Food & Drink

Charleston Has Fantastic Coffee Shops. Here Are the Best Ones.

Published On 06/29/2016 Published On 06/29/2016
Mercantile and Mash Charleston
Andrew Cebulka

Mercantile & Mash

Eastside

There's one reason this is the best coffee shop in town: manager Michael Mai. He's the mad scientist behind Charleston's leading java shop, offering some unique twists on traditional favorites (read: cold brew with limeade, Vietnamese-inspired nitro). But no matter what you get, the coffee here is smooth, potent, and goes great with the ever-rotating and ever-inviting selection of pastries. So do yourself a favor: put this place in your rotation ASAP.

Muddy Waters Coffee Bar

Muddy Waters

James Island

Muddy Waters has a few things going for it: it's convenient for people on both James and Johns Islands, the staff is always friendly, and the coffee is on-point. The lavender honey latte is a popular choice for adventurous drinkers, but there's plenty for those who would prefer a standard cup. Hell, even if you don't want any coffee (but really, you're missing out), this place has plenty to choose from, from a Lemonata -- or another fancy soda -- to several herbal concoctions in a bottle. The menu, paired with the relaxed vibe and communal feel, is exactly what keeps folks coming back.

Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer

Upper King

Kudu's coffee, craft beer, inside seating, outdoor courtyard (that allows dogs), and live music at night easily make it one of the best places in town to meet friends. There's also a cask beer program with 20 taps and a slew of wine and snacks to boot. But above all, the coffee is what calls. Just ask some College of Charleston students; many of them can’t start the day without an Americano (iced or regular) from this hopping shop.

Black Tap Coffee

Black Tap Coffee

Harleston Village

It's honestly hard not to Instagram your perfect cup from this ultra-hip spot. It's bright. It's airy. It's located right on Beaufain. Black Tap's reclaimed pine tables provide the perfect backdrop for your pour-over; and since it's not only a coffee shop, but also a roaster, the selections and quality are easily top-notch.

Jennifer Collins

Brown's Court Bakery

Cannonborough

Sure, maybe we’re suggesting a coffee date here just so we can snag one of those chocolate chai muffins or bacon cheddar scones. But really, you can’t blame us for wanting to spend time sipping coffee in this converted Charleston single house -- especially when the scent of fresh-baked everything is wafting around. And yes, we’ll have another espresso, thank you.

Flickr/Eugene Mah

Coastal Coffee Roasters

Summerville

Downtown Summerville’s vibe is "cute-as-a-button," and Coastal Coffee Roasters fits right in. Hardwood floors, cafe tables, and a chalkboard menu convey a comfortable feel, and locals can't get enough of it. The shop serves more of a full menu in addition to some killer coffee, including breakfast BLTs and salads for lunch. But still, the coffee is a must-try, as it's roasted in small batches to remain ultra-fresh. Bonus: you can take home a bag of beans (for a price).

Metto Coffee & Tea

Mount Pleasant

If you’re looking for a dairy-free vegan mocha latte, Metto has you covered. If not, you've still got plenty of options: pour-over coffee made from beans ground to order, cold brew, sandwiches, and that quiche with the house-made crust (locals swear by it). Maybe the best part is that you can get all of this through the drive-thru window if you’re running late from traffic. It's all very Mount Pleasant.

The Daily

The Daily

Upper King/Westside

Butcher & Bee knows how to do things right. When it opened The Daily a while back, the spot quickly gained a local following. This place has some great coffee from Stumptown, cold juices, to-go items, growler fills, and hell, even last-minute gifts (it has a well-curated selection of cookbooks and local items). But at the end of the day, it’s the coffee that keeps people coming back... especially the strong cold brew.

Charleston Coffee Exchange

West Ashley

This shop is located well beyond the tourist locales, but conveniently near many a local on their way to work down 61. You’ll find a lot of sweet coffee confections in this tucked-away spot, along with sweet smiles from the staff (they're very friendly), many of whom have been with the company from the beginning. If you’re visiting and headed back to town from the plantations, this is a great stop for an afternoon snack and a shot of espresso in a chai tea latte.

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1. Mercantile And Mash 701 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29403

Mercantile and Mash is a gourmet food bazaar and mixology-inspired cocktail bar in one. Occupying the former Cigar Factory space, it's home to a variety of local vendors who serve everything from artisanal cheese and charcuterie, sushi, sandwiches (featuring both croque monsieurs and banh-mi's alike), and other snacks. The sprawling, modern space is also home to Bar Mash, a whiskey-obsessed cocktail bar whose offerings range from fresh takes on classic cocktails (pro tip: try the Fairgrounds), jello-shots, and familiar draft beers. As an added bonus, there's indoor bocce and shuffleboard games to keep you entertained, although we have a feeling you'll be too enthralled talking to the super cool award-winning bartenders who happen to be making your drinks.

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2. Muddy Waters Coffee Bar 1739 Maybank Hwy, Charleston, SC 29412

Muddy Waters, a relaxed neighborhood spot off the Maybank highway, has a few things going for it: it's convenient for people on both James and John Islands, the staff is always friendly, and the coffee is on point. The signature Lavender Honey Latte is a popular choice, but there's plenty of classic espresso drinks for more traditional coffee fans. Organic coffee and baked goods are standard here, as local and as fresh as the cafe can get them. The coffee is really the star here, with small batches sourced directly from farmers in the most ethical way possible and roasted at the peak of freshness. The community vibe is strong at this little cafe, with free wifi, plentiful seating, and regular acoustic showcases.

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3. Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer 4 Vanderhorst St, Charleston, SC 29403

Kudu's is a hip local's favorite stop at any time of day—for coffee in the morning, sandwiches in the afternoon, and craft beer at night. They hope to help foster community with their venue as a meeting spot for people of all ages, so there's plentiful seating (both inside and in the dog-friendly outdoor patio), sharable snacks, and live music every night. The beverages are the focal point here though, as Kudu roasts their own beans and offers guests a rotating list of fresh, single-origin coffees. They also offer over 20 taps of local and imported beers, along with selections from their cask beer program and a curated wine list.

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4. Black Tap Coffee 70 1/2 Beaufain St, Charleston, SC 29401

Black Tap is Charleston's ultra-hip, eminently Instagram-worthy coffee spot. The bright, whitewashed interior is a perfect backdrop for the simple and elegant espresso drinks, and it's Beaufain address means it's right in the thick of the action. Black Tap roasts their own beans for use in the cafe as well as wholesale, so you know the coffee here is always going to be amazingly fresh and well crafted. Signature latte flavors like the brown sugar and the lavender are a delicious departure from the classic menu, and well worth trying. This buzzy shop is always full of chatty locals lingering over a pour-over, so you'll have to be diligent to grab a seat.

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5. Brown's Court Bakery 199 Saint Philip St, Charleston, SC 29403

This downtown bakery embraces the history of its 1900's location while continuing to innovate and create unique new baked goods for the hungry Charleston masses. This is the kind of place where sriracha croissants and chocolate chai muffins sit right next to pecan sorghum pie and rice crispy bars, and everything is as buttery and flaky as you could want. The bakery offers fresh brewed coffee to go with your pastries, in everything from cappuccino to pour-overs, as well as tea, fresh juice, and a rotating list of drink specials. Locals love to hang out here for hours enjoying the warm light, pastries, and free wifi—and you will too.

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6. Coastal Coffee Roasters 108 E 3rd North St, Summerville, SC 29483

Downtown Summerville has a vibe that can only be described as "cute-as-a-button," and Coastal Coffee Roasters fits right in. Hardwood floors, cafe tables, and a chalkboard menu convey a casual, homey feel, while the large open space encourages conversation and mingling. The shop serves a full menu of breakfast and lunch items in addition to some killer coffee, including lots of options for vegetarians and vegans. Coastal sources their coffee directly from farmers all around the world for the best single-origin beans possible and roasts them in small batches to ensure quality. Handcrafted sodas and a selection of local beers and wines are also available.

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7. Metto Coffee & Tea 354 W Coleman Blvd, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464

A small, hip cafe that specializes in organic/vegan/gluten free options, Metto Coffee & Tea in Mount Pleasant has been steadily gaining a following from the health-conscious coffee fiend on the go. Espresso drinks with vegan-friendly nut milks are definitely available, but Metto also offers a full menu of traditional coffee options including cold brew and ground-to-order pour over cups. If you're really in a hurry, the cafe also has a drive through window so you can skip the line. The standout dish according to locals is the homemade quiche, which has a tender, flaky crust that is irresistible.

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8. The Daily 652 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

When the folks behind Butcher & Bee opened up this sister property in 2014, they wanted to bring their high quality produce from their award-winning restaurant to a grab-and-go cafe—getting their products into the hands of more people faster than ever before. Offering Stumptown coffee, espresso drinks, cold brew, and fresh juices, the cafe makes traditional coffee simply and deliciously. The attached market sells an eclectic collection of specialty grocery items, local artisan work, cookbooks, wholesale coffee, and growler refills. There isn't a whole lot of seating here, but there's a long counter where you can munch one of the local bakery pastries while you wait for your latte.

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9. Charleston Coffee Exchange 2875 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414

The Charleston Coffee Exchange shop is located well beyond the tourist locales, but it's conveniently on the commute of many a local on their way to work down 61. The Coffee Exchange roasts all of their own beans, sourced directly from farms across the globe, for the freshest coffee possible every day. They offer at least six different single origin coffees or blends roasted personally by the owner Paul along with a host of pastries and sweets from local bakeries. Locals love this place for the unfussy coffee and the welcoming staff, many of whom have worked at the cafe since it opened. Small and cozy, be prepared to knock knees with your neighbor if you decide to sit here awhile.