leave you wanting more, ya adorable “Pot Head!”
North San Diego Coffee Shops
Not far from the world-class sparkling shores of Carlsbad’s sun-drenched Pacific coastline radiates a gem among San Diego coffee shops known as Baba Coffee. There, they roast fresh java beans every week, ensuring the highest quality espresso, latte, cappuccino, or caffeine-enriched beverage of your liking; the scrumptious pastries and health-conscious breakfast menu are also worth noting (vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options available). With so much nearby natural beauty to soak in on any given day, start your energy-infused mornings getting swept away by a salty ocean breeze on Baba’s outdoor patio, or when productivity is paramount, take up studious residence at any one of the indoor hardwood tabletops and bask in those good beachside bungalow vibes.
Comfortably nestled in the corner of an unassuming strip mall that sits just a stone’s throw away from the golden state’s one and only freshwater lagoon, the gorgeous Buena Vista Lagoon, is Steady State Roasting. A step inside their ominous tinted windows reveals hardwood floors accentuated by an entirely black brick wall which has sketched unto the surface – in bold white, pencil-looking paint – a classic VW bus being driven by some ridiculously relaxed fully-suited astronaut. The place certainly has accomplished this admirable, intellectually edgy personality, offers trendy seating amidst cozy quarters, and perhaps most importantly, serves excellent coffee expertly roasted in-house and responsibly sourced from the world’s premier growing regions.
An aesthetically flawless, turquoise accented gem among San Diego coffee shops, Bound Coffee Company is nestled at the base of an unassuming Oceanside office building. Ryan and Maria (husband & wife) spent years working in the industry and actually first met over what must have been a steamy cup of joe. Over the course of time, they developed an affinity for coffee, along with each other, which is the reason why they’ve decided to pour a bit of their boundless love into every mug that walks out the front door. While your traditional latte, mocha, and espresso-rich favorites are surely available in impeccable fashion, they also offer a flavorful range of exotic Japanese green teas such as Sencha, Hojicha, and Genmaicha.
Seaborne Coffee is located inside what was formerly known as the 1930s era Graeber & Son building but is now an artistically re-envisioned co-op space called The Rising Co. Not all too distant from the structures service station past, this indie-touched java house gets people back on track with their energizing signature espresso coffee and various handcrafted drinks such as Boba, Nitro, and Kombucha. While visiting, feel free to check out the stunning creations of over twelve local designers who frequent the grounds; or stick around their shaded outdoor patio for any of the typically exciting community events they host.
If you enjoyed this guide to the best San Diego coffee shops, be sure to check out our list of the Top 10 Coffee Shops in La Jolla!