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

A personal review of Madison’s coffee shops

Whether you are a coffee lover or just enjoy a simple herbal tea, Madison, Wisconsin has a variety of coffee shops for all. Due to this surplus of shops and restaurants in the city, it can be difficult for students, especially new students, to search for a convenient coffee place. 

As an avid coffee drinker, I have tried almost all of the places selling caffeinated drinks and café-type foods. While one could easily conduct a Google search or scroll through TikTok for answers, I hope that giving my own recommendations regarding Madison’s special coffee spots will help you. 

With my knowledge of Madison’s coffee shops, I am here to guide those who do not know where to buy their coffee. This listicle provides a glimpse into my five favorite coffee shops (in no particular order).

1. Fair Trade Coffee House – 418 State Street

As soon as you step into Fair Trade, you get a sense of comfort. This quaint coffee shop has just about everything one would hope for when grabbing coffee and a bite to eat. The seating arrangement in Fair Trade gives off a comfortable vibe, from their individual booths to their closely-knit circle tables and chairs. Their coffee beans are “100% fair trade certified” and they sell plenty of espresso, latte, mocha and cold brew variations. While Fair Trade also offers different breakfast and lunch options for customers, I personally recommend getting their spinach and feta croissant. Another aspect of Fair Trade that makes its space enjoyable is the variety of art pieces hanging on their walls. If you are looking for a peaceful space to sit with a delicious drink, Fair Trade Coffee House is there for you. 

2. Valentia Coffee – 799 University Avenue

Located on one of the busiest downtown streets on campus, Valentia Coffee offers a series of drink and food choices in its modern café space. The organization of the café’s front counter and table space provide a convenient place for students to complete assignments or study. Along with that, the friendliness of their staff gives customers the ability to order with no rush. One particular beverage that I like from Valentia is their iced matcha latte. As a locally-owned café, Valentia Coffee consistently offers delicious coffee and fresh food.  

3. Ancora Cafe and Bakery – 107 King Street

Ancora is one of the more decorated coffee shops of Madison. Because it is located near the Wisconsin State Capitol, the crowd at Ancora is a lot more different than what you would see closer to the shops near State Street. Besides the downtown location, there are also Ancora Cafés located on the east and west sides of Madison. Arguably one of the best coffee drinks I have had in Madison is from Ancora: their coconut cream cold brew. The café is also well known for their brunch menu. My personal favorite from their Downtown menus is the “Hella Stella,” one of their egg sammies dishes that features hot and spicy bread from a local Madison business, Stella’s Bakery. Every time I come here, I am always left indecisive when I try to order just because of the number of choices they offer. The café’s purposeful communal space and plentiful menu of comfort foods and drinks makes for a memorable experience when going to Ancora Café. 

4. Aldo’s Cafe – 330 N Orchard Street

If you happen to be in between classes in the area of campus that surrounds Sterling, Chamberlain and Van Hise and are hungry, definitely stop by Aldo’s. Located inside the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Aldo’s bright-lit space contributes to the building’s picturesque environment. This café serves your typical coffee and non-caffeinated beverages as well as a number of intriguing baked goods. From their breakfast burrito to their coconut rice bowl, Aldo’s menu contains a diverse variety of dishes that pair well with their beverages. 

5. Indie Coffee – 1225 Regent Street 

Indie Coffee’s environment is unique, especially with its garden-like exterior where customers can sit outside. Enjoying a drink or meal at Indie Coffee, especially during the summer, is always satisfying whether you’re inside or outside. Their coffee beverage options are broad and professionally prepared each time. The tea choices they offer range from “more than 40 loose leaf teas for sale by the cup, pot or ounce.” Overall, Indie Coffee is the perfect choice if you are searching for an authentic and genuine café experience. 

Beyond this list, Madison, Wisconsin provides even more choices when it comes to finding a cup of coffee or a yummy breakfast sandwich. Providing my five personal favorite coffee shops of the downtown Madison area, this listicle offers a variety of places that will certainly fulfill both your hot and cold beverage-related needs. 

Lauren Aguila

Wisconsin '25

Lauren Aguila is a sophomore at UW-Madison studying journalism and strategic communication with a certificate in Chicano & Latin studies. She is currently one of the Photo Desk Editors for the Daily Cardinal, the oldest student newspaper on campus.