My love for coffee initially started my sophomore year at SF State. I had my first ever 8 AM class and as a commuter, I’d have to get up around 5:30 AM ( or earlier!) to make sure I was on the Bart train by 6:45 am. I started hitting the nearest Starbucks every morning so I could have some kind of caffeine to keep me up during class. Soon enough, though, Starbucks just wasn’t cutting it as I also had a day in the week where I’d be on campus for 10 hours straight. So naturally, I started exploring different coffee shops around SF (the city serves as a solid leader in progressive coffee.) I looked for stronger caffinated beverages and shops where I could easily study and get some work done. Soon enough, the coffee shop became my favorite place to not only grab a yummy latte, but also study for finals or meet up with a friend to catch up.
Now that I’ve graduated, I still enjoy visiting local cafes to grab a drink, read a good book and just enjoy some quality “me” time. And lucky for me (and every coffee lover in the area), the Bay is consumed with some pretty cool and very delicious roasters and cafes.
According to Travel and Leisure Magazine, San Francisco is the 12th most popular city for coffee lovers in the United States; an easy realization once you take the time to walk throughout the various districts of the city. The Bay Area boasts a large selection of roasters including, Blue Bottle, Sightglass, Verve and Philz. Below are some of my favorite coffee shops throughout the Bay Area, their location and a little background info on each company and their products.
1. Hippie’s Brew- 21988 Foothill Blvd., Hayward
New to the East Bay, Hippie’s Brew is an awesome addition to the Bay Area coffee scene. Specializing in drip coffee and roasting Bicycle coffee beans (headquartered in Oakland, CA), the shop has easily become a favorite in the Hayward/ Castro Valley Area. Inside the shop you’ll find awesome murals (which are fun to glance at while waiting for your coffee) and the nicest baristas you could ever meet. Popular drinks include the ice loves coco (a coconut/coffee mix), the Rick Ross arghhh (cinnamon latte of sorts- my personal favorite) and an Iced mint drip (similar to Philz mint mojito). The breakfast sandwiches are also super delicious, especially the Freakin French Toast Sandwich and the cheddar bacon scone sammie. I’ve gone in to order several of the items on their menu and the barista always assures me that if I don’t like something, they’ll take it back and make me a new drink/ sandwich free of charge. Quality products and excellent customer service have definitely put Hippie’s Brew on the map.
2. Café 4- 20600 John Dr., Castro Valley
Café 4 is another one of my East Bay favorites. Located inside the Neighborhood church in Castro Valley, they roast delicious Verve coffee beans and are known for their spacious seating, natural lighting and killer views of the Bay Area. This place hosts the perfect environment if you’re looking to get some work done. Other benefits include the super friendly staff, abundant parking and classic wooden tables (adorned with pretty succulents), giving the space a minimalistic, rustic feel. Some of my favorite drinks here are the affogatos (espresso with ice cream), iced teas, chai lattes (pictured below with a sprinkled 4 on top) and regular lattes with their own house made almond milk.. Yum!
3. Philz- (Check website to find a café near you)- http://www.philzcoffee.com
PHILZ!! I love Philz. With several locations throughout the Bay Area (San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose, Palo Alto, Oakland, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park and San Mateo) there’s sure to be one near your home or work. The company has an eclectic variety of blends and each blend ranges from 2 to as many as 7 different beans from around the world (with their own unique and distinct flavor). The ordering process can be a bit tricky, as every cup they prepare is handcrafted for their customers. The best way to order is to tell a barista how you like your cup of coffee and they will recommend/ make you a drink according to your specific tastes. My personal favorites are the iced gingersnap latte (made sweet and creamy) and the iced mint mojito latte. Not to mention, every barista I’ve ever encountered at each different location has been super friendly and incredibly helpful.
4. Timeless Coffee Roasters- 4252 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland
Timeless is a cozy alternative for vegans looking for a place to grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some delicious pastries/ desserts. Located on Piedmont Avenue, the company is dedicated to making 100% vegan products and they serve a highly anticipated brunch menu on Sundays. Because the shop is especially committed to providing customers with high quality beverages and food, all of their coffee, baked goods, and chocolates are entirely prepared daily on site. Timeless is also canine friendly and you’ll often see loyal customers come in to enjoy some coffee or tea with their fury friends by their side. Overall, the shop is a great addition to the Oakland community.
5. Verve Coffee Roasters– (Check website to find a café near you. All three shops located in Santa Cruz)- http://www.vervecoffeeroasters.com
Verve has three shops in Santa Cruz and one in downtown LA. With hanging bulbs and oak walls, the aesthetics of the cafés provide a visually stimulating environment for those looking to enjoy their coffee in a cool/ hipster space. I’ve only ever had the mocha with house made whip cream but I can easily say it was the BEST mocha I’ve ever had (pictured below). Because the cafes are located in Santa Cruz, loyal customers often include surfers and other adamant beach visitors, giving the shop a laid-back and relaxed vibe. The staff is also incredibly friendly and helpful when asked to recommend a drink.
6. Blue Bottle– (Check website to find a café near you. Several locations in San Francisco and Oakland)
Founded in Oakland, Blue Bottle Coffee is a great choice for strong coffee lovers. The fan favorite is the New Orleans Iced Coffee. I’ve visited their Mint Plaza shop in San Francisco and Broadway shop in Oakland. Surprisingly I found the baristas to be a little pretentious and rude in their Oakland shop and amazingly sweet and helpful in their SF shop, so I suppose the customer service is contingent upon the particular location and crowd of each individual cafe. Ambiance aside, Blue Bottle really does serve quality caffeinated drinks. Their cappuccinos and lattes are delicious! I highly recommend their coffee, especially if you need a mid day pick me up or have a lot of work to get done and need to stay up and active.
7. Devout– 37323 Niles Blvd., Fremont
Located in the Niles District in Fremont, this coffee shop is not only pleasing to the eye, but they brew a great cup of joe! The menu is simple and the shop is still relatively new, with construction being done to extend the lounge area, but the product is superb. I especially like their seasonal cups ( the eggnog latte is my favorite). They serve the best latte in the Fremont/ Union City area with awesome baristas that aren’t afraid to hold some genuine light conversation while you’re waiting for your coffee. There’s also a great patio area on the side of the shop to enjoy your drink. They are still in the process of building out a full coffee bar + roaster but there are, without a doubt , great things to come from this shop.
8. Hollow– 1435 Irving Street, San Francisco
Winning the award for probably cutest coffee shop ever built, Hollow is located in the inner sunset district of San Francisco. There’s literally enough room in this mini shop for only about 7 people to be in there at once, but the minimal space adds to the overall quaintness and intimacy of the establishment. Hollow is famous for the Titanic II, which is pictured below ( a mocha with a gigantic house made vanilla bean marshmallow). They also sell various household trinkets, making it fun to browse while you wait for your coffee, and adding to the overall rustic charm of the shop. The service is warm and friendly and they do offer a few tables to sit and enjoy your drink. It reminded me a lot of a cafe you’d see in Europe. Definitely an SF gem!
9. Cafe St. Jorge- 3438 Mission Street, San Francisco
I have to admit, I am a bit biased when it comes to this café. Being of Portuguese descent, it is VERY difficult finding any Portuguese establishments in the west coast, so I was delightfully surprised when I found out about this place! Cafe St. Jorge is a casual Portuguese-inspired cafe located in the mission district of San Francisco. They serve stumptown coffee and offer a small but tasteful breakfast and lunch menu. They also sell Portuguese pastries such as pasteis de nata (custard tarts- my personal favorite) and bolo de arroz (rice cakes). There are plenty of tables and seating if you’re looking to get some work done. Café St. Jorge is a great place for people to gather, relax, and enjoy a wonderful cup of coffee.
10. Boot and Shoe Service Oakland- 3308 Grand Avenue, Oakland
I was recently introduced to Boot and Shoe Service by a friend who lives near the cafe in Oakland. It is located on Grand Avenue by Lake Merrit. Even though the place is known primarily by most customers as a restaurant, specializing in brunch dishes and artisan pizza, they have an area dedicated to customers who solely want coffee/ pastries that is less noisy and crowded. They offer a small but pretty outdoor patio that serves as an excellent space to enjoy a drink with friends. The service is also friendly and super professional. When I visited, I ordered a mocha while my friend ordered an iced Americano; both were very tasty! I especially recommend coming here on a Saturday morning for brunch. The dishes are delicious and the portions are just right. I will definitely be back to try the pizza, with of course, a cup of coffee for dessert =).
11. Four Barrel – 375 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Four Barrel coffee is known for its love of community and personal interaction. Without wi-fi and plugs for laptops, four barrel customers are often seen drinking their coffee out of porcelain cups and talking to one another. In a city consumed by the tech industry, it’s a breath of fresh air knowing this coffee shop has maintained and advocates genuine face to face human interaction. You can get either a pour-over or single origin espresso of any coffee on the menu and your drink is made quickly and efficiently. You can even watch the baristas as they roast and grind their coffee in the back. Also, this location is huge! With ample tables and seating, it’s the perfect space to meet up for a date and enjoy some solid conversation while sipping on a delicious beverage.
12. St. Frank Coffee- 2340 Polk Street, San Francisco
Partnering with the incredibly skilled team at Ritual Roasters to roast fresh coffee weekly, Saint Frank is a lovely addition to the Russian Hill area of San Francisco. Established in 2013, the café is named after Saint Francis, the founder of San Francisco. Kevin Bohlin, the owner, is passionate about the cultivation, production process and distribution of coffee and this passion is evident in each handcrafted beverage. The Scandinavian inspired design of the shop is composed of a lot of open space and neutral colors contrasted with soaring ceilings and warm oak to provide a fresh and vibrant space. As stated on their website, St. Frank, ” …Approaches their craft with simple and restrained elegance that amplifies their values in coffee and people.” It’s an excellent café with a mission anchored in human connection and customer satisfaction.