A Guide to Santa Cruz Coffee Shops
Though they have a handful of lovely Santa Cruz coffee shops worth checking out, Verve’s spacious Pacific Avenue store is truly sensational, it showcases a bright bohemian atmosphere brimming with life thanks in part to an abundance of seating arrangements that allow for “long-overdue” and productive gatherings of virtually any size.
The first Verve cafe was built and opened on 41st Ave back in 2007, and these days the coffee roasting company operates visually stunning locations in cities from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Japan. That being said, Verve’s roots remain firmly planted in Santa Cruz, where they roast the world’s finest coffees on vintage roasters and enjoy the endless surf of the rugged California coast.
Near and dear to the heart of downtown, 11th Hour’s flagship location features a gorgeous environment underscored by many well-cared-for plants dappled throughout the roomy interior, natural wooden slab tabletops and artisan furnishings, expansive outdoor seating in a lush, sun-soaked garden setting, and of course, coffee that has been freshly roasted on-site.
Started by some humans that decided to believe in dreams again, 11th Hour was established ironically at the 11th hour, which is the moment you realize you have the power to change the perspective of your reality, a sort of last-ditch opportunity where you make a choice to think and act differently, knowing it will bring about a better outcome.
The Abbey is a destination for students, professionals, and families alike to connect, study, and hangout, all while enjoying fantastic coffee and a variety of musical and creative expressions, the latter of which includes the remarkable use of books and torn pages to form dreamy, often seemingly floating as if gravity need not apply, works of literary art.
Perhaps you’d like to sink into a couch or armchair and appreciate the company of loved ones over a steamy cup of joe, groove to the tunes of a local musician jamming out on-stage, or draw design inspo from the old world, fairytale charm of a cozy neighborhood coffee house, no matter what the case may be, The Abbey has got you covered.
Snuggled at the corner base of a colorful, mural-graced two-story building and just a rock’s skip from the San Lorenzo Riverwalk, Firefly is a petite java outpost serving locally roasted coffee amidst adorable digs underscored by a handmade countertop, funky tile job, and some brightly painted walls. This “little coffee shop that could” may look a bit eclectic, dare we say precious and delicate, but rest assured every inch of the former taxicab dispatch center it now calls home is founded on love, sweat, and laughs from family and friends.
When the folks at Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting (SCRC) first opened their doors in 1978, specialty coffee had not yet become a cultural phenomenon and the average coffee drinker asked only that their drink of choice was hot, caffeinated, and could be tolerated with milk and sugar. But even since those early days, the passionate team here has been roasting, blending, and brewing the finest 100% arabica coffees, hanging their hat on a process that is designed to bring out the tastiest subtleties from each java bean.
Conveniently situated downtown, SCRC makes for a spacious, comfortable meeting spot offering visitors free WiFi, daily specials, a talented team of baristi, community art on display, and the occasional live musician.
Taking up residence within a Pacific Avenue building that dates back to 1865, Lulu Carpenter’s carries an elegant ambiance built upon exposed brick walls, cherry wood furnishings, thought-provoking artworks, and come evening, a warm familiar glow exuding from its old-timey window-paned storefront. Also a beloved bakery, don’t miss out on their house-made goodies such as the blueberry white chocolate scone, buttermilk biscuits, and pork-filled empanadas!
The next time you’re soaking in the sweeping ocean views to be had whilst strolling along West Cliff Drive, bear in mind, there is another visually pleasing experience worth exploring nearby, this one features woodwork crafted from Monterey cypress trees that were already coming down, a velvet couch flanked fireplace, and a smooth flowing, soothing water fountain just outside.
Shrine functions as an extension of the Shrine of St. Joseph catholic church and is a little-known non-profit gem among Santa Cruz coffee shops. The folks here aim to promote the culture of encounter and foster a place of welcome, for all people, whatever stage they find themselves in the pilgrimage of life.
Having originally started with a single cafe on Portola Avenue and eight employees, Cat & Cloud now operates several Santa Cruz coffee shops, each infused with its own playful hints of pink and teal. The westside location is no exception to this aesthetically satisfying rule, not to mention its high ceilings, cozy chairs, outdoor seating, and full kitchen dedicated to dishing out delicious breakfast items.
This quaint cafe nestled in the heart of downtown boasts a bright and laid back feel, wicked fast WiFi, seating options ranging from counter-side chairs to comfy couches, a neat little reading nook complimented by fully-stocked bookshelves, a well-curated selection of local art and gifts, and of course, expertly crafted coffee. Stop by on the right evening and you might just encounter an eventful surprise such as a free movie screening.
Conveniently located within blocks of world-famous Twin Lakes Beach and Santa Cruz Harbor, Lincoln’s Windmill was built nearly 100 years ago in 1927 and is today the picturesque home of Windmill Cafe, a vibrant garden surrounded getaway that combines traditional cafe ambiance with inventive and quality cuisine. Whether in search of tofu scrambles, gluten-free pastries, wild salmon, or organic chicken, humans of all dietary requirements are in store for a flavorful treat at this cozy little cottage.
If you enjoyed this guide to the best Santa Cruz coffee shops, be sure to check out our list of the Top 10 Coffee Shops in San Jose!