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A Local’s Guide to Santa Cruz Coffee Shops

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSC chapter.


It’s been over a year since COVID hit and we are now just inching towards normal life. And I don’t know about you, but I have missed going to a lot of places: museums, bowling alleys, book stores, but none more than coffee shops. There’s just something about sitting amongst strangers, sipping your caffeinated drink and doing more work in an hour then you’ve done all week in your quiet and solitary dorm. Now that the sun is shining and coffee shops are opening back up, please enjoy this guide on where to find your new favorite cup of coffee or tea. I’ve included the coffee shops’ websites, location, vibe check, and the drink the baristas think is the best that they have to offer. Enjoy!


The Abbey

Where: 350 Mission Street, next to Vintage Faith Church.

Vibe: This eclectic brick structure is a great place for a study sesh with some friends. Close to campus, this coffee shop has large tables and comfy couches, with indoor and outdoor seating currently available. The walls feature the works of local artists and the paninis are delectable. Pre-pandemic they also had an impressive lineup of live music and poetry readings. The Abbey has a homey feel and comforting atmosphere to help you study for midterms.

Barista’s Pick: The Brickhouse Latte. This yummy drink is a latte made with vanilla and caramel. Get it either hot or iced, the perfect thing to drink when editing your essay or studying flashcards.


Cat & Cloud Coffee

Where: Cat & Cloud has four locations, but the store with the kitchen is at 719 Swift St, Suite 56.

Vibe: Cat & Cloud’s trademark bright blue and clean white makes up the majority of interior. This Santa Cruz staple is known for its house roasted coffee and friendly employees. C & C Westside has a kitchen that makes the best breakfast burritos. The aesthetic with their cartoon cat is fun and uplifting. Unfortunately, the stores only have limited outdoor space; but, if you want a local spot with baristas who can teach you about coffee, this is the place for you.

Barista’s Pick: The 1&1. This isn’t so much a drink as a learning experience. Created by the owners, the 1&1 is a single shot of espresso with steamed milk and another single shot straight; reat for those who want to learn more about espresso.



Where: Also a lot of locations in Santa Cruz, and others in LA and SF. I’ve been to the one downtown, on Pacific Ave.

Vibe: When I think of Santa Cruz coffee shops, I think of Verve. Not just because of its popularity, but the aesthetic. The inside is bright and airy with natural wood, white walls, and lots and lots of plants. Verve also roasts all of their coffee here in town and has a coffee subscription! Currently they have only outdoor seating, but pre-pandemic the inside is bustling with working students and business meetings. Verve is a great place to meet with friends before exploring downtown.

Barista’s Pick: The Bowl of Soul is a tea latte with milk and honey and a staple at the shop;perfect for long nights or early mornings. The Bowl of Soul is just the thing you need for a pick-me-up.


Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting

Where: 1330 Pacific Ave, next to the Palomar Hotel.

Vibe: This small but mighty coffee shop might arguably roast the best coffee in town (and you can get it at Safeway!). Tucked next to the Palomar, Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting has a bar upfront next to the espresso machines which is usually surrounded with tables  and unfortunately not available for use. The shop also has very limited outdoor seating. All their coffee is Fairtrade certified and they are passionate about all things coffee. 

Barista’s Pick: Literally whatever their house coffee is that day. Try it black or with some cream and sugar, I promise you won’t be disappointed.


11th Hour

Where: 1001 Center St, Suite 1, near downtown. They are also currently under construction on their second location, set to open in July.

Vibe: A plant mom’s dream, the coffee shop also doubles as a plant store. 11th Hour leans into the forest vibes with natural wood, copper, and an abundance of plants. The largest store on the list, 11th Hour is abundant with expansive indoor and outdoor seating. They make all of the food and pastries in-house, and oh, they are so good. The baristas are super nice and love to help first time customers find their drink. They also sell the cutest coffee accessories such as ceramic mugs and pour over rigs.

Barista’s Pick: The Honeybee Latte. This latte is made with honey and lavender, great hot or iced (I also recommend oatmilk). Drink it while wandering through the plants you don’t need but also kinda do need.


Lulu Carpenter’s

Where: Main location is 1545 Pacific Ave, with three other locations around town, including a drive up coffee cart.

Vibe: Lulu’s is a landmark in town, being the first business to reopen downtown after the 1989 earthquake. Their Pacific Avenue location has a great kitchen and bakeshop where they make everything fresh daily. A great thing about this shop is that they deliver coffee to pretty much anywhere in town with no delivery fee (granted there is a $10 minimum). Right now they have outdoor and limited indoor seating. The dark walls and dark wood makes the shop feel cozy, despite its large size. 

Barista’s Pick: The Iced Mint Mojito. This specialty drink is on the sweeter side, it’s made with brown sugar and mint iced coffee, and just a splash of heavy cream. The perfect refreshing drink for when you need a pick-me-up.


Your favorite coffee shop not on the list? Let us know! We are always on the hunt for a good cup of joe.

Hi y'all! I'm Elise and I'm a History and Politics double major and Classical Studies minor. When I'm not holed up in the library, I love to hike, journal, make coffee, and wander through museums.